January 26, 2006

Horse 482 - Straya Day

Australia Day is one of those strange days on the calendar that happens to be a public holday.
It is not known exactly when the Dutch landed on the west coast of Australia but we do know that Captain Jansz had established a settlement in 1606.

Captain Cook who discovered the east coast of Australia by accident landed in Botany Bay on the 20th of April 1770. The area in Port Jackson which eventually became the settlement of Sydney, was landed on 7th May 1770.

Botany Bay was to be the first point of the First Fleet. They arrived around the 20th January 1788, but moved on deciding that the area of Port Jackson was a better deep water port and so on 26th Jan 1788, the British flag was raised and so this bit of dirt was claimed in the name of the UK.

Australia as a nation didn't exist until an act of Parliament in the UK in 1900, gave Australia a constitution and the power to make Federal law of its own volition. The Commonwealth of Australia as we know it came into being at 1st Jan 1901 (which seeing as it's already a public holiday, we didn't need another).

By bizarre coincidence, India was recognised as a Republic on 26th Jan 1950. This is more Republic Day for India than Australia Day, for 26th Jan is more a date that has bearing in NSW rather than the nation. Certainly Proclamation Day in SA and Queensland Day have more relevance in those states than Australia Day does.

The most Australian thing about the holiday (apart from Sam Kekovich telling us to eat lamb) is that we get the day off. It's a great tradition in this country to watch other people do work, and a national day off... what could be more Australian than that? Plus we're the only nation that can eat the coat of arms.

On another tangent, it has been often suggested that we should change the name of the country to Straya because that's how most people in the country pronounce it. I think that this would be a grave mistake. Just think about it: if we did that then we'd start with the letter "S" (and brought to you by the number 9) which would mean that in the Olympic parade we'd be all the way down the back and by the time that nobody gives a two hoots anymore.

Post Script: Sri Lanka has been sent into bat in the ODI today. Cricket on Australia Day? Who'da thunk?

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