Advance Australia Fair with a Turkish twist

27 January 2010

Written by: Tom Cowie

The 26th of January is the day when many Australians wrap themselves proudly with their Aussie flags, wear their green and gold thongs and bung some snags on the barbie to enjoy with friends and family.

But for a born and bred Aussie with a Turkish background, Australia Day is celebrated a tad differently in my family. We still have our barbie, but we use a traditional Turkish barbeque called ızgara where the meat cooks on an open flame instead of the traditional electric/gas barbeques.

As for the meat dad cooks, it’s a ripper!

But it’s not the Aussie sausages or prawns that he cooks but the Turkish köfte and pirzola – beef patties and lamb chops – seasoned with mums home grown herbs and spices.

I dress up in green and gold to celebrate the occasion, putting on my gold Turkish aker scarf and a green bone (under scarf). My little brother is glued to the television screen watching the Australian Open tennis, despite Aussie Lleyton Hewitt being defeated by Swiss champion Roger Federer on Monday.

I jump on Facebook only to be greeted with a variety of comments made in relation to this day. While most of my friends were wishing everyone a happy Australia Day, a few were sceptical and chose to wish everyone a happy ‘invasion day’, alluding to the early Australian settlers invading Indigenous lands.

While it is an unfortunate reality that the Indigenous people living on this land were stripped of their land rights, it is also a reality that we have come so far as a nation in restoring and respecting individual rights. At the same time we are opening up our doors to anyone who wishes to call Australia home.

It upsets me that the true meaning of Australia Day is sometimes misunderstood.

To me, Australia Day signifies strengthening family ties and improving the bonds of friendship around the barbeque or around the dinner table. It is a day which portrays deep Australian values of mateship, being true blue and giving everyone a fair go despite differences.

It is a day when I feel most proud to be an Aussie Turk, because this country has allowed me to hold these two identities close to my heart without having to let go of either one.

“The Australian way is to work together, to lend a hand, to look out for each other, to roll up our sleeves and get on with what needs to be done – with a joke or two along the way,” said Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

“Australia Day 2010 marks the beginning of our building decade. A decade in which we can build the productivity and skills we need for a stronger, fairer future.”

We have a famous Turkish saying – ‘ekmek yediğin yere ihanet etme’ – which basically means that one cannot betray the place which has provided them with their bread (as bread is the fundamental source of survival.)

Thus, how can a person who has lived, eaten and benefited off a country turn around and say something negative against them and continue to live there? That would be just bloody wrong!

Australia Day is the day the nation comes together to celebrate what’s great about Australia and being Australian. It’s a day of reflection on what we have achieved and what we can be proud of in our great nation. It’s the day for all people to take a personal oath in making Australia a better place for the future.

Historically speaking, 26 January is the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet, 11 convict ships from Great Britain to Sydney Cove under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip in 1788.

Even though the date marks this specific event, the Australia Day celebrations of 2010 reflect contemporary Australians contemplating their nation’s history and considering how they can make Australia a better place for the future generations.

However, Australia Day is much more than barbeques and making the most of another public holiday. It is about sharing the pride and joy of new citizens who today call themselves Australian for the first time after being granted citizenship.

This year, about 13,000 people from 120 countries took part in citizenship ceremonies around the country to show their commitment and loyalty to Australia.

Australia Day celebrations this week have also included a major push for a new Australian flag when television personality Ray Martin described the existing design as ‘colonial’.

“I object to having the British flag in the corner of our flag,” Martin told the Herald Sun. “We have well and truly reached the point where we should have our own flag. I think we have to grow up and move on to the next stage.”

I personally believe that our young and developing country has more important issues to deal with than changing the flag. In the last couple of months there has been an increase in racial attacks against certain minority groups, an increase in crime and an increase in irresponsible hooning behaviour by teens.

These matters should be dealt with first before considering the colours and designs to use on our flag.

Till then, I shall keep my Australian flag parading from my car’s radio antenna as I listen proudly to my collection of classical Turkish music.

Nisa Terzi is a a fourth year media/law student from La Trobe University. She is also a freelance journalist residing in Melbourne, Australia.