Was Australia “Est. 1788”? Er, Yes…Like It Or Not

REVISIONISTS OF HISTORY are out in force today, and outraged over a range of T-shirts designed by discount supermarket chain Aldi to celebrate Australia Day; apparently it is offensive to some to observe that Australia was “established” in 1788, and whilst some may not welcome the anniversary of British settlement in this country, that fact it occurred cannot — and should not — be erased from existence.

I’m heartily sick of the minorities lobby and its list of demands that gets trucked out at this time of year, every year, without fail: Australia Day should be permanently removed from the national psyche, as the story goes, or at the minimum recalibrated to render it a national day of shame that destroys a key event in Australian history in any meaningful context.

Elements of the same lobby have long sought to deploy similar tactics in relation to Anzac Day, among other things, in their disgusting attack on Australia’s history and national heritage.

This story was broken earlier today — appropriately enough — by Fairfax Media’s The Canberra Times, which observes that Aldi has bowed to pressure from noisy recalcitrants that the shirts are “racist,” “culturally insensitive,” “historically wrong,” and “sickening.”

Take a load off, people.

I will comment e’er briefly on the assertion that Australia “est. 1788” is historically incorrect; technically, that’s true, with Federation and the formalising of Australia as an entity occurring on 1 January 1901.

Even so, this is a shirt, not a history book, that we’re talking about; and even then, I have no problem with the idea that Australia as we understand it was “established” in 1788 — the years between that time and Federation were marked by development of the colonies that ultimately came together to form a country, and some of the richest episodes in Australia’s history took place during those formative years.

Do the revisionists of history, and the noisy minorities lobby, seek to airbrush those out of existence as well?

I think Aldi — as a large foreign company that operates in Australia on an ever-greater scale, providing jobs and injecting activity into local economies — is to be applauded, not condemned, for making an attempt to get into the spirit of national pride that Australia Day should represent to all Australians.

Even its price point ($5 per shirt) merits comment: there is little doubt that Aldi will profit handsomely from their sale, but it has resisted the urge to gouge what many others would attempt to peddle at usurious markup, perhaps setting a retail price at five or six times the level Aldi has done. In short, Aldi has put products into the market that are accessible to all.

I don’t think any reasonable person denies that Aboriginal people were resident in Australia prior to 1788, nor that their settlements were disrupted and that some of their people were killed. Even so, these considerations in no way justify attempts to wipe the events of 26 January 1788 from existence.

Some of the shirts in the Aldi range will continue to be sold, and that’s a very good thing; there are too many knockers in this country who refuse to take pride in it, and anything that encourages and fosters patriotic sentiment and a sense of ownership among Australians is to be applauded, not sabotaged.

It is not insensitive to point out that all countries, at various stages of their development — even the “imperial colonial power,” Britain, that revisionists rail against — experience episodes and events in their history that are far from ideal, embarrassing viewed in hindsight, and regrettable.

But it is a bridge too far (to borrow a phrase from a certain ex-PM) to advocate the crucifixion of national celebrations in response.

Clearly, Australians in 2013 were not responsible for the actions of white settlers in 1788.

And clearly, today’s Australia has taken and will continue to take meaningful steps to seek to reconcile its present with its past.

I think the brouhaha that has exploded over Aldi’s shirts is out of line, a colossal overreach, and ridiculous to the point it borders on caricaturing the very objectives the historical revisionists seek to advance.

Take a load off, people. This is the best country in the world — warts and all.

If you don’t feel that way, get the hell out of here.