Australia Day in the old days: a funny look 37



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I remember Australia Day in the old days, and it wasn’t so long ago because it really only fell into national step in the 90s. The earlier years of Australia Day were nothing like they are today and that’s OK. My memories are special, sacred even, of a simpler time, and it’s a time I remember fondly. Do you?

Australia Day would always start with a good fry-up in my family – bacon, eggs, baked beans and toast would celebrate the arrival of a public holiday with Dad off work and no school ahead of the school year.

The morning tea was lamingtons, from the local bakery; a rare treat in our family of five. We’d buy six and fight over the last one.

The afternoon was often a garden celebration, including family and whoever was around. The highlight of this was bringing out the old metal bin and setting up a match of backyard cricket.

While the kids were playing in their asbestos-sheet (suspended in a tree) cubby, drinking from the hose, running around in the sun with no suncream, the adults would sit by the blow up rubber pool and celebrate what it meant to be Australian. “What a great country we live in,” we’d say, despite the massive recession and 17 per cent interest rates.

Great pre-dinner snacks on Australia Day were Jatz crackers, cabana, French onion dip and cubed cheddar; none of that posh French stuff. The oysters were actually smoked mussels and they came from a tin, and dessert was Aunty Esse’s pavlova recipe, made from a splurged-for pavlova egg and topped with one fruit type, not a tropical plantation. That was lavish!

Dinner was cooked on a brick barbecue made by dad in the centre of backyard – bricks piled up unceremoniously, with a cast iron sheet on top. We got things started by burning off our household rubbish, then, when the coals had formed we got our snags out and grilled them on what would be considered a health hazard of a cast-iron plate, burned plastic fumes and generally poor hygiene.

The men smoked like chimneys, and the women adored their wine from a cask – it was the posh thing to do back then.

Boy, hasn’t it changed over the years? In just 30 years, Australia Day has turned into a highly commercial and nationally organised event not unlike American Independence Day. There are fireworks, festivals and fabulous champagne in every city to be enjoyed, and we can all buy a shirt made in China (potentially missing Tasmania and with the Southern Cross the wrong way around) that tells us about the significance of the day.

Aren’t you proud to be Australian?  I am.

Add your own stories below of what Australia Day was like in your day… Let’s remember all the fun, celebrate all the wit and enjoy our sunny, special day.

Rebecca Wilson

Rebecca Wilson is the founder and publisher of Starts at Sixty. The daughter of two baby boomers, she has built the online community for over 60s by listening carefully to the issues and seeking out answers, insights and information for over 60s throughout Australia. Rebecca is an experienced marketer, a trained journalist and has a degree in politics. A mother of 3, she passionately facilitates and leads our over 60s community, bringing the community opinions, needs and interests to the fore and making Starts at Sixty a fun place to be.

  1. I hope today will be my best Australia Day memory. We are celebrating my brothers 70th Birthday. Surrounded by family. Simple Barby, salads, Black Forest Cake for a birthday cake and Sticky Date pudding as requested by the birthday boy.

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  2. My brothers birthday would of been 64yrs today but passed away on a fishing trip 16 1/2 yrs ago happy memories enjoy i miss him

  3. We always celebrate my mum’s birthday on Australia Day. All her family and friends come along, she is 90 this year. Sadly she has dementia, she has not been out to celebrate for a few years. This year she wants to, so happy as it is lovely for her to go out for a mess and be with everyone

  4. I have been in this lovely Country 49 years TODAY! Also our Beloved Grandaughter celebrates her 17th birthday today. We love you Kelsey Jade Masters xxxx

  5. I have absolutely no memories of Australia Day growing up. It simply wasn’t celebrated until I was quite grown up. Coming at the end of the school holidays means I didn’t even note the public holiday.

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