I posted this six years ago, which certainly dates the references in the next paragraph, but not the state sanctioned excuse for enjoying an opportunity to gather the clan together, lay in a slab of beer and put more shrimps on the barbie on a three-day weekend at the end of January.


What with the sad passing of Heath Ledger and the disappearance of close to 10 billion dollars from global investments, you may be excused for not noticing the national holiday down under. In case it does not appear on your calendar, it is called Australia Day. January 26 commemorates the completion of phase one of Captain Arthur Phillip’s orders– lead a fleet of eleven ships halfway around the world to a barely-known continent and set up housekeeping with a population of prisoners and their keepers. To the natives, of course, it was Invasion Day.


Botany Bay had been portrayed by Captain Cook as an attractive place with deep, dark soil and a fine meadow. That was not how Arthur’s party found it, so they sailed north and came across a beautiful, deep harbor with a stunning opera house… No, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Australia Day brings all the pundits out of the woodwork who feel qualified to write about what it means to be “Australian.” There is much blather about the “fair go,” “mateship,” and the bush but our local newspaper suggests with its photo spread and stories that Australia is now a multi-ethnic universe and it may be time to reconsider what it means to be “Australian.”

This year the Sydney Morning Herald commissioned a handful of Australian artists to speak to the questions raised by the idea of Australia Day.  I’m inserting some of their stunning artistic visions below.

Blaze Line by Tim Storrier

Blaze Line by Tim Storrier

Tim Storrier suggests in an interview that Australia Day is comparable to the American Thanksgiving, that it should be treated with reverence even though not all that has happened has been positive.  This year will mark the start of commemorations to recognize one hundred years since Australia’s involvement in the First World War.  This will no doubt trigger some reflection on the state of the nation  and its cultural assumptions.  The ascension of Abbot to the leadership has certainly raised doubt about the country’s view of itself as hospitable to asylum seekers.

With its current population of 21 million, there are 250 ancestries and 400 languages. A fifth of the continent’s residents were born overseas.  San Choy Bow is as important as meat pies in today’s Australia.

Raise a toast of fine wine to this country’s heterogeneous future. Australia has significant issues to address and it will require the best human resources to forge a prosperous future. Cheers!

San Choy Bow

2 tblspn extra light olive oil

400 g cup mushrooms, chopped

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

400 g chicken mince

¾ cup chicken stock

5 green onions, thinly sliced

2 tblspn lime juice

1 tblspn fish sauce

1 tspn brown sugar

1 baby cos lettuce

Heat wok over high heat until hot. Add oil, mushrooms and chilli. Stir-fry two minutes. Add chicken mince and stir-fry for 5 minutes, breaking up the lumps as you go. Add stock and ¾ of the green onions. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes or until stock has absorbed. Stir through lime juice, fish sauce and sugar.

Arrange lettuce leaves on plates. Top with chicken mixture. Sprinkle with remaining green onions. Serve immediately.