It’s Australia Day again, so I’m recycling my favourite anecdote from a few years ago.
We had decided to spend a warm Australia Day picnicking on the shores of Lake Monger with friends. Plenty of other people had decided the same thing, and it was a convivial atmosphere. The black swans were noodling around in the background, there plenty of kids playing on the grass, families were chatting with each other, the eskies were out and the barbecues were sizzling and the beers were being enjoyed.
Near us at the BBQs was a large family, at least some of whom seemed to be relatively recent immigrants from Southeast Asia (I guessed Vietnamese). They were playing, and eating, and talking, and enjoying the day.
Then along came a group of twenty-something white dudes with a boombox. The atmosphere changed, just a little. We narrowed our eyes and tensed up, just a little. This was before Cronulla, before the Big Day Out violence. But these blokes radiated unpleasantness, as if they were spoiling for a bit of trouble.
Luckily, they weren’t looking quite hard enough, or they didn’t find the backing they were looking for.
One of them yelled, angrily, as they moved toward the dad at the barbecue.
The dad looked up and grinned a wide smile. Tongs in hand, he asked, with good-natured faux-innocent mocking in his voice, as though he’d played this game before:
“Why? We’re not in England.”
All the groups and families around laughed. Perhaps a little more loudly than came naturally, though it was a bloody funny riposte. The dudes looked – well, I’d like to say “embarrassed”, but I’m thinking it was more just disappointment. They left.
And the sunshine, and the swans, and the sausages went on doing what they do.
Read also: “Apparently, I’m “Un-Australian”” at the Radical Radish. And feel free to link your favourite Australia Day blog posts here.