Australia Day: “Speak English!”

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.

Categories: language, Life

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19 replies

  1. Great story Lauredhel. Happy Australia Day and thanks for shout out.
    Rayedish’s last blog post..Apparently, I’m “Un-Australian”..

  2. Fabulous story, Lauredhel. I’m not a big ‘straya Day girl, but that’s a warm-the-cockles tale.

  3. I’ve done my post today to and like many I am unimpressed with the sudden rush of 24-hour patriotism that will evaporate with the morning hangover tomorrow.
    Too many made-in-china plastic flags littering the highways of Australia is not consistent with celebrating our nation and all its people.
    Grendel’s last blog post..Happy Australia Day

  4. That’s the sort of good Aussie yarn that needs to be re-told as often as possible, speshly on straya day
    theparissite’s last blog post..Invasion Day

  5. Loved this story. Lots.

  6. Never tackle a Dad armed with BBQ tongs… Reminds me, I need to pop into my local Australia-themed pub for a Violet Crumble tonight.
    Deus Ex Macintosh’s last blog post..Voldemort gets a peerage

  7. I totally agree with that dad you know. We speak Australian here. It’s very different to English dont ya reckon?

  8. Nice one. I like your story.
    I find myself very suspicious of all the patriotism, even on (especially on) a national holiday. I have trouble not associating a public flag waving spectacle with the Cronulla race riots and “Love It Or Leave It” bumper stickers. I try to tell myself that this is probably a different motivation with all these people but it creeps me out none the less.

  9. Thank you for sharing this. It made me feel a little better, since I read it just after returning from a walk where I witness a flag-bedecked speeding Ford full of white young male assholes, screaming racist and homophobic abuse at random non-white passers-by.
    I am seething that I was not close enough to either offer my support to the insulted individuals, or tell the assholes to go home themselves, and keep their toxic opinions to themselves. Ugh. That’s what I hate about Australia Day; this perceived license to abuse. Makes me bloody well ashamed.
    Jet’s last blog post..Wanker of the Day

  10. I find myself very suspicious of all the patriotism, even on (especially on) a national holiday. I have trouble not associating a public flag waving spectacle with the Cronulla race riots and “Love It Or Leave It” bumper stickers.

    Being suspicious of proud Australian’s because of the Cronulla riots is as bad as being suspicious of proud Muslims because of September 11. Don’t let the actions of a minority taint the image of something great.

  11. loved this little anecdote! I personally stopped celebrating Australia day years ago ( I’m just really weirded out by the idea that we should blindly celebrate Australia’s history) but I still can’t complain about public holidays ( no work for me!)

  12. That’s a great story, glad those idiots got stumped like that… I can’t stand people who get in people’s faces about speaking their own native language in their own private group. Do these dickheads really think that immigrants should always speak English, even amongst their own family? Do they even think about things like this? Do they not even care and just want to start some shit with people who look different? Don’t answer that, I think I already know.

  13. It is easy to denounce people when you are not at risk of exclusion in your own milieu.
    And none of you can speak an aboriginal tongue so you are technically aauslanders.

  14. Desipis, as far as I can tell, you predominantly appear on my threads to stir shit. If you can’t tell the difference between engaging in good faith and stirring shit, I’m not interested. It’s a pattern of behaviour, I’m over it, and I would like you to go away. Bye.

  15. Malpas, you might not want to make too many assumptions about our readers and their language knowledges.

  16. I fully support the proposal to change the date. Cronulla Riots shame aside, it totally rubs the issue of colonisation in the faces of Aboriginal people.
    It doesn’t even hold any symbolic meaning for me as an Australian of convict heritage. My ancestors were the homeless, the poverty-stricken result of the industrialised age, who were shipped here as slave sto help build the new british empire. Fuck celebrating that.


  1. Invasion Day « the-paris-site
  2. Apparently, I’m “Un-Australian”.. « The Radical Radish
  3. There are no free passes today. You’re still an asshole. « I Am Not Cake
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