[Seamus C, a new Club Troppo contributor whose first piece is published below, is an Australian working overseas, and has interests and expertise in public policy areas – KP]
Would this man have won a popular election for Australian of the Year? Sadly, as Foundation President of the Country Music Revilers Association (despite Nicholas’s outrageous and defamatory accusation), I suspect the answer might be yes – KP
Ive just been watching the Australia Day ceremonies. Now Im a rational man, but there is nothing I like better than a bit of over-the-top pomp and ceremony. The more fancy medals, kitsch costumes and absurd honorifics I reckon the better (the Order of the Thistle is a personal favourite*). The Brits do it well, and though its often amusing, there is a serious side to it – its an important part of the nation building process. Its a chance to recognise national values like a fair go, reward service to the community and celebrate being Australian. Unfortunately, Australians dont do pomp and ceremony very well. Were a young country without trappings of empire and aristocracy and perhaps more importantly, we dont like grand shows. As a result, Australia Day is frankly a tad mundane.
So short of awarding an Order of the Wattle and calling in Baz Luhrmann to completely redesign the process what could we do to improve the system? If we cant make the process more glitzy, perhaps at least we can make it more participatory. I favour some experimentation with popular real-time voting for awards like Australian of the year focused around an annual official ceremony. Twelve or so people could be nominated each year by committee and a winner selected by an annual televised public vote. Such a process would have several benefits: it would involve ordinary people more in the Australia Day process, it would better publicise the efforts of remarkable Australians and it would give us a glamorous national occasion but with a hint of good fun around which we could coalesce. Last but not least, it would give us our own Australian of the Year. Australia Day pop idol any one?
* The official name of the honour is Most Ancient and most Noble Order of the Thistle, there can only ever be 16 living members. Surely the humble banksia deserves equal recognition?