Australia Day

+ Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney
26 Jan 2014

Australia Day should be when we rejoice in our national achievements, while giving thanks for who we are.

We should count our blessings by comparing our situation with that of neighbouring countries and our long term allies.  By most standards we rate well.

On other occasions we can mark the dark stains on our national history, but on Australia Day we acknowledge our strengths so that we can draw on them to remedy our mistakes.  Acknowledging the injustice done to Indigenous Australians is essential. More needs to be done.

Australia welcomes more migrants, percentage wise, than any other country, and a similarly high percentage of refugees.  This multi-cultural diversity is enriching.

Nearly all these migrants come to us because ours is a society built on traditional European values.  We should know more about Asia, but we do not belong to Asia. We are not of that world.

We are an outpost of Western civilization.  It is one thing to oppose England strongly in the cricket, but it is foolish not to acknowledge that all our institutions had British origins, except the Catholic Church.  Our habits of mind are shaped by literature written in English, the new international language.  Parliament, the law, our schools, hospitals, armed services all follow British models.  And Europe, like the Americas and Australia, cannot be understood without the Judaeo-Christian tradition, without acknowledging the continuing contribution of the Christian churches.

For these particular cultural reasons, among others, I commend the review of the school curriculum commissioned by Christopher Pyne, the Education Minister.

A curriculum which does not mention James Cook at either primary or senior secondary level and has no secondary references to the First Fleet or the Anzacs is badly skewed.  Christianity is only mentioned eleven times, once more than Islam.

Europe, Britain and the United States are mentioned 76 times, while Asia is referred to on more than 200 occasions, as is the concept of sustainability for the planet.  Gaia, the interaction of the earth and its biosphere, gets a run in year nine.  All the evils of the Industrial Revolution are listed, while the prosperity it produced is ignored. 

Children need to know that our convicts were never slaves and integrated into society, and that transportation was stopped, as Australian society became one of the greatest success stories in colonial history.

Children who do not know about our national achievements are deprived, because they cannot know what makes us tick.