On Celebrating Australia Day & Changing The Date with Ian Smissen

In this Interview In Depth lesson, we’re going to study a portion of the AE 398 – On Celebrating Australia Day & Changing The Date with Ian Smissen.

Read and listen to the full interview here.

How to complete this lesson:

  1. Listen & read
  2. Complete the quizzes

AE 398 – Interview: On Celebrating Australia Day & Changing The Date with Ian Smissen

Difficulty: Intermediate

Blue text – Lesson vocab

What do you think with that? Digging in and going away from Australia a slightly. Why do you think Americans are so much more patriotic than Australians when, you know, I would imagine both countries have their reasons to be proud of who they are?

Yeah, yeah, and, look, it’s difficult to judge the distinction between patriotism and the symbolism of patriotism. I think most people around the world are patriotic towards their country, but sometimes those symbols of the things that we concentrate on like the flag, the national anthem, national holidays, those sort of things. I think Americans, and you know, apologies to my American friends and relatives.

Who are learning Australian English.

Who are learning Australian English, who will cringe at what I’m about to say, but certainly as a foreigner, a non-American, my impression of American patriotism is it is about the fact that the Americans, 250 years ago, fought for their national identity. They fought to become a country. Which Australia did not.

So, we have not gone through that.

Australia did not. Australia was a penal settlement originally and we then Federated to become a country by joining the colonies together in to states in one country, which was in 1901. Yeah. So, it’s only 117 years ago that that happened. But we never fought to become a country. We didn’t fight to get rid of the British to become a country, we just did. So, I think there’s that patriotism in most countries, as I said, about people, you know, like the country they live in and they respect the culture and the history and all those sort of things. But in the case of America, I think it is a bit of a sort of national celebration of the fact that they deliberately created a country by fighting for it.

Yeah. It was always weird for me, because, I guess, growing up I never really understood the whole being that proud, you know, of being from a certain country. In Australia, I don’t know… What did you… how do you feel about the average Australian and their sort of opinion of being Australia? Because we just don’t seem to wear it like the Americans seem to or like other countries seem to.

Yeah, look, yeah, you’re right. I think it comes down… it’s almost… it doesn’t… it doesn’t sort of eventuate or does doesn’t show until it counts. And by “it counts”, it may not be something dramatic like a war or something, but Australians are extremely patriotic when it comes to sport. You know, if we’re playing a sport against another country or we go to the Olympics or the World Championships or the Commonwealth Games or any of those sort of things, Australians become very patriotic about wanting Australians to be successful on their behalf. And so, I think that. Whereas, we just tend not to celebrate… overtly celebrate Australia as a country without any particular reason.

Yeah, it is a bit of a peculiar one with regards to that. Why do you think it’s so associated with the beach? Is it just ’cause it’s…

Well yeah, I mean, if you come from… Come from Central Australia or you come from an inland town that isn’t near the beach, then you’re not going to associate that with the beach. If you grew up in a small country town in outback New South Wales, you’re probably going to associate your leisure activities with rural activities that are not related to the beach. It could be going to a dam on a farm or it could be going to a lake, or… if there’s no water around at all, who knows what it would be. But, most of the Australian population live very close to the coast. All of our large cities are on the coast. The two largest cities, which comprise more than a third of the population of the whole country, are focused right on the beach. Melbourne on the bay and Sydney on its own surf beaches. And so, our leisure activities, particularly over summer, which is obviously along school holidays when you’re growing up, are often you go to the beach. The beach is free. It’s fun. People surf, they swim, they lie around in the sand, they play volleyball or cricket, or just hang out with their friends. So, it’s a sort of fun place to be when you’re a child, and as you keep growing up it keeps being one of those things that attracts you.

And so, did you… Did you have a deep understanding of what Australia Day was based on and meant when you were growing up as a kid? Was it taught at school?

No. As a young child, it was sort… ‘taught’ is probably exaggerating the amount of effort that was put into it. I think it was sort of mentioned. And we studied a lot of Australian history, either informally or formally, at primary school, and then if you were doing Australian history, or in fact history, you did Australian history as part of that at high school. But, Australia Day, as such, was not really celebrated from an historic point of view. There wasn’t an understanding of where it came from and those sort of things. And in fact, it’s a funny one, because the current date that we celebrate Australia Day on is celebrating, for want of a better term, or at least it’s recognising, the date that Arthur Philip in the first fleet arrived in Australia and settled, and it wasn’t Australia at the time, it was called New South Wales, which is now a state. So, it became the colony and that colony ended up becoming the state of the country. So, Australia didn’t exist. It wasn’t like we created Australia on that date. It was just a date that Europeans, white English people, celebrated that day. So, our challenge has always been that that has become the national holiday. But Australia Day, as a holiday, was not always on that date. 100 years ago, it was celebrated in July. It has also been celebrated on other days, apparently, as well. And so, the concept of a national holiday to celebrate us as a nation I think is one that is highly laudable and it’s a useful thing to do. We all like to celebrate, we all like a holiday, and celebrating our history and culture as a nation is a good thing to do. Whether that date is the right date is the current argument politically that’s going on around Australia at the moment.


ST = something

SW = somewhere

SO = someone

A colony – a country or area under the full or partial political control of another country and occupied by settlers from that country

  • The British had many colonies around the world.

A dam – an artificial pond or reservoir where rain or spring water is collected for storage, usually on a farm

  • My grandfather’s farm has several dams on it.

A foreigner – a person from overseas

  • He’s a foreigner from France.

A non-American – a person who is not American, we place ‘non-‘ in front of nouns to refer to ST that is not that noun

  • I’ve got a lot of foreign friends who are non-Australians.

A penal settlement – a colony used to exile prisoners and separate them from the general population by placing them in a remote location, often an island or distant colonial territory

  • Australia was began as a penal settlement.

An inland town – a town located inland away from the ocean

  • There’re many inland towns in Australia.

Commonwealth Games – an international multi-sport event involving athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations, which includes all countries that were formally within the British Empire

  • Canada, Australia, and New Zealand always compete at the Commonwealth Games.

Comprise ST – consist of ST; be made up of ST

  • What does your lunch comprise?

Count – matter; be significant

  • I always help out when it counts.

Cringe at ST – experience an inward shiver of embarrassment or disgust because of ST

  • She cringed at what I had made for dinner.

Deliberately – on purpose

  • She deliberately came to work late.

Dig in (to ST) – get into the details (of ST)

  • Let’s dig in and learn more about this topic.

Dramatic – (of an event or circumstance) sudden and striking

  • There was a dramatic incident at work today.

Effort that was put into it – “put effort into ST” – spend time and hard work doing ST

  • She always puts a lot of effort into my birthday presents.

Eventuate – occur; happen

  • How did this situation eventuate?

Exaggerate (ST) – represent (ST) as being larger, better, or worse than it really is

  • We always exaggerate our stories.

Get rid of ST/SO – take action so as to be free of ST/SO troublesome or unwanted

  • She’s going to get rid of her old car.

In fact,… – actually – used to emphasise the truth of an assertion, especially one opposite to what might be expected or what was just said

  • I want to go to the beach, in fact, no, I might go to the mountains today.

It comes down to ST – (of a situation or outcome) be dependent on (a specified factor)

  • When it comes down to it, I’m always here to take care of my family.

Judge the distinction between (two+ things) – form an opinion or conclusion about the difference between (two+ things)

  • I’m not sure I can judge the difference between these two things.

Laudable – deserving praise or commendation

  • I think donating to charity is laudable.

Leisure – time when one isn’t working or occupied; free time

  • What do you do for leisure?

My impression of ST – my idea, feeling, or opinion about ST

  • What’s your impression of him?

Peculiar – different to what is normal or expected; strange

  • He’s a bit of a peculiar bloke.

Recognise ST – acknowledge the existence, validity, or legality of ST

  • The Government recognises what happened to this group of people.

Rural – in, relating to, or characteristic of the countryside rather than the town

  • Farmers often live in rural communities.

Slightly – to a small degree; not considerably

  • I’m slightly disappointed with my achievement.

The average Australian – the standard or most common Australian

  • The average foreigner has pretty good English.

Wear ST – support ST openly – here I’m talking metaphorically about how Americans tend to be much more openly patriotic and “wear” their patriotism openly

  • You should wear it with pride.