Trying to explain Australia’s symbolism to people who aren’t Australian, who don’t always understand our humor or who just don’t ‘get’ how just looking at some of these items can choke us up, is a difficult task.
Today, I’d like to give it a go.
Thus, today’s writing prompt is a little different from others. It’s not fiction… it’s more of an article.
When I thought of symbolism, I decided to Google Australian symbolism and I came across this great article from Australian Geographic. It lists the Top 100 as voted by readers.
I’d like to pick out a few of the items and just explain a bit more about how Australians feel when they think about or look at these things.
- Waltzing Matilda: this song has been labeled as Australia’s second (and more popular to be honest!) National Anthem. Originally composed as a poem by Australia’s most popular bard, AB ‘Banjo’ Paterson, the lyrics were changed slightly for the song. It is sung at many sporting events across the nation and is one of those songs that gives you goosebumps. If you’re Australian, it’s the kind of song that gives you that ache in your chest that can only be explained as pure emotion, pride for your country and a love that will never die no matter where you live in the world.
- The Outback: When I think of Australia, I usually think of cattle stations way out West and the millions of stars that blanket the night skies above. To stand in what most people would class as ‘the middle of nowhere,’ and to have no lights, no noise and to be one of only a few people within hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of kilometers of one another, is indeed something to experience. The sunsets out here are the type that photographers travel all over the world for and may never ever be able to capture in a lifetime.
- The Southern Cross: Speaking of stars, this constellation can only be seen in the Southern Hemisphere and is perhaps one of the things I miss the most living here in Japan. I miss the familiar stars and being able to know exactly where I am, even though I do know where I am. Does that make sense? I know my place in the world in Australia both physically, mentally and emotionally. Possibly even spiritually. But here in Japan… I’m still working that out. Many people tattoo the constellation on them as a reminder of their pride and love for their country. I remember being a child and laying on the driveway of my house and looking up at the stars with my friends trying to find it. It’s always there and that’s a comforting thing.
- Any nature scene of Australia: These make Aussies smile, realize how lucky we are and help us to see just how diverse Australian geography is. We have oceans and beautiful beaches, we have the desert, we have rainforest, we have fields and fields of rolling green paddocks and we have mountains and snow. Have I missed anything??? These make us sigh and give you homesickness like never before.
- Lamingtons: How to explain these? A kind of square sponge cake that is dipped in chocolate and covered in coconut? They will forever remind Aussies of school days and trying to fundraise money for (insert any need here). My mum would always order two dozen lammies and when they arrived we’d pop them in the freezer and let them chill and then pull them out, all nice and icey. Yum! I hate sponge cake, but lamingtons… maaaaaaate!
- Backyard cricket: The essential game after lunch on Christmas Day. You use the wheelie bin (garbage/trash can) as stumps (what you have to hit to get someone out) and you need a bat and a ball. A tennis ball is good to use because it’s soft and won’t hurt like a bitch if you get hit (get hit with a cricket ball and you’ll either have something broken or a fucking massive bruise. This is why men wear covers over their penises/ penii- what the hell is the plural for penis?! during a match). Cricket is indeed to me, the world’s most boring sport. I cannot explain the rules (because I don’t know them properly and don’t care to learn either), but backyard cricket is easy. Hit the ball hard and run back and forwards and count how many runs you get until you get bowled out.
- Vegemite: Possibly the most disgusting invention from Australia. To me, it reminds me of schooldays and being disappointed that it was indeed Vegemite on my sandwich and not Nutella. It also reminds me of having stomach bugs and my mum making Vegemite ‘soup.’ I would rather have had the shits then eat that. I can’t say I’m the only Aussie that hates it, but many people do indeed love it. DO NOT eat it out of the jar like you do with peanut butter or Nutella. Put it on toast or a sandwich with butter. Or avocado. I shit you not.
Now, for a few that I think need to be on the list:
- Blue skies: Australia has the most amazing clear, blue skies I’ve ever seen. They are wide, open and endless. My first year living in Japan in Tokyo, I thought I was going to die without them. I cannot live without blue sky.
- The smell of the beach mixed with sunscreen in summer and the sound of the wind through the pine trees that always seem to line Australian shores: This reminds me of my family’s annual trip to Hervey Bay, the whale-watching capital of Australia. The waters were clear, the sand crunchy but smooth and days of eating fresh fruit, drinking copious amounts of water and smiling at just how great life was as a kid.
- Rumballs: Hmm… how to describe??? Small balls made from (depending on the family recipe, fruitcake, Weet-bix cereal etc.) with condensed milk, sultanas, rum (obviously!) and rolled into balls that are then covered in coconuts. Think of them as a kind of grown-up equivalent of lamingtons… except smaller. These will be what I forever associate with Christmas in Australia. Put them in the freezer and eat them when frozen. Dear God.
- Soaker hose: Growing up, if your family didn’t have a pool and your mum and dad refused to take you to the local swimming pool for the day, you set up the soaker hose in the backyard, put your togs on (Queensland word for swimmers, bathers, swimsuit etc.) and ran through it squealing and getting cool. Perfect.
Of course, there are many, many others, but this list could go on and on and on if I keep thinking.
Wow, so many great symbols of Australia. Lov ya ‘Stralia.