[Editor: This article, about Australia Day, was published in The Irwin Index and Victoria District Gazette (Mingenew, WA), 24 January 1953.]
From the viewpoint of national sentiment, few days in the calendar have a greater call on our attention than Australia Day, and therefore Monday next has far more at its command than the mere interest attaching to a holiday. For the more serious minded it is really one of those occasions when we might well indulge in some hard thinking as to what we as individuals, as well as the nation as a whole, can point to in the form of actual accomplishments. It is less than a month ago that most people were framing resolutions for 1953 — a fact which prompts the thought that perhaps most of us do our mental stocktaking once in each year as December 31 is slipping into the past, and are content to allow the check-up to remain at that point.
There are, however, two days when present-day Australians owe it to themselves and those who will shoulder the burdens when they are gone to ponder soberly upon their obligations. These are Anzac Day and Australia Day, and whilst the former receives national and reverent homage it is apparent that for thousands the latter is just another welcome holiday in the calendar. We can enjoy the break from the usual routine of work, but at the same time spare a brief period to meditate on the significance of the occasion.
With the historical background to Australia Day almost every school child is familiar. Few in the early days of Australian settlement could have entertained any vision of the role this country would play in world affairs and, while it is gratifying to know that we have developed flourishing markets, that our foodstuffs are serving a valuable purpose in helping to meet the needs of the hungry people in various lands, and that our rich uranium resources could well be a source of envy, the progress we have made makes it all the more imperative that we should be prepared to safeguard our possessions. That means that we must look to the future, realising that a country of such magnificent promise is in itself a bait to tempt an invader.
There are, of course, problems other than defence which have a high priority in our consideration. To say that the long coastline of Western Australia, with its as yet inadequately protected areas, is an open invitation to any potential foe is merely to cite the obvious. But not from a foreign source alone can our future be jeopardised. From within the strength of Australia can be sapped just as surely as white ants eat silently into what appears sound timber if all of us are not prepared to put the maximum of effort into our daily tasks.
Bitter experience has taught too many the folly of listening to or acquiescing in the strike advocacy of certain elements whose industrial sabotage has cost the nation dearly in the past. It Is futile for the community generally at the festive season to join in a chorus of goodwill to all men if just a little later, when a dispute arises, the goodwill disappears and hard words in hot temper are exchanged. Australia Day should bring with it a reminder that we are citizens of one country and that internal strife must injure both the individual and the nation. Toleration, which means that a little give-and-take ought to prevail in the spirit of sweet reason, should be linked in our thoughts with this occasion rather than any tendency to boast of our storied past. We can take pardonable pride in what has been achieved, of course, but it is that which remains to be accomplished that is of paramount importance.
Unfortunately, there is a tendency in Australia to-day amongst too many people to want more and give less for it. Eventually that can profit neither the citizen himself nor his country as a whole. A holiday, such as that of Monday next, is welcome for a variety of reasons, including the respite from work. It must be stated quite frankly, however, that there is an element which is always looking for such a respite; in other words, it prefers to “swing the lead.” The man who will not train can be dropped from a football team as a shirker, but the nation cannot dispose of the “won’t-works” in that manner. In the latter case the remedy rests solely with the individual. Even if his employer disposes of his services, he is still virtually a drone in the community for the reason that a man who is not working is producing nothing.
Waving flags and cheering speakers, who are inspired by great occasions to deliver stirring addresses to the multitude, will not get us one single step forward unless we are prepared to live up to the spirit of the rallying call and put the best we can do into our job, however humble it may be. That is the real significance of Australia Day, and while we should enter wholeheartedly into the spirit of the holiday we should also return to our tasks with the determination to put the same degree of zest into our individual responsibilities.
The Irwin Index and Victoria District Gazette (Mingenew, WA), 24 January 1953, p. 2
swing the lead = to avoid work, to shirk one’s duty, to slack off; to act as a malinger or a “lead swinger” (someone who is being lazy or slack; someone who makes an outward appearance of working, but who does as little work as possible; someone who pretends to be sick or injured, so as to avoid working)
Leave a Reply