Listening to my random playlist this morning on the way to work the national anthem, Advance Australia Fair, the version performed at the Sydney Olympics opening ceremony, came on.
I listened and as I did memories came back from that time, of the anticipation we all felt as the Olympics were about to begin back in 2000. I remember that Friday, busy as always, but throughout the building, I worked in – at Esso – the conversation was all about the night ahead, and the weeks after, the culmination of such a big build-up, and the sense, both expectant and proud and maybe a little nervous, of it all about to happen, for good or ill.
No doubt there were people who went to have their usual Friday night drinks after work, but I think for most there was just one aim for that evening: to get home and watch the opening ceremony on the telly.
I remember that so vividly. I sat and watched and was thrilled and moved and chuffed and proud and happy as it all unfolded. I think it was an opening ceremony for Australians. Sure, it had a lot of the cliched images foreign audiences would recognise, but there was so much more that seemed ours, truly ours, and ours alone and in ways perhaps only we understood. I laughed sometimes, At times I had tears in my eyes. It was so clever, sometimes quirky, often funny, always interesting, and throughout quintessentially Australian. I was relieved and very grateful.
Then came our national anthem. It can sound pretty pedestrian our anthem, but on this night it stirred and roused, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up, tears came to my eyes and felt filled with beauty and joy and privilege. Human Nature sang in unison before the Sydney Symphony Orchestra chimed in and Julie Anthony with her lovely crystalline voice sang the great and rarely heard second verse joined by a choir. My it was rousing. I burst with it. And I burst with it for the two weeks following, so good.
I write this now partly from remembrance, and partly for other reasons. We all felt so proud through that time, and for good reason. It was a great event and a happy one, full of unforgettable moments.
It seems to me for many of the years since what glittered then was dimmed – until now. I believe in many things, and many things are important to me, but none more so of being part of this place, of being Australian. I grew up with that, a quiet pride we all shared. There was something we believed in, an ethos, a way of being we accepted even as we celebrated it. I guess it’s the same for every people, but I grew up believing it was special to be Australian, and that I was damn lucky to be one. You know, I reckon there’s a lot of people out there who would agree.
Australian values, they’re words that have been trotted out so many times in recent years that they have lost much of their currency – yet once they really meant something, and we all knew what it was. I won’t go on. I just want to say that not for one minute have I been anything other than a proud Australian, but there have been times I have been embarrassed and ashamed by some of the things done in our name. No longer. I feel released and buoyantly proud and as if all that we once believed in is ours once more, with the promise of much more.
We have regained ourselves, or at least started to, we stand for something again, and in ways, we have taken the lead, as we ought. Let’s not be shy – that’s not our nature. I was a sceptic, but man, I’m with Kevin07, all the way. Let’s go, big mate, let’s go beautiful, let’s make it happen, all of us.
Australians let us all rejoice…