Let me slip into my cricket gear and throw an extra shrimp on the barbie for ya.
Now … where the bloody hell are you?
Does that mash-up of quotes sound familiar to you? You might remember Paul Hogan famously telling the world he’d throw an extra “shrimp on the barbie for ya” in 1984; leaving many Australians scratching their heads and wondering what the bloody hell a shrimp was.
And on the eve of Australia Day, following a few wonderful days up in Queensland on the Banana Farm of some friends, I wonder, what the bloody hell is the definition of Australian?
1987’s “I Am Australian” (or “We are Australian”) song written by Bruce Woodley of The Seekers and Dobe Newton of The Bushwackers features lyrics rich in historic and cultural references, such as to the “digger”, Albert Namatjira and Ned Kelly, among others and proved so popular, many began rallying for it to replace Advance Australia Fair as the new national anthem.
It seemed to simultaneously curb our increasing international reputation at the time as anti immigration due to the now abolished Restriction Act of 1901 and showed us to be more of a connected, diverse and emotionally mature society.
In 2006, Advertising giant M&C Saatchi’s “Where the bloody hell are you?” campaign sparked a minor diplomatic row when Australia’s then-minister for tourism Fran Bailey accused the British of lacking a sense of humour after complaints that the campaign was offensive.
In 2008, Tourism Australia dropped the controversial “Where the bloody hell are you?” campaign and hired Australian Moulin Rouge director Baz Luhrmann to direct a cinematic TV ad which replaced a bikini-clad Bingle with an Aboriginal boy urging a harassed city worker to “go walkabout”.
I don’t like cricket (and not in the ironically sung “we love it” Bob Marley-ese catch-cry kinda way), I just really don’t like it.
And I don’t eat shrimps.
But I love prawns.
But what is Australian?
Let’s start with the country itself. We have an incredibly diverse terrain, much of which has been, and still is today, unliveable territory. Poems like “My Country”, with the immortal line. “I love a sunburnt country” by Dorothea Mackellar, and legendary songs like Icehouse’s ‘Great Southern Land’, really sum up the unique environment we’ve been surviving and thriving in for thousands of years.
I had a conversation with a friend of the farm’s at dinner last night about genres of music and the intellectual way in which a good artist or song can resonate with an audience – often subconsciously.
He reminded me that Australian music is uniquely identifiable – whether you like it or not, which, if we’re being accused of having no culture – is a sure fire way to appease that argument.
“How can the colour blue be a feeling?” is the opening line of Australian Tourism’s latest ad (2016) featuring actor Chris Hemsworth. The ad centres around Australia being a place you not only see, but feel. It focuses on our fantastic food, coast line and chooses Dewayne Everettsmith’s song “It’s Like Love” to tie it all together. It’s simple and effective. It’s not trying to be clever or solve the issues of our past.
I think it’s great, and in my opinion the closest we’ve gotten to expressing our identity without resorting to slapstick and self deprecating humour. I don’t mind us having a dig at ourselves (I actually think its an incredibly Aussie thing to do) but its been used in our advertising for long enough, sometimes falling a little short of the mark and not widely understood by outsiders we’re trying to attract.
I’m happy we’re maturing as a nation and showing that we Aussies Down Under really have quite a lot to offer which isn’t only coast and sunshine. Our tough environment has made us resilient people – for better or for worse, and perhaps this is the common denominator that we can celebrate together.
So wherever you are or whatever you’re doing tomorrow – Happy Australia Day to all my fellow Aussies.