All morning my children correct me. Every time I say Australia Day, they remind me it is Invasion Day. It is their world, and they represent the huge cultural changes that are coming. However, in the end, the two concepts get mixed up in my head and I end up referring to Australian Invasion Day which seems oddly tautological. the closer I get to thinking about it, the more it disappears into smoke.
We begin the day searching for an old pool at Fishermans Beach near Port Kembla. A path leads down the hill to the beach, and on this day, a stream of troubadours pull carts laden with music, beer, food, and water down the hill. A young man ahead flashes us a smile that is louder than all the music. He dances down the hill with the cart, sometimes the cart takes the lead, and sometimes him. An Australian Invasion Day pas de deux.
We walk into a brilliant picture when we arrive on the beach. The sun is right above, at the point where no shadows are cast. We seem to have stumbled into a scene on a film set, and the director has shouted action on a large multi-cultural scene where everyone – no matter what shape or size – has a role to play. One large group plays cricket, another plays soccer, and children turn towards the water. Sons, dads, mothers, daughters, grandparents, friends, and partners move in an enormous dance of fun across the whole beach. This is the best of pictures of Australia on Australian Invasion Day.
Perhaps the scene blinds us because we cannot find the pool. Or perhaps the pool has left the scene, tired of playing second fiddle to a beach.
Our eyes blinking, we head south to continue pool hunting. We arrive at Kiama Harbour, a pretty stretch of water capped at either end headland by a pool – Pheasants Point Baths and the Blowhole Point Rock Pool. There we will meet our merry band of friends – Deborah Hill, Peter Tonkin, and Ellen Woolley.
It is undeniably romantic to swim from one pool to another. When you can stand at one pool and can see the other across a calm bay, you should take the opportunity and dive in. I don’t know these waters well, however, so I decide that exiting across the rocks close to either pool could be treacherous. We decide instead to swim at Pheasants Point then walk to Blowhole Point. We head off on our little pilgrimage – no less dear because it is short.
Both are good pools, but Blowhole Point has the edge. Natural rock formations make up most of the pool so it is full of nooks and crannies to explore. I most like the moss green platforms that are below the waterline. You can sit on them or, better still, stand up and dive into the water over and again. You relish the moment when your body enters the water, moving from one world into another.
As I laze around this old pool two helicopters power past. One carries the Australian flag, and the other the Aboriginal flag. Lying in the water, watching the two flags soar around the shore, I am suffused by hope. How sweet it is to see the two flags play together in the sky on this Australian Invasion Day.
Later, in the car, my children point out how the Australian flag was demonstrably larger than the Aboriginal flag and we debate why that was. My children think it just shows a lack of care. When two flags of different sizes turned up, no one who mattered thought that it mattered. I defend those in charge. This was not deliberate. It was just done without thinking it through.
The words turn in my head. Without thinking. Unthinking. Without thought. Thoughtless.
Truthfully, lying in the water watching the sky I had seen the disparity but had not wanted to acknowledge it. I didn’t want to tamp down my happy, hopeful feelings about a coming together on Australian Invasion Day. But under the all-seeing eye of the Australian sun, nothing can be hidden.