Australia, we need to fix a big lie
AUSTRALIA. She's a bloody beauty, isn't she? The land of the young and the free, and a country of contrasts. Of hot nights and clear waters in one state, and bitter out-of-season snowfall in the next.
But she's also a country often divided. Same-sex marriage madness showed that. Because our government didn't have the conviction to make a decision, we turned on each other. Yes vs No. It was pick a side and prepare for war - and although it ended well, it was a telling journey.
We don't talk to each other anymore. Little pockets of people, of nationalities, of classes, tend to keep to themselves and go about their business until an event sparks outrage, prompts inequality and furthers the great divide.
So while we are a nation that prides itself on mateship - are we really mates at all?
I would like to think so - on today of all days - and for my young family's sake I sincerely hope so, but a recent experience has me fearing the worst.
Let me set the scene.
It was hot. There was traffic. We could all but see the beach we were trying to get to, willing us to move faster as the baby cried, toddler squirmed and six-year-old sung (badly) to Taylor Swift in the back seat.
It was one of Sydney's super hot summer days and we, like the rest of the country, were desperate for a swim.
But then we saw him - the reason for the traffic.
A middle-aged man, in the peak of the scorching Aussie sun, stood by his broken down car, hazard lights flashing, his frustration heightening with every passing second - and every passing car.
"Hey mate, you need a push?" my husband yells out the window.
"Oh mate, that'd be great," he yelled back, the relief in his voice palpable.
So we find a safe place to pull over and out he hops to give his new friend a push.
The man, who we learned had been sweating on the street for 40 minutes with no one stopping to help, was able to take the car off the road so the traffic could flow again.
He was sorted. And ever so grateful.
I turned around to look at my restless children in the back seat.
"See kids?" I said.
"That's what being Australian is about.
"It's about helping people. People you don't even know. And helping them in any way you can."
And then I started to think about it. When exactly did we stop helping each other?
Since when is it okay for a man to stand in the middle of the road, next to his broken down car that was blocking a whole lane of traffic, and just drive on by?
He must have seen hundreds of cars pass and stare, not doing a thing.
No wonder traffic in Sydney is such a shocker. In fact, the simple little human courtesy that is mateship could be the solution to the traffic chaos that looms over every capital city in the country.
My husband remembers being a boy in the back seat when his dad would pull over to help people - it was almost a contest of who would get there first, who would be the good Samaritan today.
In many ways, those were the "good old days", and I hope when my children look back at their childhood, they have those kinds of memories too.
Because it's the little things that make a difference and make our society a community.
Things like helping an elderly woman cross the road. Helping your neighbour bring his bins in because he just had a hip replacement. Or helping the woman (perhaps this woman) juggling three kids take her overflowing trolley to her car.
My Italian grandparents came to Australia in the 1950s desperate for a better life for their family, and boy did they find it. They, like so many immigrants, worked hard. They learned the language, they made friends, they opened a fruit shop and started a life that has led to mine, and I couldn't be more grateful.
I am proud to be Australian, and I am proud to teach - and show - my kids what that means to live in a united Australia.
Know your neighbour's name. Talk to people. Look them in the eye and smile. Help the poor bloke broken down on the side of the road. Understand, and appreciate, other people's cultures. Be happy for everyone who voted yes.
Laugh that a wallaby was found bouncing along the Harbour Bridge, and scoff at the idea of a Vegemite sausage. But let's do it together.
Mateship is a concept that our glorious country was built on, and it should be a celebrated normality, not a rare occurrence for people too busy to care - because, if you think about it, we're pretty damn lucky in this country of ours.
It's time to be a mate, Australia - all it takes is one little push.