IPA Today

History Littered With Good

Written by
26 January 2022
Originally appeared in The Daily Telegraph

Use Australia Day to remember the many great achievements of our citizens over the course of time

Contrary to what you might hear from members of the left-wing elites who regard their country with disdain, there is much to celebrate about this nation on January 26.

Australia is a great democracy which we should appreciate.

People come to Australia from all over the world because, put simply, it’s a good place to live. Many spend years fighting through the court system so that they can stay here.

We encourage newcomers to this country to enjoy the freedoms which have been tested and fought for over two centuries, during wartime and peace.

This is not to say that Australia’s history has been perfect; far from it. No single nation in the world can make this claim, because as human beings we are deeply flawed and, as such, all our histories are flawed.

The history of every nation has both dark and light pages. To know only one of those pages is to remain ignorant.

Modern Australia has its fair share of both light and dark but our national conversation has been hijacked by a minority of activists whose focus is entirely on the latter, to the detriment of everything else.

History also reveals human beings are capable of great things and it’s time to start talking about these things again, especially in the Australian context.

This does not mean that we are ‘whitewashing’ history or indulging in the now outdated ‘three cheers’ version of events.

It simply means we are acknowledging history is a mixed bag and that Australians need to be reminded the story of this nation is made up of both people and events which have made this nation one and free.

Today we are celebrating the landing of the First Fleet in 1788 which brought the values of the Enlightenment to Botany Bay.

The Enlightenment was not just an obscure 18th century intellectual and philosophical movement but a movement which gave us real institutions such as the rule of law, liberal democracy, freedom of religion, conscience and speech.

An interesting question to ponder for those on the left is what our country would be like today if these values and institutions had not been brought by the British in 1788.

The First Fleet did not bring with it genocide or a holocaust. It was not a floating flotilla of death. It brought with its centuries of accumulated knowledge and the foundations of our political system and cultural heritage.

The British on board brought with them the values of Western Civilisation which can be applied universally to all humans, no matter their class, gender or race.

Just six months after the arrival of the First Fleet, one event in particular demonstrated that the rule of law was not just a theoretical concept but one which was put into practice in NSW, when the two convicts, Susannah Holmes and Henry Kable, had a package stolen en route to Botany Bay.

There, in that new harsh environment, two convicts, one of whom was a woman, and both of whom had been destined for the hangman’s noose, were able to take on the powerful figure of a ship’s captain. They sued him for loss of clothes and other items and, astoundingly, they won.

It demonstrated that the precious British institution of the rule of law, especially the principle of equality before the law, was taken seriously by the British and applied immediately.

We should also celebrate the fact Australia invented modern democ- racy in 1856, when South Australia became the first state in Australia to give all men the vote.

In that same year, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia introduced what was considered radical at the time – the secret ballot.

For the first time, men could vote in secret so that they couldn’t be harassed afterwards by political opponents.

This Australian ballot went on to set an international precedent that was eventually embraced by both Britain and the United States.

The arrival of the one millionth post-war, new Australian occurred in 1955. Many of these migrants came to Australia to flee poverty, racial division and sectarian conflict for the prospect of a better and freer life for themselves and their families.

Something else that we need to celebrate was the 1967 Referendum, when an overwhelming majority of Australians voted that regardless of their background, all Australians would be subject to the same law and equal treatment.

In his book Idea Of History, R.G.

Collingwood, a great British philosopher of the 1940s, wrote that “history is for human self- knowledge.

The only clue to what man can do is what man has done.

The value of history, then, is that it teaches us what man has done and thus what man is.

There are great repercussions for society if it has no idea about its origins. It has no idea where it came from, what is happening now, or how to navigate the future, and that society loses the ability to make decisions about the present.

We must re-equip ourselves with all aspects of Australian history so that we remain one and free.

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Bella d'Abrera

Dr Bella d'Abrera is the Director, Foundations of Western Civilisation Program at the Institute of Public Affairs

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