Let’s Honour Our Western Heritage Without Shame

Written by:
24 January 2018
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Originally Appeared In

The overwhelming majority of Australians are not only proud to be Australian, but they are also proud of their history. Furthermore, the majority of Australians want to continue celebrating ­Australia Day on January 26, as they have done since 1935.

The results of a Research Now poll recently commissioned by the Institute of Public Affairs reveal that 76 per cent of Australians are proud of their history, while 87 per cent are proud of being Australian. When asked if Australia Day should be celebrated on January 26, some 70 per cent agreed that it should, while only 11 per cent believe that it should not.

The poll results confirm what most of us know — that the left-leaning groups obsessed with identity politics are completely and utterly out of step with what the majority of Australians want when it comes to our national day and our colonial past.

This push to change the date of Australia Day is emblematic of a deep shame held by a minority of the population about Australia’s colonial history, which by inference also means that they are ashamed about Western civilisation, because the two are inextricably linked.

This vocal minority appears to be determined to foist its shame on the rest of the population by first changing the date of Australia Day and then abolishing it altogether so that their collective guilt might be at least partially ameliorated.

While no one would seriously deny that there have been terrible injustices inflicted on indigenous people through the course of white settlement, it is extremely shortsighted to dismiss the fact that Australia as a modern nation only exists because of Western civilisation and we continue to benefit from its legacy.

This country was founded on institutions and principles established in Britain and Europe over the course of centuries, and we are extremely fortunate to have inherited them. Modern Australia is one of the most successful nations in the world, and a country that continues to attract people from every corner of the globe precisely because it was founded on the ­institutions and principles of Western civilisation.

In 1788, the British colonists brought with them centuries of ­accumulated knowledge and the basis of our cultural heritage. They brought with them the values of liberty, inquiry, toleration, religious plurality and economic freedom. They brought with them Christianity, which had positioned the individual as the locus of meaning, sovereignty and significance.

Equality of man, individual dignity and the abolition of slavery were all bequeathed to the world by Christianity and Christian thinkers.

The men and women on the First Fleet brought with them the precious institution of the rule of law. The importance of the rule of law had left a deep impression on the British people, and it was this impression that travelled to Botany Bay. The rule of law, as the broad set of principles vital to the order and stability of society, is considered to be one of the most effective guards against the wielding of arbitrary power. They brought with them the notion of a liberal democracy.

The early settlers brought with them inquiry and rationalism of the Age of Discovery, the scientific mind and empiricism of the scientific revolution, the liberal values of equality before the law, freedom of speech of the Enlightenment, and the economic foundation of our modern prosperity laid by the industrial revolution.

In short, Western civilisation is distinct from other civilisations because it is the only civilisation that has given us, and the rest of the world, institutions that can be applied universally. This is not ­because they are Western but ­because they are human.

Its institutions are applicable to all of us, no matter our gender, race or class. January 26 marks the foundation of modern Australia and the arrival of these institutions on our shores. It needs to be celebrated by all Australians, both indigenous and non-indigenous, fifth-generation or first-generation. Rather than being ashamed of it, we should be proud of it.

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