We're all in this together

– originally published in the Daily Telegraph on Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Australia means different things to different people, each meaning worth celebrating in its own way, and it is in the unity of differences that we find the true magic of our land.

For the many farmers and their families who live and work in our landscape, Australia Day will involve an early start, pulling on their boots and heading out the door at the crack of dawn to keep growing the healthy plants and healthy animals that keep us clothed and fed. 

The early starts give farmers a particular appreciation of this beautiful land. The steam from a cup of tea quickly rises into the still morning air, beams of sunlight revealing the twisting stream of aroma. The cackle of a kookaburra or crow of a rooster somewhere in the distance greets the sun as it peeks over the horizon, the deep inky blue of pre-dawn skies giving way to a festival of colour above your head as the stubble crunches underfoot. 

We see and hear the great clouds of cockatoos wheel overhead and observe the shy echidnas as they waddle their way along a creek. Throughout the year we see the wattle bud and bloom, the first traces of frost, and the wave of colour as spring flowers arrive.

This land has a way of making you feel 10 feet tall and insignificant all at the same time. The land gives to those who give it care and attention, it takes away from those who take it for granted.

On the day we celebrate becoming Australia, after the stock are fed and watered, the fences checked, the pumps turned on and the tanks refilled in case of smoke on the horizon, the farmer may drive into the nearest town to join others often heard but seldom seen for an Australia Day barbecue at the local war memorial park, enjoying a couple of snags and a good yarn while Fanny Lumsden or Lee Kernaghan serenade the proceedings from a car radio.

Then, with bellies full and spirits renewed, the farmer will drive back to the paddock to make sure everything is still in its place as the sun descends once more, a cacophony of orange and purple stretching far overhead while lorikeets noisily natter about how they spent their day.

No matter what you do on Australia Day, I hope you take a moment to think about your fellow Aussies and appreciate their contribution to our nation. Everyone, from the inner-city banker to the dust-covered drover, the truckie on a remote highway, and the mum herding children into the bath, every one of them is part of what makes our country great. 

And perhaps you’ll pause with a mouthful of food and think about the people who grew it, the farmers who rise before dawn and spend their lives chasing a fair go under our great southern skies. There’s a part of the magic of this magnificent land in every bite you’ll enjoy.

Everyone’s Australia is slightly different, but each one is worth celebrating together.

Xavier Martin is NSW Farmers President