Australians! All let us Rejoice for we are Young and Free!
I must remember to:-
- lock all car doors whilst I am driving around.
- only wind down the car window maximum 1/3 to avoid muggings
- not toss my handbag on the rear car seat whilst driving (as I tend to do in Australia). It must be on the ground, out of sight, to avoid muggings and hijackings whilst in the car!
- not forget the number of the house that belongs to my future daughter-in-law’s parents who live in a secure housing compound. The security guard will not let me through the gate if I forget.
- keep my boot free of guns and arms as it is inspected by the security each time I visit the house above in the compound and will not be allowed in if they are found in the boot.
- watch out for beggars at the traffic lights
….and so went our time in Johannesburg in December and January, where we attended our son’s wedding.
As I live in the country on a farm in SW Australia, these habits were quite alien to me. Life here is so different. Crime rates are low in my area. In Australia, there is a social security system, with unemployment benefits, an aged pension scheme and family welfare payments. Superannuation is compulsory. Unemployment levels are low, although poverty does exist but nowhere near to the extent of those who live in Sth Africa. Townships (shanty towns as we would call them) exist and many are still the result of apartheid. The global financial crisis has hit the South Africans hard. Housing compounds are being built more and more, high fences, electricifation and barbed wires are the norm in Jo’burg. Having just come back from 3 1/2 weeks in South Africa, I cannot but help compare the two countries and think that I am so lucky to be Australian, especially today on January 26th when we celebrate Australia Day with a public holiday and a number of ceremonies.
When asked to ring in to talk back radio about the unique features of Johannesburg, one listener stated, “that it is the only city in the
world where you can do all of your Christmas shopping at the traffic lights.” When passing any set of traffic lights, shrewd entrepreneurs will try and sell passing motorists anything from mobile phone car chargers, to fresh flowers, to car sunshades and sunglasses etc. Many are begging at intersections – both black and white people. Roadside stalls are in evidence in many parts. Black women, in large numbers, who live in nearby townships, sit on the roadside curbs on a Sunday outside housing compounds, in the heat of the hot sun, waiting for residents to come out looking for one of them to clean their homes or do some gardening. Home hardware shops have black men lined up displaying cardboard signs of their skills as a carpenter, builder, electrician, plumber etc. So you not only buy the materials but can get the tradesmen immediately to take home as well. Car guards (some voluntarily) are stationed in shopping centres and supermarket carparks to ensure that your car is safe. For a small tip eg 2rand (15cents AUD) they are happy to look after the cars.
Now that we are back home, it was with pride that we attended the local Australia Day ceremony at Port Fairy, 30 mins drive from our home. Here we celebrated the fact that we are Australians. So against the blue backdrop of a gorgeous sea and the clear morning blue skies, we enjoyed a free breakfast and acknowledged and awarded some of our most notable volunteer community members – both young and old. The national anthem, Advance Australia Fair was sung with pride and the songs “Once a Jolly Swagman ” and “I still call Australia Home” completed our ceremony.
Happy Australia Day to everyone and may those of you who do not enjoy the peace and freedom that we have, soon be able to share in such a state soon!
ps How I love the power of the emerging technologies in their ability to allow me to establish personal learning networks across the globe. One of my earliest twitter colleagues Diane Cordell has written a post on Australia Day from USA. Thanks Diane