Fair Dinkum!

An Australia Day Message by Rev. Peter J. Blackburn, St Mark's Anglican Church, Buderim, 1993

How long do you have to live on Buderim before you are classed a local? What qualifies a person to be regarded as a "local", anyway? I have been living here for three years now. But my family has longer associations. Both my mother's and my father's families farmed in the Woombye area and knew Buderim well. Dad used to tell a story, from courting days, of how he had borrowed Grandpa Schulz's sulky to bring Elsie and two of his sisters up Mons Road to Buderim. The wheel hit a root in the road and the shaft was broken, tipping the three ladies out. Grandpa still agreed to the marriage! That's a true story, but does that make me a "local"?

How long does "Western-style" civilisation have to exist in Australia before it can really be classed as Australian? This question is being asked afresh as aboriginal groups consider whether they have land claims over Brisbane's central business district. It raises a number of important issues which are not to be taken lightly.

Throughout Expo 88, a small group of protesters maintained a presence and an aboriginal flag outside one of the main entrances. In both church and community there were those who questioned whether Australia should be celebrating at all. You are just the late-comers to this land. What have you done with those who have been here ab origine – "from the beginning"?

From the Christian and Biblical perspective, of course, we want to affirm that God is the only one who has been here ab origine. All of us are latecomers. "The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein" (Ps. 24.1), as the Authorised Version put it. Ultimately, God has prior ownership and expects of all of us a far greater measure of respect and care for one another. This generation cannot carry the guilt of the early settlers in their treatment of the aborigines, and it is quite impossible to revert to old boundaries and to ship us back to the countries of our forebears! But all of us – aboriginal or otherwise – must learn to deal with one another with true respect and mutual care. At the end of 1987, our family was having some of Dad's Long Service Leave. On 22nd December, the Tall Ships were coming to Adelaide. We took our breakfast to Outer Harbour so we could see the Polish ship, Dar Mlodziezy, come into port. A fine ship, she had all the signs of modern construction – steel hull, masts, arms, spars, sophisticated electronic navigational equipment and twin 750 bhp engines. We saw it, with sails neatly furled, under diesel power, but with its motors drowned out by helicopters and other planes overhead and the engines of the tugs and other small craft that had gone out to accompany it into port.

I guess most of us saw some of the Tall Ships at that time – on television, if we couldn't get to a suitable place. Great stuff, didn't you think? It helped us to recreate the past, to give a sense of history to our Bicentennial celebrations.

I don't know how the timing of things went in other places, but the Dar Mlodziezy arrived in St. Vincent's Gulf two days early. Why? Because of light winds! On the voyage from Perth it had to make greater use of its diesel engines than anticipated!

So there was something phoney about our re-creation of the past! We wanted the feeling of the past, but not the disabilities and dangers, the charm without the inconvenience!

Back in the real days of sail, when navigation was a tricky business and shipwreck a real danger, when the colony and the possibility of a new life and of gold were the attraction and not the bicentenary of a nation – back in those days things were different.

One famous (perhaps we should call him "notorious") captain was "Bully" Forbes. In 1854 he set a record of 63 days for the trip from Liverpool to Melbourne in the Lightning, a boat that carried 13,000 square yards of sail. "The captain says we must set every yard of canvas, and if that does not make her go, we must put up our shirts." One of the passengers thought "we ought to petition the Captain to keep up less sail, for he sees very little difference between frightening a man out of his wits and killing him outright." Two days later, a diary entry recorded, "More sail set and we tear away as if we are to be strained to pieces… Now and then a batch of passengers pitched over to leeward – some thrown out of their berths."

Sailing then wasn't a sport – it was for real, it was fair dinkum! For many of the poorer passengers the experience was so terrifying that they would never venture into a boat again. So they came – and stayed – and a colony grew to be a nation.

Fair Dinkum?

Now, who, would you say, is a "dinkum Aussie"? Is it Norm – the over-drinking, under-active character? Is it the "ocker" – proud to be irreverent and a bit irresponsible? Can you be first-, second-, third- generation and be dinkum? Should you preferably be of English, Welsh, Scottish, Irish descent – or will it do to have come from an aboriginal, Italian or Chinese line?

It depends on your definition of a "dinkum Aussie". Is it OK not to be absolutely truthful all the time? to play around with the truth for the benefit of number one? Is it OK for you, but not for the tall poppies in the police force, the government and elsewhere?

That's where we've blown it! Dinkum has tended to mean "She's OK by me". But does that make us really OK? Are we OK by God?

There are things about each one of us that aren't fair dinkum. For one thing, our double standard – one for us and another for people in leadership – shows us up! That can't be right. If there's a God, he must know that we've all gone wrong somewhere, that not one of us really matches up to what we ought to be!

He's Fair Dinkum!

The Bible is an uncomfortable book – it tells it like it really is. It gets at me – as well as at all the political leaders! It doesn't try to make out that any of us is perfect, except one – that's Jesus!

Our immediate Aussie reaction, of course, is to pull him down a rung or two. We don't like tall poppies. Except – with this one it doesn't seem to work. He really is fair dinkum – strong, wise, unselfish. The people of his time thought they'd put him to the test, get rid of him as a fake – but he wasn't! His death was public and well-publicised, and the evidence that he came alive again was quite overwhelming!

It's no use going through what they did all over again! We'll only get the egg on our face like they did! Or worse – because if it's all true, then we're more stupid than usual if we don't do something about it! Unfortunately some of us never learn!

The incredible thing is that God is still prepared to welcome us – stupid and all as we've been! didn't just accept the rough treatment we gave him – he accepted the rough treatment we deserve from God because we haven't been fair dinkum.

Let's Get Fair Dinkum!

I wonder if you can trace back to a First Fleeter. Good for you – these days that seems to have become a matter of pride! But most of us can't! We came even later than you did!

So much for our forebears. Now what about us? Are we fair dinkum? Are we the genuine article God meant us to be? We do well to think long and hard about Jesus. He's been the only really fair dinkum one in the whole history of the human race. And we tried to get rid of him – in fact, in many ways we keep on trying to trying to get rid of him! But it backfired all those centuries ago and it will backfire for us too – because he's real and really did come from God.

God is saying to us that if we admit we're not fair dinkum and put our trust in Jesus he'll forgive and forget all we've ever done wrong and give us a whole new start!

Now, that's fantastic! How about it? There are many big issues facing our Australian nation at this present time, but the biggest is still whether we are prepared to come to God and accept his new beginning. The tragedy is that we have imagined our fake responses to God to be "dinkum Aussie". But they have never really been that at all. They may be "typical", but they are never "fair dinkum".

We need an Australia that is more caring towards both people and the environment. But we are not going to make it alone. We are not going to make it without the God who sent his own Son to live the truly "fair dinkum" life. He was tried by a kangaroo court and put to death on a cross because "Aussie" attitudes were about in those days.

Now God is saying, You took it out on Jesus. The rough treatment you gave him should have come to you. Now come! Because he died, I'm prepared to forgive you and to accept you into my family!

That's a fair dinkum offer! How about it?