A country music singer that many (most?) Australians have never heard of is Australian of the Year. Does anyone care?
Chairman Rudd reckons:
Lee Kernaghan’s music resonates with every Australian by connecting us all to the spirit of the bush, but more importantly he gives hope and pride to those on the land when they need inspiration most.
He has rolled up his sleeves to make a real difference for those in need in rural Australia.
Pull the other one, Kevin.
OK, Kernaghan has certainly worked hard to lift morale in the drought-stricken bush. But when 98% of us live in urban areas, and 30-odd percent were born elsewhere, can we really say that nasal, droney bush ballads represent our world?
In fact, does a concept like “Australian of the Year” even matter in 21st Century Australia?
Australian of the Year was satirised so well by Chris Lilley in We Can Be Heroes. “Worthiness” is about certain narrow, “respectable”, backward-looking middle-class values.
[Edit: And then there’s the Australia Day Honours, giving out gongs to citizens who’ve done good things.]
In the Sydney Morning Herald today, journalist David Marr wonders why there aren’t any real artists in the list.
Is there anything for Cate Blanchett as she lines up for another Oscar? No, nothing. Or John Mawunrdjul, the greatest of the bark painters after his recent Paris triumph? Not a thing. What about Richard Tognetti, the creative genius of the Australian Chamber Orchestra? Again nothing.
There isn’t a novelist on the 2008 list. This year the nation could have tackled the backlog of great writers unhonoured by Yarralumla. But Helen Garner, Peter Carey, Shirley Hazzard, Alex Miller, Kate Grenville and Tim Winton — among many others — have still to be recognised… Republicans among them may feel now is not the time to accept such honours, but clearly the business of writing isn’t high on the list of achievements officially blessed in today’s Australia…
23 awards were made in the category of the arts, [but] closer examination reveals very few of these distinguished men and women are actually artists. God bless them for being patrons, collectors, administrators, board members, fund-raisers, producers, publishers, gallery owners, researchers, teachers, historians, agents, therapists, curators, keen amateurs and church organists. But where are the professional artists?
Only one of real — and quirky — stature is honoured in the list: Peter Travis, kite maker and sculptor who deserves a place in the pantheon of great Australians for creating the Speedo.
And while I haven’t ploughed through that list, I wonder if there’s anyone who represents our future. No, not people like Young Australian of the Year, motorcycle racing hero Casey Stoner. I mean the people caving out a new vision of Australia for when we live in a wildly-interconnected information world, and when China and India are the world powers.
So, two questions for you on Australia Day 2008:
- Does Australian of the Year matter any more? Vote at the website.
- If it does, who do you reckon would make a great Australian of the Year? (And this time, let it not be Dannii Minogue, OK?
Results from last time: Without a doubt, Dame Edna Everage should be our next Governor-General, followed by Ja’mie King. God bless you, Australia, always picking a bloke in a frock!