Proud to be Australian

It’s been nearly 48 hours since the Sydney siege was resolved when the police stormed into Lindt cafe in Martin place.  There have been many many news stories and extensive coverage by local and international news networks during the entire situation, and so I won’t go into any detail about that.  But the aftermath… the aftermath has been so supportive, so understated.  It is so surprising, but it is amazing.

Australia | EUI

Isolated Australia | EUI

First of all, no one in Australia actually expects anything to happen in Australia.  Despite being a developed nation and an important global influence, we are so isolated from everyone else in the world as a country that no one ever takes any terror threats seriously.  After 9/11, there were many threats of bombings and other terrorist activities, but the only increase in security were the removal of bins from major train stations (which were re-installed a few years ago), and increased surveillance and customs screenings at the airports.  During the War on Terror, everyone followed the news and grieved when another Australian soldier was killed in combat, but the war was so far away that it wasn’t really a significant impact in society, apart from an increase in tension against the Muslim communities in Sydney.  During all the outbreaks of diseases, of which the Ebola epidemic being the most recent, people fear, but again, we are so far away from everything that the disease probably died out before it even reached Australia.

With this apathy for all the significant world events, to have a hostage situation happen in the heart of Sydney, and to have it potentially linked to the ISIS groups in the Middle East?

Totally unexpected.  Totally unthinkable.  Totally unbelievable.

Although it turned out to be the actions of one person, and a known person to the police with a record of past racial hatred and sex crime offences, the fact that it happened, and that two lives were lost in the process, has sent Sydney and Australia into shock.  Many people are still avoiding the Sydney CBD.  Hundreds of thousands of flowers have been placed near the cafe.

And people are reflecting.  Reflecting on how Australia may not be so safe after all.  Reflecting on the importance of valuing your life, and valuing all the people around you and the relationships that you hold with them.  Reflecting on how to support others around you, those who may have been more affected by the tragedy than you.

The results of these reflections?

Solidarity in the Australian community.  I often cringe at how Australians pride themselves at being ‘mates’ and how we’re all in this together because ‘mateship’, but in these times, it becomes the bond that brings the community together.  Many people have expressed similar sentiments, about how terror only works when it instills fear, and how it will never work in Australia because people become unified through mateship to become strong, and to repel and fight back against these fears and terrors and their instigators.

The first sign of solidarity happened during the siege with the rise of the hashtag #illridewithyou.  Although many people were hating on the Muslim community and blaming them for the siege, many more were supporting them and showing them love and support.  Some comments have expressed incredulity about how Australians were naive and stupid for not caring about the hostages, and instead supporting members of a community that were feeling at risk, but as outsiders, they don’t understand how racial hatreds run in Australian society.  Riots have happened before between racial groups.  Slurs and threats are chucked at people during times of risk.  It happens. The fact that so many people were willing to support and protect Muslims who feel scared at being who they are through no fault of their own has shown clearly for the first time, the ‘Aussie spirit’ of mateship and comradeship.

Martin Place Memorial | Daily Telegraph

Martin Place Memorial | Daily Telegraph

The impromptu public memorials at Martin Place and at other sites around Australia, one being the Melbourne Lindt cafe, shows this solidarity too.  You may not know who put down the bouquet next to yours, you may not know the people standing around you, but everyone is thinking the same thing, feeling the same things.  The responses on social media have been the same.  People are going about their daily business and people aren’t allowing this to affect their lives, but sentiments that have been expressed have largely been positive, supportive and understanding.

Australia’s great and all, but I generally don’t have much of a positive opinion on Australia (probably because I live here and I see all the dirty shady things that happen).  However, although it ended in tragedy, the siege has brought Australia together in a way that I have never remember experiencing.

For the first time, I am proud to be Australian.

Other articles
More on #illridewithyou
The victims of the siege
A response to the siege by the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia Inc.
Response by the Police Commissioner on the storming of the cafe