Australia Day merchandising all the way from China

Cheap and tacky items abound on Australia Day. The Australian flag is the defining feature on most of the Australia Day merchandise.

Your Australia Day guideLove leads to citizenship

It wasn’t always like this.

Now the trappings of Australia Day arrive, probably around November, in a big shipping container from China.

The “merchandisation” of January 26 is challenged only by that of Halloween. Instead of skeletons or spiders we have lots of stuff on which the Australian flag is the defining feature.

False eyelashes in the colours of the flag anyone? Likewise fingernails, moustaches or hair bows for the ladies. Top hats, sun visors or tiaras are similarly attired. Alcohol, for some an important feature of the day, can be dispensed from a wide variety of drinking devices, suitably adorned, to enable hands-free consumption.

Thirty five years ago on Australia Day you saw a bit of green and gold and that was about it.

In 1966 The Sydney Morning Herald reported that in Sydney, “the founding city”, Australia Day was celebrated with speeches, songs from two soloists and a reading of the proclamation appointing Captain Arthur Phillip as the first governor.

About 1000 people saw the ceremony but the paper added: “The surrounding streets were congested with lunch-hour crowds apparently unaware that a celebration was occurring – or perhaps even that it was Australia Day.”

The Australian flag then was very much still the preserve of the Returned & Services League of Australia.

National President of the RSL Ken Doolan AO RAN (Retd) said defence forces had always supported the flag and would continue to do so.

“It’s [flag waving] a phenomenon around the world. If you look at the UK there’s very much more flag-waving there for regal events. Australia Day has become more important to Australians. The RSL remains committed to its complete support of the Australian flag as is and we are proud that people want to wave it on Australia Day.”

It will be a shame if, like the skeletons and spiders, a shipping container load of plastic is consigned to landfill on the 27th. Should Australia one day become a republic the Australian flag would likely get a makeover.

Those fingernails, visors or “Kiss Me I’m an Aussie” neck ties could, maybe, become the collectors’ items of the future.

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