Today, some 235 years ago, the British flag was raised for the first time on the European settlement of New South Wales. It’s this moment that — at least for the past three decades or so — has been what’s celebrated as Australia Day, our national holiday.
One of the great things I have found about writing game content set in real history is that it makes you learn a lot more about how things really were in times long past. In co-writing Convicts & Cthulhu (with my excellent friend Geoff Gillan), I learned a LOT more about the circumstances of white settlement in Australia. The reasons behind it, the reality of what it was like in the early colonies, and the consequences (intended and otherwise) that arose from it.
One thing that strikes me is that almost NOBODY who was there as a part of the fateful January 26, 1788 proclamation was really happy about it — not the convicts who had just arrived in their new prison home, not the Indigenous Australians who were already starting to lose their land and safety. Even the soldiers (the infamous NSW Corps) were mostly reprobates who were forced into undesirable service. The only people who had cause to celebrate were the Colonial government (I guess), the few free settlers (I guess), and those back in Britain who ran the hideously over-crowded penal system.
Celebrating January 26 as Australia Day has become a problematic thing for some Australians. I would certainly never tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t celebrate … but for me, this is what I will be cracking open instead: