Monday, February 23, 2009

Australia's National Day of Mourning

Yesterday, Australians observed a National Day of Mourning to honour and remember those who lost their lives in the Black Saturday bushfires only two short weeks ago. The memorial ceremony was held at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne. Families that have been affected by the bushfires were invited to attend as the political, religious and community leaders of Victoria and Australia paid their respects to the victims of the fires. The ceremony was broadcast live on television stations across Australia.

The Handsome Australian and I watched with great interest and sadness from our lounge room. It has been a long two weeks here in Victoria and the National Day of Mourning was a time to reflect on all that has happened. The ceremony itself was somber at the start. Various dignitaries took turns placing flowers in a giant wreath at the base of the stage. We heard many speeches amongst them were sentiments from our Prime Minister, from the Premier of Victoria, from Princess Anne who spoke as a personal representative sent by the Queen, a selection of religious leaders and many others shared their thoughts.

As often happens in life, the images and music more than spoken words themselves evoke the most emotion. This was very true in our lounge room yesterday afternoon. Tears began to roll when I saw the SES and CFA members glowing in the dimly lit audience in their reflective uniforms. These brave men and women stood out from the rest of the crowd, their faces said so many things. In some you saw weariness, no doubt from weeks spent battling these blazes. In others you saw the pain of loss--perhaps they were mourning a friend, a neighbour, a family member? In others still, you saw glimpses of hope and smiles of strength. In all of them, I saw the faces of heroes.

The other truly poignant moment for me personally was when Bruce Woodley and his daughter began to sing the very popular, "I am Australian" which Woodley wrote 22 years ago, but had rewritten to suit the occasion. I love this song at the best of times because I think it truly celebrates the Australian spirit and does an excellent job of capturing what it is to be Australian. Its use in the memorial service was extremely touching, particularly when Bruce welcomed survivors of the Kinglake fires David and Merelyn Carter to join him on the stage and sing the new lyrics he'd penned only a few days before. And it's this song, that I want to share with you.

I looked all over the web for some video of the song being sung at the memorial service and this is the best I could come up with. It was filmed by an audience member and the footage is blurry and somewhat shaky, but it's not about the image it's about the music and the lyrics. So take a few moments to listen with your hearts.



For those of you who aren't as familiar with the song as most Australians are, here are the lyrics as it was sung yesterday:

We are one, but we are many
And from all the lands on earth we come
We share a dream and sing with one voice:
I am, you are, we are Australian

There are no words of comfort
that can hope to ease the pain
Of losing homes and loved ones
the memories will remain
Within the silent tears you'll find
the strength to carry on
You're not alone
We are with you
We are Australian

There are so many heroes
Who's stories must be told
They fought the raging fires of hell
and saved so many souls
From the ashes of despair
our towns will rise again.
We mourn your loss.
We will rebuild.
We are Australian.

We are one, but we are many
And from all the lands on earth we come
We share a dream and sing with one voice:
I am, you are, we are Australian.

I'm the hot wind from the desert
I'm the black soil of the plains
I'm the mountains and the valleys
I'm the drought and flooding rains
I am the rock, I am the sky
The rivers when they run
The spirit of this great land
I am Australian.

We are one, but we are many
And from all the lands on earth we come.
We share a dream and sing with one voice:
I am, you are, we are Australian

1 comment:

KLS said...

That was very touching Thanks for sharing.