Yes it’s January again. The month of heatwaves, beach holidays, blowflies and of course, Australia Day.
And with Australia Day comes the annual Meat and Livestock Australia advertisement for lamb. Because in true capitalist fashion, there’s no better way to celebrate than with commercial opportunities.
The advertisements have routinely proved controversial. Past ads have focused on a machismo love of meat and cookie-cutter patriotism, to the extent that you’d think Meat and Livestock Australia were only targeting white males. Attitudes have changed in recent years, however, and the ads have actually moved towards celebrating Australia’s diversity.
So much so that 2017’s Australia Day lamb ad doesn’t even mention ‘Australia Day’.
The ad kicks off with a group of Indigenous Australians having a barbie on a beach, remarking how such a beautiful spot “will be packed before you know it”.
As promised, the Dutch soon arrive, followed by the British who claim they are “The First Fleet”.
Next to arrive are the French, the Germans, the Chinese (with fireworks from Fyshwick, ACT), then a post-war ship bringing Italians, Greeks and Serbians. Even New Zealanders make an appearance, Australia gently teasing our Kiwi neighbours by saying “we couldn’t keep them away”.
The ad is packed with well known Aussies making cameos. Keep an eye out for cricketer Adam Gilchrist, athlete Cathy Freeman, chef Poh Ling Yeow, Sam Kekovich and Wendell Sailor.
In case you hadn’t worked it out yet, the advertisement is intended as a condensed and humorous history lesson of Australia post-European settlement.
Already the ad has attracted mixed opinions online. Some people are angry the ad doesn’t explicitly mention Australia Day. Others dislike how it uses an idealistic version of multicultural Australia for commercial purposes. Others still think that the advertisement airbrushes over the violence and oppression suffered by Indigenous Australians during colonisation (and in many ways, continues still).
Wow what a way to sideline the invasion, massacres and theft that January 26th symbolises https://t.co/llME77YKmA
— Amy McQuire (@amymcquire) January 12, 2017
To be honest, they have a point – January 26 certainly isn’t the most inclusive date to celebrate the national holiday. And yes, the ad is filled with cultural stereotypes and largely ignores Indigenous history prior to 1788.
For context: only a few years ago these ads portrayed Australia as an entirely white, meat-loving nation. Today, the ad actively tries to portray Australia realistically, as the culturally diverse nation that it is. I mean, the 2017 Australia Day lamb ad is even accepting of vegans, something which previous ads had used as a running joke.
Australia is not perfect. Nor is Australia Day’s date. So no, the 2017 Australia Day lamb advertisement doesn’t show an accurate representation of Australia’s past. But perhaps it gives us a optimistic goal for the future.