Retail giant, BIG W, and the supermarket chain, ALDI, created some controversy recently with the release of a “T” shirt carrying the slogan “Australia Established 1788”. This is a reference to the arrival of the First Fleet in Sydney Cove carrying convicts and settlers from England.

The “T” shirts were withdrawn from sale “because of a limited number of concerned customers”.

On Sunday 26th January we celebrate Australia Day and there much more to this day than a jingle about a flag raising ceremony on the shores of Sydney Harbour some 226 years ago.

The Australia Day Council says Australia Day celebrations “reflect contemporary Australia: our diverse society and landscape, our remarkable achievements and our bright future. It is also an opportunity to reflect on our nation’s history, and to consider how we can make Australia an even better place in the future.”

We indeed have much to celebrate. A highlight for me is our incredible indigenous history that goes back more than 50,000 years before the coming of the Europeans. Another highlight is our rich diversity that continues to develop every day with the arrival of migrants from all over the world.

As we celebrate this national day there is a real need to ensure we are a generous, caring, compassionate society.

And there is much to do. Reconciliation with our Aboriginal brothers and sisters remains a priority. Meanwhile it’s important to constantly welcome and offer opportunities to people, especially those who are fleeing violence and persecution in so many parts of the globe.

Most of all, Australia Day needs to be celebrated with a commitment to living out God’s way of grace, mercy and justice.

Australia today and Australia in the future is our hands. Let’s ensure our contribution goes well beyond “T” shirt slogans and other catchphrases that are either misleading or say very little.

John Barr