Novocastrians appeared to embrace Australia Day as a welcome day off work rather than an opportunity to display some national pride on Friday.
National flags and clothing, not to mention people, were in short supply at Nobbys and Newcastle beaches on a humid afternoon.
Australian paraphernalia at Newcastle amounted to one small flag dangling from a beach umbrella and a Socceroos shirt when the Herald visited after lunchtime.
It was left up to four young mates from Maitland to add some colour and “Aussie pride” to proceedings.
Oliver, Lachie, Oscar and Cody caught the train into town with their skateboards and stopped off in the mall to update their wardrobe.
“We all went to Lowes. We come down in normal shirts and thought, ‘Nah, it’s not good enough. We’d better go to the shops and buy another one,’” Oliver said.
“We bought these Hawaiian-slash-Australian shirts. The people at Lowes helped us cut the sleeves off.”
Oliver agreed the vibe in Newcastle was subdued and speculated the debate about moving Australia Day might have discouraged people from celebrating openly.
“There’s not too much going on,” he said. “It’s pretty quiet this year, compared to every other year, but we can’t ease up on it.
“I think it is with this whole politician stuff with changing Australia Day to another day, but we’re true Aussies.”
Oscar said: “We love a Friday off. Who doesn’t?”
Oliver said the friends’ plans for the rest of the day involved “skating around and jumping from pub to pub”.
“We’ll do anything Australian, pretty much.”
The crowd at Honeysuckle was a little more lively. Many of the restaurants did a brisk trade, and the powerboat racing attracted an audience of several hundred.
Van Phong, who moved to Australia five years ago from Vietnam, said he had enjoyed a steady flow of customers to his Hanoi’s Food Truck in Wharf Road.
Sydney couple Tina and Ken had only just arrived in Newcastle at the start of a long weekend away and said the city’s celebrations looked quiet.
“There’s not much happening here, but where we’re from there is, near Cronulla. It’s pretty full-on,” said Tina, who was sporting a temporary tattoo of an Australian flag on her shoulder.
Waylon Boney, the director of Hunter Aboriginal cultural group Wakagetti Indigenous Corporation, performed at Newcastle City Council’s citizenship ceremony at City Hall on Friday morning.
He said he would like to see Australia Day moved soon so the nation could focus on more pressing issues for his people.
“It’s just a date, really. The government can change it so simply – keep the national holiday – and then we can get on with the bigger issues.
“It’s about working together and coming together. Our people are taught to give, give. If we all take, take, no one receives.
“If we do that, if we all give, then we’ll receive and we’ll have something bigger than an argument about a date.”
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