The Governor-General of Australia on a summer spent in Canberra and why this season is an opportune moment to give thanks, reach out and visit somewhere you haven’t before.
I was delighted to receive an invitation from Australian Traveller to contribute an article for its ‘Reclaim Summer’ issue. The theme of ‘Reclaim Summer’ builds on the publication’s ‘100 Ways to Holiday Here This Year’ issue from earlier in the year which was a wonderful initiative to help generate cash flow in our tourist areas after the devastating impacts of the bushfires last summer and, since then, COVID-19. I encourage all those currently planning a summer holiday to consider visiting one of those areas and to help our nation reclaim summer.
The meaning of summer
What does summer in Australia mean to me? Having lived in Darwin, Townsville, Brisbane, Sydney, Wollongong, Canberra, Wagga and Ocean Grove, Linda and I have experienced summer in many forms. We have been fortunate to experience some of Australia’s most beautiful scenery and locations but, as it is for many Australians, it is the joy of long warm evenings, the beach, water sports, the cricket, barbecues, and family and friends coming together that makes summer.
This year, Linda and I will spend summer in Canberra. That means long walks by Lake Burley Griffin and on bush trails, bike riding, visits to Canberra’s wonderful markets and national institutions, and enjoying those magnificent Canberra sunsets. There will also be time to travel across the border to visit the region’s superb wineries and the many delightful rural villages that can be found just outside the capital territory in nearly every direction. Summer also means the staging of the traditional and fiercely contested Hurley family Boxing Day Backyard Cricket match! Hopefully, there’ll be time to squeeze in some golf! Linda and I are also looking forward to catching up with our extended family, including our three children and first grandchild, Charlie, who turns one in December. He brings us immense joy.
The recovery effort continues
All of these activities and opportunities have the potential to create a great summer. There are, however, a number of very serious aspects to summer this year. Canberra is only a few hours’ drive from some of the best beaches and coastal communities in Australia. Unfortunately, many of these communities are in the early stages of recovery after this year’s bushfires. During the year, Linda and I visited many of these coastal communities. We met with people who had suffered incredible loss as well as those who helped in the rescue and recovery efforts. Our thoughts will be with them this holiday period as they continue the long process of rebuilding. The strength of people in these communities to step up in the face of adversity is truly amazing.
A time to give thanks
Summer is also the time of the year when we give thanks for our fire fighters, lifesavers, emergency services personnel, the police, medical professionals and volunteers. They have families too, and time spent rescuing, protecting and treating people is time away from their loved ones. And let’s not forget our amazing charitable and not-for-profit organisations that provide care and support to the homeless and to other vulnerable groups. One of the things I think we have learnt through the bushfires and the pandemic is how to be a good neighbour. It’s an easy thing to do and helps build stronger and more compassionate and inclusive communities.
The last 12 months has been an extremely challenging time for our nation. Many Australians will enter the summer of 2020/21 worried about their future. Let’s make a promise to check in on someone we haven’t spoken with for a while. The simple act of asking someone ‘Are you okay?’ can make a huge difference to their health and wellbeing. And, if you plan to be an Australian traveller this summer, why not visit a place you haven’t visited before?
Visit our Reclaim Summer hub to read our collection of essays by notable Australians on what summer means to them and many more great reads.