Happy Australia Day! Today is the 26th January and is a national public holiday in Australia. Australia day commemorates the arrival of the British colonizers, along with many convicts, into Australia in 1788. Unfortunately the day is having an increasing negative connotation associated with it. Some refer to today as Invasion Day and there are discussions about whether our national day should be changed to another day. It was heartwarming to hear in a recent survey that the majority of Australians want to celebrate a national day and they don’t mind which day the holiday falls on. I feel the same way. I do like the idea around having our national day on May 8 (Mate Day); that really would be quintessentially Australian. However I do like celebrating our national holiday in summer.
I feel very lucky to have been born here and to have grown up in this great country. It made me laugh this morning when my partner put on an Aussie playlist on Spotify and listened to classics such as “We Come From A Land Downunder” and “You’re the Voice” while eating our crumpets for breakfast. This led me to think about what it means to be Australian. Australia is a multicultural country. We have people either born from, or have links to, many nations from around the world in our nation, many of which are represented here in Melbourne. My parents live in Newcastle, which is a much smaller city in Australia. When they came to visit a year or two ago I took on a personal challenge, without telling them, of eating a different cuisine every meal. We had Aussie classics like a good old-fashioned Aussie BBQ, I took them for yum cha for brunch and we had Vietnamese Bahn Mi’s for lunch. We had North African for dinner one night and on another I took them to my favourite Italian Australian Asian fusion restaurant, Franco Choos, for dinner.
As a genetic counsellor and someone who is passionate about genetics, I have been accused of relating everything back to genetics. Australia is a nation with a diverse cultural mix with people living here with vast ethnic backgrounds. But this also means that we have a mixture of genetic makeups from around the world. One way of taking a look at this makeup is through ancestry testing. I am half Zambian and half Caucasian Australian. Like many people who undergo ancestry testing, I was a little surprised with my results. As expected, about half of my makeup is African. However a large component is Scandinavian. This surprised me as I expected the remaining genetic mix to be from the British Isles. It just makes me want to go to Scandinavia even more. The ancestry test offered by my company Insight Genomica is a little different from many on the market. Most of the ancestry products break ancestry down into several broad groups whereas ours is much more defined. It was developed by a university academic population geneticist with over 800 reference populations and 36 different gene pools. So if finding out more about your ethnic background or ancestry appeals to you, feel free to get in touch.
Matt Burgess, Consultant Genetic Counsellor