With the approaching Sydney Olympics, Australia has the best chance in recent times to show the rest of the world there is more to the country than those time-worn cliches the Australian Tourist Bureau and Qantas have been serving up for decades.

Honest to goodness, you’d believe that every Australian: wears a digger hat (I saw maybe one person wearing a digger hat during my five years in Australia, and I suspect he was a tourist); throws shrimp on the barbi (never saw a shrimp on the barbi but I did see plenty of snags); can see Ayer’s Rock AND the Sydney Harbour Bridge from their front porch (although they are thousands of kms apart); doesn’t know any other way to address people than “G’day” (this may be accurate but I am tired of hearing it); plays cricket, Aussie Rules and works as a surf lifesaver simultaneously (I know there are Australians who actually are interested in other things, like the arts and politics are instance); that every Aborigine stands on one leg, holding a boomerang in one hand and a digeridoo in the other (I knew aborgines that were every bit as cultured as anyone else you might meet Down Under, if not more so).

Be warned, the world press will be there in pursuit of exactly those sorts of stories. Resist the urge to help them perpetuate this narrow perspective of your wonderful land. Invite them to actually go out into the country and meet some “real” people, and discover the magnificent tapestry that makes Australia so rich and fascinating.

You know how the television networks covering the Olympics will be teeming with those “fluff” pieces about the host people and host country. In fact, it seems actual competition makes up but a small percentage of airtime devoted to Olympic coverage. Thousands of magazine and newspaper articles will be filed from Australia and sent ’round the world.

This is your chance to set the record straight, to explode those annoying cliches and myths that your very own P.R. and advertising flacks have been serving up the rest of the world ad nauseum.

If you simply must wear a digger hat, or barbecue a shrimp, or say G’Day to someone, do it in the privacy of your own home and nowhere near the cameras of the world press.

You will be doing yourself and your country a favor. Trust me.

Peter Fray

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