Meet Roly Sussex, an Australia Day Ambassador, Queensland State Library Chairman and ABC Radio personality.

Roly Sussex loves Australia, just by reading his responses to our questions you can feel his Aussie pride seep through his words. A Professor of Applied Language Studies at The University of Queensland, Professor Sussex also hosts ‘A word in your ear’ on ABC Radio.

As an Australia Day Ambassador Mr Sussex  travels to rural Queensland each Australia Day to recognise outstanding Australians and reflect on all Australia has to offer.

Read on to find out Mr Sussex’s favourite aspect of Australia Day and his favourite Aussie book.

1. What prompted you to become an Australia Day ambassador?

There are few invitations to do things for the community which are as instantly compelling as this one. An elite – and very varied – group of what are now 45 ambassadors travel all around Queensland to join in the celebrations at many shires and councils. I have a particular affection for country Queensland, especially Central Queensland and the Far North. I welcome the chance to visit places I have not been able to visit before, and to help mark the day in a way which is by turns solemn, and cheerful.

2. What is your favourite aspect of Australia Day?

Meeting people in country Queensland, joining in community activities over the day, learning about what life is like far from the south east corner. Hearing from all sorts of people what being Australian and living in Australia means to them. Sharing stories and views and impressions and experiences. Understanding how varied, and challenging, and rewarding, living in Australia is. It can be a hard place to live in, but such a rewarding one.

3. Tell us about what being an Australia Day ambassador entails.

Ambassadors give a short speech to mark the occasion, and hand out certificates for community contributions and outstanding service and achievement – see #5. I like to reflect on some obvious things we tend to take for granted. We can breathe the air and drink the water. We don’t get killed by bombs on the way to the shop for a litre of milk. We can travel freely inside and outside Australia. Though we haven’t got it completely right yet, we are indeed a country of the fair go, where we express mateship by helping strangers clean up after floods, cyclones and fires. We then play games, and sit and talk and enjoy a barbecue.
A very important aspect of Australia Day for me is reflecting: how we compare to other places I visit and have visited, how we managed to make this country from a rather rocky start in 1788, current and future challenges, and the cheerful, good hearted resilience and inventiveness and friendliness of the people who live here.

4. What has been your most interesting experience as an ambassador?

That’s not a fair question, since there have been many. Perhaps the Karumba Australia Day cricket match, on the Gulf of Carpentaria. There are two pubs in Karumba and they form teams and play a match on the afternoon of Australia Day. The rules are different from the standard game, and I didn’t quite master them. You stay in, for I think four overs, and score minus five each time you are out; you stay in until your four overs are complete. Anyone can bowl. The rules sometimes appear to be variable, depending on the umpire. Fielders have been tackled when about to take a catch. The two teams of supporters sit in separate tents and barrack colourfully for their teams with energy and imagination.

5. How are you celebrating this Australia Day?

I am going to Winton as one of this year’s 45 ambassadors. Before Australia Day I’ll visit the Waltzing Matilda Museum, the Qantas museum and the Hall of Fame in Longreach (I fly into Longreach and take a hire car to Winton). The mayor of Winton is kindly taking me to visit Lark Quarry, the site of the dinosaur stampede. On Australia Day I’ll give a speech about what is special about Australia, and why I love living here; give out certificates for outstanding community contribution, civic contribution, and achievement; and then I think we’ll have a LARGE barbecue and play tip and run cricket … in 43 degree Celsius heat.

6. As Chairman of the State Library I’m sure you have a keen interest in books, what is your favourite Australian book?

That’s terribly hard – so much great writing (Tim Winton, for instance, and Judith Wright). But I think Kylie Tennant, The Honey Flow. I lived outside Australia from age 10 to age 29, and this book really captures the feel and smell of the Australian bush, and reminded me of what it was like to be in Australia on a hot summer’s day with the sound of bees in the eucalypts.

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