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Over the years that I have lived in Australia, there is something that I have grown to love - the sound of a " Coo-ee " when someone comes to my door.

It is like a welcome from a great height.

" Are you there? "  and " Can you hear me? "

Most importantly " am I welcome? "

I do love a Coo-ee. But what is a coo-ee you may ask?

 Well, it is like saying " I want to see you. I love you. You are important. You matter. "

As most of you know, I am not an natural born Australian. New Zealand was my country of birth and I love her as I hope all children love their country of birth. But Australia " adopted " me as a young 23 year old mother of two and I embraced her with as much warmth as she embraced gave in return.

I often write about New Zealand and I love her with great fondness. Like Redhead, my Mum, she gave me Life. She provided a safe haven for my birth and entry into this wondrous world. Yet it was Australia who saw me grow to womanhood, motherhood and saw me become a grandmother and a great grandmother. Much like Redhead I suppose.

I cannot pretend that life has been a place of tranquil water. In fact, it has often been a place of stormy seas and rocky outcrops where the only lighthouse has been Redhead's vigilant watchfulness that has seen me navigate the uncharted waters.

Redhead is historically a very stoic and upright champion of the mantra of " keep calm and carry on. "

Throughout my life, she has always been a very good rock on which to anchor and a great port in a storm.

Given that she spent over 6 decades married to a naval veteran, it seems appropriate to use the analogy and metaphor of the sea when describing my relationship with my Mum.

She has been my rock, my anchor and she has also stirred up some stormy seas. She has also been the Captain of many a ship over the years and averted a few collisions on rocky outcrops that were best avoided.

Sometimes, I have ignored her sage advice and navigated my way into dangerous waters and found myself bruised and battered on the shores of despair.

Yes, she has told me that I was a silly bugger. But never once did she leave me on the shore, wounded and bereft of help.

Mum has always picked me up and carried me to shelter and taken me in her able arms and embrace of love and said " well, that is over. Let's sort this out. "

She supported me through Cancer, a marriage break up and a few times when all I could see was wood and the trees had disappeared.

Mum always stood there, ready to pick up the pieces and call out " Coo-ee " in the Australian vernacular. In other words, " I am here if you need me. "

 And sometimes, Dad speaks to me and Mum and tells us that he is here.

 And yes, this is Redhead calling Coo-ee and my Dad singing

This song says so much.


IT WAS ONCE CLAIMED that sticking your head in the engine room of a ship of any nationality and yelling “Jock” would get a response. Whether or not this is true today I wouldn’t be game to say, but I’ll bet you London to a brick that if you let a decent “coo-ee” rip at a sporting event anywhere in the world, you’d get at least one reply.

Among the first Aboriginal words taken into English by the First Fleeters, it comes from the Dharug word “guu-wii”, literally “come here”, but the Europeans noted early in the piece that the Dharug used it as a shrill call to communicate over long distances.

If, like me, you’ve ever been out of Australia for a few years and lucky enough to come home by ship, you’ll know that before you even see the coast, our old country gives off an aroma you can almost touch – it says “Australia” in a way that brings you to tears. And when you’re in some foreign country up to your armpits in snow, a good “coo-ee” does the same thing.

It’s as Australian as the heady smell of gumleaf smoke and burnt snags on a barbie.

Source: Australian Geographic Issue 85 (Jan – Mar 2007)
So there you go. " Coo-ee! " is as much the sound of Australia as the sound of a kookaburra.

It is so Australian. It says that you are part of us and, when Mum sings Coo-ee and the soldiers lyrics callout " coo-ee " it means that we are all Australians and give a damn.

In 1915 recruiting committees were formed in nearly every town throughout Australia. In the central west of New South Wales a movement began which became known as the 'Gilgandra snowball'. Under the leadership of W.T. ('Captain Bill') Hitchen, 20 or so men who had determined to enlist started off to march to Sydney. Gathering other recruits along the way, they numbered about 300 by the time they reached Sydney.

This was known as the Coo-ee March.

Their example was soon followed by other marches from around New South Wales and Queensland: the Waratahs, Kangaroos, Wallabies, Dungarees, Men from Snowy River, Kurrajongs, Kookaburras, Central West Boomerangs and North Coast Boomerangs. They relied on the support of the communities they passed through, which was often enthusiastic. The total number of men involved was only about 1,500 but the marches attracted wide publicity and may have encouraged fund-raising and enlistment more generally.

Military authorities were not always supportive.

In 1918 further 'Freedom' marches were organised but were relatively unsuccessful source

Collection Item C46206

The Waratahs recruiting march, leaving Kiama, led by army personnel, on the way to Jamberoo. C46206

You may well ask what is the point in this article today?

Well, it is this.

Our March, these days, is starting small. Much like the Coo-ee marchers. The marchers did, admittedly peak at over a million in 2021 when people descended on Canberra to protest the vaccines and lockdowns. Many were arrested, assaulted and hit with rubber bullets.

They remembered when others signed up for war.



Because Freedom is always worth fighting for.

If there was ever a battle cry for Australia, it is Coo-ee.

Let it reign over the stadiums at the Australian Open, the streets of cities and towns across Australia. Let it be heard in Parliament House.

Let us hear Coo-ee and let it be our battle cry be heard.

After all, what is racist about a coo-ee between fellow Australians?



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