LAMBASSADOR Sam Kekovich sees humour all around him but one thing he takes very seriously is being a proud Australian.
Sam Kekovich started his Australian Rules career in 1968, starred with North Melbourne and represented Victoria.
But when he retired after playing for Collingwood in the 1977 season, his fame started spreading to a wider audience.
Sam, who will be guest speaker at the St Edmund's College Foundation dinner on Saturday night, erupted on to ABC show
The Fat with a weekly satirical rant that culminated with the line: "You know it makes sense. I'm Sam Kekovich."
In recent years, he has become famous for wholeheartedly encouraging us all to eat lamb, especially on Australia Day.
When the Queensland Government decided to have Australia Day II last weekend for those who missed the original day because of the floods, Sam Kekovich seemed a natural face of the campaign.
"I was very much taken by the response; the spirit of the people was phenomenal," he said.
"If you did a straw poll and asked what Australia Day means I'd imagine 90% of people would say you should have a lamb barbie as opposed to anything to do with Captain Cook.
"But I think the bigger picture was to let people know they're open for business and sure we're in pain and beleaguered but we're not dead and buried.
"And the fact that we are Australian and we exude that wonderful character of one-in, all-in and mates in adversity stick together, we've got your back and we're prepared to help."
Asked if that's still being an Australian is all about, he is adamant it is.
"Okay, we talk about being more tolerant, we talk about being more intelligent and we talk about political correctness and sensitivity and all these other wonderful aspects of it but at the end of the day, our wonderful culture revolves around generosity of spirit, a sense of fair play and self-deprecation," he said.
"And you can tell everyone else to get stuffed with all the things they do to try to dilute that. We try to manufacture these wonderful concepts that dilly-dally around the periphery but we've got an outstanding culture that we fail to leverage off. We should be promoting our wonderful culture."
During the week, Sam was on TV with Jack Thompson to promote their movie Blinder and he laughs at a reference to putting his arm around the iconic actor.
"That's about as meat pie and tomato sauce as you'll get," he says with his booming voice and laugh.
"They should have that poster in every school in Australia. Plus the Australian flag in every quadrangle."
But he soon returns to his frustration about Australians' inability to appreciate our culture, something he strives to keep alive in his performances.
"Heaven help the day when kids don't know what bluey and ridgy-didge mean. People might laugh but it's reality," he said.
"Everyone thinks I'm right but no-one wants to say it except me. The liberal splash of irreverence I employ is purely because it's Australian. Irreverence, satire and a bit of tongue in cheek is what makes us so special and tolerant."
He in favour of immigration but says lessons from the past including his parents' generation should be applied to today.
"It's one thing to display all this wonderful benevolence and altruism by inviting people into your country but you don't desert them once they get here. You've got to give them hope and direction," he said.
"That's why we've got these acrimonious pockets of dissent in these enclaves that don't assimilate because on that lack of leadership and direction.
"My parents were forced migrants; they came out here because they opposed communism and Nazism but when they got here they didn't wallow in their own self-pity. They rolled up their sleeves and assimilated. They became the true Australians and the irreverence and good humour in the culture prevailed."
Sam Kekovich is the guest speaker at the St Edmund's College Foundation dinner on Saturday night. To book a ticket or a table, call the college on 3810 4448 or 0403 269 955.
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