How many generations does it take to be considered “Australian”?
And who decides when you cross that magical threshold from migrant, refugee, son/grandson or daughter/granddaughter of a migrant to full-blown “God Save the Queen, you’re one of us now mate”?
Being granted citizenship isn’t enough.
For many of us, being born here isn’t enough.
Like many other first and second generation Australians, my face and surname tell a story of a time long past yet people frequently ask me where I am from.
Instinctively I respond: Here. I’m Australian.
But their answer is always: “No, where are you really from?”
Trust me, I need no reminding that my surname has its origins in the Balkans – it is after all my name.
And you don’t have to insist on the fact I’m not from here because I really do know where I am from. I grew up a happy little vegemite spending my summers jumping through the sprinkler in my Speedos… just like you.
I was born here.
My parents – were born here.
I’m from the Australia where I’m not Australian enough to be considered … Australian.
And I’m not alone.
We are one, but we are many
Australia IS the lucky country but how much of your own culture, language and beliefs are you expected to relinquish on this quest to be Australian?
And why is that even a pre-requisite?
We’re a multicultural society… aren’t we?
I often hear people accuse new-Australians of failing to assimilate into the broader community or not adopting the Australian way like it’s a crime to cling to the only way of life they’ve ever known in favour of a sudden and reckless abandon for meat pies, lamingtons and cold beer.
Just how comfortable and willing could anyone possibly feel about embracing all that is Australian about their new home when they are openly judged for being themselves?
How eager would you be to adopt your new-found home’s attitudes and cultural norms when ‘the locals’ look down upon your origins?
It would be nice to think that we live in a harmonious, collegiate society where mutual respect and tolerance prevail but the inconvenient truth about multiculturalism in Australia is that it’s a buzzword that’s rolled out to bandaid the cracks of subtle racism together in time for a quick spit polish before the next tourist arrives on the flying Kangaroo.
Worst still is how hypocritical we are with our us-and-them mentality. The harsh truth is, that unless you’re an Indigenous Australian – we’re all from somewhere else!
Whether your ancestors came here shackled inside the hull of a convict ship, boarded a plane for a new life of their own volition or fled a war in their homeland by getting on a boat: guess what – YOU are the descendant of a migrant or refugee too.
Descended from a migrant or a refugee.
Just. Like. Us.
Get over yourself Australia
Are you really so threatened by kebabs and rice paper rolls that you can’t find the compassion within yourself to welcome a weary traveller from a war torn country into your community?
Are you ok with continuing to persecute someone for practising their religion even though those beliefs have no impact on you or your life whatsoever?
Are you really so offended by the way someone dresses that it prevents you from going about your daily life?
Does that all sound Australian to you?
We are one, but we don’t value the many because we still see each other through degrees of Australianess.
We espouse multiculturalism when it’s convenient and shift the blame all to often onto our fellow Australians as the terrible global actions of a few have become the burden of many.
Islam isn’t to blame for ISIS anymore than Christians are to blame for the Klu Klux Klan or Neo Nazi movement; yet the news media continue to make tenuous associations to fuel their click-bait coffers and shape community perceptions in the most reprehensible of ways.
A hash tag won’t fix this
Social media isn’t the silver bullet solution nor is it the root cause of our societal issues. People are the cause just as they will be the solution; but they need to want to change. Actions speak louder than words.
Next time you meet someone for the first time, don’t ask them where they’re from.
Ask them how their day has been.
Next time you meet a new-Australian, don’t ask them how they got here.
Tell them you’re glad they are safe.
Anyone can spot the differences between two people; the greater story begins in discovering shared common ground.
We are capable of far more compassion, love and trust that any divisive politician or terrorist wants you realise. Compassion isn’t a threat to national security – it’s not a sign of weakness. It’s sign of humanity which just happens to be our most formidable weapon against racism, intolerance and religious extremism.