I have not lived in Australia for four and a bit years, I have gotten to watch our country from afar and see how the world see’s us, how we are presented to the world. Many Australians living overseas experience this and I still find it bizarre. People living overseas seem to fall into two categories (yes I am making a bit of a sweeping generalization) either they love Australia and can’t stop going on about how fantastic it is or they don’t really have anything nice to say about it. My feelings on the whole subject are this. I just wish it was closer but its distance and isolation is what makes it….. Well Australia.Australia is still an unknown entity to many people I meet. They seem gobsmacked and confused as to why I would leave such a marvellously beautiful place and my home by the sea. Then in the same breath they ask, But doesn’t everything kill you there, aren’t all the animals dangerous. Normally this question is asked of me whilst I am standing next to my friend who has just said he is from Zambia. Zambia! The dude comes from a place with frickin lions! Lions and Hippos and Elephants! And I am being asked about all our deadly creatures. Puh-lease. This constant bombardment of thinking our animals are dangerous is mental. This though is a rant most Australian just traveling overseas have made. The next most common thing I get asked is “Do you celebrate Christmas in Australia?” Firstly there is a thing called the internet these days and if you are truly wondering if Australia as a nation in general celebrates Christmas google that shit. Christmas doesn’t just happen when it’s cold. Then finally the last question that I get asked most often and one I find truly baffling, actually it’s normally made more as a statement to me… “Australian’s, you’re racist aren’t you?” In my case it is normally a German asking me this and I kind of just shake my head and stare at them in disbelief but they just stare back kind of waiting for me to confirm this and I normally mutter something like… “Well there is a lot of casual racism” and wonder to myself if they have forgotten WWII.
This question always gets me thinking though about how the rest of the world sees’s us and ultimately how do we view ourselves. Recently as a nation I think we have lost our way. We seem to be a country run by fear and hate instead of one which I felt as a child was fuelled by optimism and hope. Now please accept that what I am saying here are musings and thoughts and not fully formed opinions. I am happy to be criticized, I am happy to have a debate and discussion about everything I say as what is better than a good long running discussion where everyone at the table is open to having their view changed or widened. Plus I am no expert on this and if an expert can teach me something then I am willing to learn.
So let’s circle back to the idea of us being a nation of racists. This clearly stems from the treatment of Aborigines both in the past and now. This topic of course is in hot debate right now. As it always is on Australia Day or Invasion day however you want to call it. I am personally not a fan of it being called invasion day as let’s all agree not all the people on board those 11 ships wanted to be here and had no intention of invading a country, they were here as a punishment, however I understand the sentiment. I think we as a country need to do more, much more when it comes to how we treat/interact… Live with the indigenous population… We have said sorry but it’s not enough and when I think of the atrocities that have been perpetrated and are still being perpetrated against them I feel great shame but from the past we can only move forward and try and rectify them. We need to stop the systematic abuse and one of my thoughts on how to do this is education. Let’s make real movements into highlighting the deep, vast majestic culture. Let’s honestly throw money at this problem and implement large reaching education of the population. Let’s not be afraid to talk about the issue and raise awareness. Let’s approach it with compassion and kindness, views will not change overnight but slowly if we all try to be a little bit more open minded we can become one nation living together and sharing this beautiful place we all call home and love. This can be done with education, more TV shows highlighting the indigenous culture, with programs in schools and communities, taking more children and adults into the Indigenous communities, breaking down the barriers. I know I am part of the problem as I have personally not seeked out these encounters but I want to. I want to understand what it is like to be an Indigenous person within our country. I no longer want to be ignorant.
I have briefly touched on the idea of compassion and I think this is something I really want to talk about. I believe that as a country/nation we should all aim to live with more compassion. It should be the corner stone of all decision we make. Compassion for all people and compassion for the land we live on.
I feel shame when I think of how we are treating the Refuges the poor and unfortunate people escaping tyranny. Looking to us for a better life, we owe them so much more than we are giving them. We are a land of immigrants. We cannot lock them up out of fear there might be one or two bad people. There are bad people amongst us already. If we base our Refugee policies on compassion then there is no way we can continue to lock them up off shore. Do not let fear dictate how we treat them. We have so much to share and we can afford to share it. It is that simple. In nearly all cases kindness breeds more kindness and they will love our country and become part of the rich tapestry of cultures that we as Australia represent and cherish.
Even if you don’t believe in climate change, you can believe in treating the earth with compassion. Let’s truly consider what we are doing to our beautiful country by digging out her insides and cutting down the forest and polluting the water. Surely you cannot be alright with this. The reason people come to visit and don’t understand why any of us leave is because of the diverse and beautiful landscapes. So let’s be innovators in renewable energy, recycling and conservation. Let’s be leaders in these fields. Let’s fund new science and take the risk of moving away from big oil and mining because it is not an unlimited supply. Even if you don’t believe in climate change it cannot hurt to treat our planet with respect, it can only make us better and preserve what we have.
So I guess I sit here pontificating from my comfortable chair in Berlin, on Australia and I may not grasp the true feelings of the country at the moment but what I hope I know is that we don’t want to be known as a nation ruled by fear and hate. That we want to stand up in front of the world and say we are a nation of good people, with hope in our hearts that we can be better than what we were/are and on a day that may not have the greatest reputation in history that we are willing to change and be changed. For we as a group are honestly good people at the core of it all and we welcome everyone. No mater your colour, religion, sexual orientation or whatever makes you different. We are a land of misfits and convicts, at the core of it all we just want everyone to feel welcomed and included. Come share a beer and have compassion for your fellow man. As compassion is the greatest gift you can give and the best present you will ever receive.
Happy Australian day/Invasion day or whatever you want to call it but let’s all agree that we can be more than we are now!