Australia Day: what boat did you come in on?

I’d like to start by saying that the intent of this is not to offend, but to question accepted discriminations and discover other ways of thinking. I have tried to keep my emotions from taking over. I have tried to include information for those who seek it. Every fact has a source, which is freely available for anyone with access to the internet to obtain and confirm for themselves. They are listed at the end of the post, along with ‘fun facts’ that didn’t quite make it into the main post.Remember.

When I think of Australia Day, I think of sunshine, being with my family and friends, listening to Triple J’s hottest 100 countdown with a delicious beverage, near the beach. I think of thanking my lucky stars I was born into a country that has freedom of speech, freedom to study, to work, to be straight, to be gay, to travel, to be vegan, to eat pork, to be catholic, to be atheist, to be jewish, to be whoever I want to be – without fear of persecution.

What I SEE leading up to and on Australia day, is that a lot of people treat Australia Day as an opportunity to be racist. And some may argue that it isn’t actually accepted, however it is tolerated. Which isn’t much better. It’s tolerated to look down upon those who weren’t born in Australia, seeing them as being unworthy of being here, no matter why they chose to come.
It is becoming a day to express hate, fear, prejudice and ignorance. *cringe*

What makes you Australian?

Is it as the picture below insinuates – being Australian means eating meat, drinking beer and speaking english? I have to admit to being partial to the occasional tofu burger, and prefer red wine over beer. Am I not living up to my Australian name? Bugger.

Example of Racism by Australian who posted this on facebook.

Example of Racism by Australian who posted this on Facebook.

As for speaking English, I’m sure the people posting these types of posts haven’t considered that ENGLISH is a modern-day mash-up of West-Germanic Language (did you catch the word “German”?), also influenced by French (As in the Normandy folk of France who invaded Britain around 1066, led by William the conqueror). It is also influenced by Dutch, Latin, Ancient Greek and Scandinavian. Does anyone else see the irony that Australians now use the ability to speak English in an argument about Australianism? *2
Wikipedia says that English is a “borrowing” language. Is that because we’ve been borrowing it for two-hundred and fifty years? *3

What happened to the country that prided itself on not just singing the words but believing them when they sang:
“We are one. We are many. And from all the lands on earth we come. We share a dream. And sing with one voice. I am. You are. We are Australian”? *4

It seems there is a lot of hatred and racism running rife in Australia. It may have been there for a long time and I’m just now becoming aware of it. It hurts my heart. I started writing this when I wondered how we have come to a place where we no longer accept those seeking a better life in the land “girt by sea” (fancy words for surrounded by water). *5

It’s natural for people to group all citizens of a nationality and give them a stereotype. A by-product of travelling is finding out exactly what the rest of the world thinks of us. Australians are perceived as being drunks, stoners, loud, obnoxious, chauvinistic, racists who care more about getting wasted than learning what’s going on the world around them. I don’t know how everyone else feels, but it bums me out. For so many reasons.

Getting back on point – let’s get one thing straight. People native to Australia are Aboriginals. *6 Anyone else is a descendant of an immigrant.

I’m a descendant of an immigrant. Two actually. A married couple who came to Australia in 1817. ON A BOAT. Pretty sure they didn’t have visa’s. Oh, oh, and, my Poppy was born in England and MIGRATED to Australia to marry my Nana, whose lineage is partly German. So if you want to get real technical, you could either say that my family has been in Australia for eight generations… or two. Does either explanation make me more or less Australian?

Australia is a young country, one which once upon a time was a land filled with possibilities. Over time we developed a culture of “Having a fair go”. Being a hard worker was the motto of many a man. It didn’t matter where you came from. You worked hard, looked after your family, and enjoyed the benefits of our country. Isn’t that our culture? Work hard, enjoy life? If not, what is it? Some people are afraid of other cultures because they don’t understand them. What people don’t understand, they tend to fear. Fear and hysteria breeds hate and discrimination.

Our National Anthem, “Advance Australia Fair” was not instated until April 1984 *7. It was actually written by a SCOTTISH-born composer, Peter Dodds McCormick, first performed in 1878. *8 *9

I like to point out a particular section from the current Verse 2 that many Australians seem to have forgotten:
“For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.”
Our ANTHEM: Welcoming those from countries all around the world to join us and make Australia a better place.*10

The orchestral version that we have heard a thousand times at countless Commonwealth and Olympic games (yay for our swimmers…who are all descendants of someone), as well as many cultural and community events, was composed by Tommy Tycho, an immigrant from HUNGARY.*10

This whole “Girt by sea” part gets me thinking about the current issues of asylum seekers being called “illegal immigrants” and “boat people”. *11

If Australia became a place of war, how far would you go to save your family? If your home was destroyed and you were forced to flee, where would you go? How would you get there? Would you care if your passport was current? Note: Only 50% of Australians have passports, so to the other 50%…sorry, no boats or planes for you.*12 If you were fighting for your life and the life of your family would your number one concern be working out what language to learn? Or would it be working out how to keep your family safe at all costs?

My biggest concern here is that Australians seem to be forgetting that being born in Australia does not make someone privileged above any other person. It makes you LUCKY.

However, for those who believe they are ‘above’, I’m happy to quote Spiderman’s Uncle Ben, and say that “with great power comes great responsibility”.  For those who prefer their guidance to come from The Bible, here is possibly the oldest derivative of this quote:
“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:48 *13

Image source: http://www.jobscience.com/blog/wanna-keep-your-staff-be-a-better-boss/

Image source: http://www.jobscience.com/blog/wanna-keep-your-staff-be-a-better-boss/
If you want to know why the picture says Voltaire, it is because Voltaire coined the phrase well before Spiderman came along.

We are blessed! We have a responsibility to fellow-man. We are all humans, yet for some reason a few people have got it in their heads that if someone isn’t born here they don’t have the right to basic needs that most take for granted. Why are we so afraid of extending our hands to those in need and welcoming them into our bosom?

Some people will ask – What about the people IN Australia who are in need? The people “in our own backyard”? If someone asked me that, I would be forced to respond with: what have you done for them lately? The problems in Australia are not an excuse not to help others. Help is not exclusive to money, or even volunteering time. Help, can be thinking before saying or doing something that judges or discriminates.

Note – 0.5% of Australians are Homeless. 105,237 people.*14 Great charities are out there to support them. Like Backpack Beds by Swags for Homeless. http://swags.org.au/
Even the proceeds from buying one for yourself (they look pretty awesome) go towards funding a swag for the homeless.

We are not a country without our own problems. But we are made up of HUMAN BEINGS.

There was a time when I probably would have said similar things, and re-shared similar posts. I remember offending several people in a class in high school with a thought-less, off-handed comment. I can never take back that moment. But I can be sorry, I can educate myself, and I can stand up for what believe in. I am not afraid to tell of my own short-comings, I do so with the intent to help others see things from a different perspective. I was afraid to post this, as I know that many people may not agree. But no longer can I let the negative slurs flow around me, without at least standing up and saying that I don’t believe it’s right.

It may be a small minority that think this way, and behave this way. Yet it is staining our nation, and our reputation around the world. More than that, it’s staining our souls.

My hope is that before someone posts a ‘patriotic’ comment, they consider who they know, that might be offended by it. For those who see the posts and cringe, maybe let the person know you have been offended. I know it’s hard. But maybe staying quiet is the reason why racism is tolerated so widely.

This Australia Day, remember all the places we have come from, with pride and open arms, not dwelling in places of fear and un-acceptance. Wear your Australian flag with pride, drink that beer and eat that meat pie. But remember how you came to live in Australia. Think of those who fought and continue to fight for your freedom, whether it be fighting a war or fighting for their own freedom on their way to Australia. Remember, that we are one, we are many, we are all human.

Sources and extra bits:

*1 Ever heard of “Anglo-Saxon”? These are the German peeps who invaded Britain in the early days and influenced their language. For a history of English Language, start here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_English_language
*2 Before any argues that English is the national language and therefore not an issue of “race”, and that it applies to all people coming into the country regardless of their ethnicity, the objective is to understand that the origin of the language itself has migrated here from somewhere else.
*3 No, it’s not. I may have been liberal with sarcasm here. Refer to wiki.
*4 I am Australian (or We are Australian) is a popular Australian song written in 1987 by Bruce Woodley of The Seekers and Dobe Newton of The Bushwackers. (wiki)
*5 Australia is an Island. If you don’t know these words (“girt by sea”), they are from the Australian Anthem.
*6 Some Indigenous people of Australia consider Australia Day to be “Invasion Day”, reflecting on the invasion of the British in 1788, and the effect this has had on their people. Source: Invasion Day. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australia_Day#.22Invasion_Day.22
*7 1788 to 1974 the anthem was “God save the Queen” which is still used for Royal occasions where the Australian monarch or a member of the Royal Family is present.
*8 Source: Wikipedia. Wiki, wiki and more wiki. If you are unsure, wikipedia is to the rescue.
*9 The original lyrics were 4 verses long. When the song reached anthem status in 1984, Verse 1 was kept basically the same (changing “Australia’s sons” to “Australians all” – yay for feminism), yet the other 3 were dropped in favour of a new verse.
*10 Advance Australia Fair – National Anthem. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advance_Australia_Fair
*11 O.M.G. IT IS NOT ILLEGAL TO SEEK ASYLUM IN AUSTRALIA. Source: To read about Australia’s obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention, start reading here, with the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c4b2.html or http://www.unhcr.org/4ec262df9.pdf
*12 Source: passports.gov.au https://www.passports.gov.au/Web/PassportHistory.aspx
*13 Source: The bible. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+12:48
*14 Source: http://www.homelessnessaustralia.org.au/index.php/about-homelessness/homeless-statistics

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