You know Australia Day is coming when you start to see slabs of VB and XXXX being stacked in the front window of your local bottle shop. (Although in our changing, modern cultural, a vast range of international brewers are finding success in our country and being first choice for many beer lovers, including myself – please don’t judge me!) The lamb commercials start. The gas bottles are being brought out – along with the safety ads on the radio and TV about checking for leaks. Seafood suppliers are on high alert. Lastly the supermarkets have stocked up on every ‘Straya’ accessory you could think of while iconic Aussie anthems are playing everywhere.
If you do not have these on your play list, you are simply ‘un-Australian’:
‘True Blue’ – John Williamson
‘Down Under’ – Men at Work
‘Khe Sanh’ – Cold Chisel
‘Great Southern Land’ – Icehouse
‘You’re the Voice’ – John Farnham
‘I Still Call Australia Home’ – Peter Allen
Funnily enough, no sign of ‘A Pub with No Beer’ or ‘There was a Redback on the Toilet Seat’.
Perhaps, not really a surprise there. LOL
Disappointingly though, when I opened my phone this morning, my newsfeed was swamped with stories of riot police being called in to attend some of today’s Australia Day celebrations, there is talk of security alerts anticipation of social conflict and somebody has brought up the topic of changing our national flag – again.
Our history, the colonisation of Australia, does not have proud beginnings. The stories are horrific. We were taught these in primary schools. Children are still taught these in primary schools. Nobody is forgetting.
Sometimes it can be difficult though, to remember what modern Australia is all about – a place that has brought, and continues to bring, families together from all around the world.
Let’s look at my family:
I’m 5th generation Australian on my mum’s side, originally of English and Irish decent; first generation on my dad’s side, whose family migrated here from the UK and who are of English and Irish decent also.
My husband is first generation Australian, whose parents were born in China, of Russian migrants.
My dad’s family migrated here in the 50s, with their six children, by sea, with the Salvation Army, setting up their roots in Dandenong, a place they called home for many years. The children attended Dandenong South Primary School – a school that my husband just advised me of, that he attended every Saturday as a child, for Russian School. Small world!
My mum grew up in Springvale. Her parents were born and bred in Bendigo, moving to Melbourne after the war, for work. I remember sleep overs at my great grandparent’s house in Bendigo – with the outside toilet. We spent a lot of time at my grandparent’s Springvale home as we grew up.
My husband’s grandparents were born in Russia, fleeing to China during the Communist period. Both of my husband’s parents were born in China actually – Xinjiang, where they were part of a farming community. In 1966, my husband’s family were part of a large group of other Russian families, that travelled across the seas, to Australia.
Upon arriving in Australia, believe it or not, they found themselves in Dandenong. This is where my husband’s parents met, not in their Russian homeland or their Chinese birthland, but in Dandenong.
And guess where I met my husband? Narre Warren. (You thought I was going to say Dandenong didn’t you? 😊 )
So, this Aussie girl, born of one Australian and one migrant parent, meets this Aussie boy, born of both migrant parents, who themselves met in Dandenong. We get married and eventually have 2 children of our own.
So that is where that part of the story ends.
But let me share with you a new one. Allow me to share my own insight into the beauty and diversity of the community I know, live and work in.
As you know, I work in real estate. My job is to help families move. To live the Australian dream. I have had the very good fortune over the last 12 years, of meeting the most amazing people and helping each along their journey of achieving home ownership. Including those Australian born and families that have moved here from all around the world!
I feel so lucky that over the years many of these people have become my friends. This Aussie girl who grew up on Nescafe, got introduced to Greek and Turkish coffee. I have sat on the floor and enjoyed a traditional Indian meal. I have watched (coughing and eyes watering) how they make their famous spices. I have enjoyed a traditional African coffee ceremony, where the coffee beans were roasted in front of me, and the women only, including myself, sat and enjoyed delicious coffee as we talked about growing up in our respective cultures. I tasted coffee with sweetened condensed milk whilst visiting a Vietnamese family – and realised you don’t need your regular sugar dosage with this type of coffee. Too late on this occasion though! I learned about Chinese tea. I’ve learned how to make tea, from one of my Lebanese customers. I attended a huge Sri Lankan celebration recently and was honoured to be invited to deliver one of the speeches for a client – who has become – a dear friend.
I’ve had so many cakes, coffees and glasses of wine over the years, with my customers. We’ve shared so much laughter, and sometimes tears, as not always the reason for a move, is a happy one. I’ve visited my customers with new babies, attended birthdays, watched children mature and grow into young adults, sharing in the proud journey with their parents. I’ve also attended funerals.
First hand I have experienced the beauty of our diverse culture. I have been welcomed as if I was family. Australia is arguably, the most successful example of a multicultural country in the world. We are all Australian and on this day, it is this ‘coming together’ as a nation and a beautiful, multicultural society, that we can celebrate.
So, put another shrimp on the barbie please. And where’s my beer?