Our parents and grandparents left everything they’d ever known to create better lives for us. They left a country where they belonged, and made long and difficult journeys to come here, knowing they’d be ‘the other’. This wonderful country didn’t turn them away. It opened up its homes, its hospitals, its neighbourhood communities for them. It gave them special schools to help them keep a little part of their heritage in their lives; it provided government benefits for those who are parents, or students, or elderly, or looking for work. Its justice system aims to be fair, and everyone is innocent until proven guilty. None of these things were available where our parents came from…and all of these things were instituted by the ‘skips’ that some of us here wish to exclude. If someone doesn’t want to be a part of this wonderful country with its offer of a second chance, they are more than welcome to leave. The question is, would they actually want to?
– Sophie speaking to her Lebanese classmates in my book Hate is such a Strong Word.
My parents came from a beautiful country with a rich heritage. Bordering the Mediterranean sea, it’s home to glorious beaches as well as snowy ski fields, ancient ruins and world-renowned party hot spots, old-world souks and modern luxurious shopping malls: a whole bundle of history and culture and family and tradition. But it wasn’t enough, because as a whole, there was so much missing. My life in Australia is a mix of their old-world and the one I’m fashioning for myself from the remnants of my heritage and their memories. And of course, the blessings this country has given me.
Migrants who have made this place home have so much to be thankful for. Sure, the past of this country may be a little sketchy, and the present almost the same, but the beauty of this place is that instead of stealing from the people or just letting it rot in the filth of its problems, every phase of its life has seen its people and its leaders try to find solutions to problems, and answers to questions. Sure, I have experienced a little bit of racism, been frustrated at the government leaders, thought the rising of cost of living quite ridiculous.
But I actually have been to cities that never close down, including New York, Rome and old London town, and in all honesty, no matter how far or how wide I have roamed, I don’t still only call Australia home, I call it one of my life’s biggest joys. Despite the shortcomings that every place has, this country, and its people, political systems and overall attitude, boasts too many merits to number.
I am so fortunate to have this day to celebrate everything about my wonderful homeland – the place that has given the freedom to mould myself into the perfect mix of my parents’ past and my childrens’ future. This is what it means to be young and free.
Happy Australia Day to all!