I’m officially NOT an Australian. I have a New Zealand passport and I’m entitled to a British one too. As I sit here in my Brisbane home on Australia Day, I’m officially a ‘Resident on a Special Category Visa’. That’s Aussie legal talk for ‘Kiwi’. To my homeland, I’m a ‘Non-resident’.
There is a stereotype that Kiwis in Australia live off government payments and enjoy the land of milk and honey, just lazing about, and that’s before we mention sheep. Kiwis have their own thoughts on Australians and sheep too 🙂 So let’s just look at my profile for a minute as someone who’s NOT an Australian:
Emigrating here with my husband, we threw our money into two businesses. One business supports other Australian small businesses by helping to keep their technology running, and therefore helps to keep their business running. The other business supports people in Australia in their dream to own and run their own business. We enjoyed the First Home Buyer’s Grant to build a home here in Brisbane. The Baby Bonus helped us financially when our two girls were born, and the Family Assistance Office tops up our bank account to help cover childcare expenses. Today, I’ve ironed school uniform for our eldest who loves the Australian education system and her amazing teachers, and childcare is helping our youngest learn & explore, while freeing me to be involved in our businesses.
Over the last 3 days, I’ve logged 20 hours of unpaid work, volunteering to help our community during Brisbane’s wild weather. The weekend forecast is for more of the same. This is nothing in comparison to what some of the SES crews in my region have been logging this week.
My Australia Day morning was spent offering assistance to other SES groups, communicating with my wonderful crews who had offered their time, and assisting the SES & local councils put contingency plans in place in case more heavy rain does fall. For everyone involved, this was unpaid. My afternoon was spent watching my daughter learn to ride her bike, watching the kids in the swimming pool at my parent’s home (who are also Kiwis), and catching up on some badly needed sleep. There has been no BBQ, no alcohol (due to battling a headache already) and no lamb on the menu – I have not been near a supermarket so we’re surviving on whatever is in the freezer.
Does any of this make me Un-Australian? Does any of this fit the stereotype of the Kiwi dole bludger?
I’m not asking for a medal. I’m not raising up my profile or my day so you can pat me on the back and tell me what a wonderful person I am. I’m highlighting my life here in Australia to challenge you to rethink what it means to be an Australian.
The New Zealand and Australian cultures really don’t clash that much, unless you are talking about sporting teams. When you think BBQs, backyard cricket and thongs are all Australian, Kiwis are doing the same thing every summer in their jandals. Except they don’t get First Homebuyer Grants or Baby Bonuses. So I’m fortunate that there’s really nothing from my upbringing or my culture that has been challenged by moving to a new country. For all intents and purposes, I could be an Australian (except for my funny accent, apparently). But I haven’t even investigated the process of citizenship as all it seems to offer me is the right to vote and, frankly, politics is not my thing.
Yet I don’t mind shouting ‘Happy Australia Day’. I love the climate here, I love the friends we made and I love the Queensland lifestyle. I love this country that I’ve adopted, with its good bits and its bad bits. I guess it’s kind of like marriage!
I think ‘being Australian’ is an attitude. It’s the person that says ‘I’m going to give it everything I can to build a great life for my family. I’m going to help and support other people, whether they are my neighbour, my workmate or my favourite charity. I’m going to constantly put myself in situations where I can help to bring out the best in people. And I’m going to do it with a smile on my face, without taking myself too seriously sometimes, with hugs when they are needed and with stern words when they are needed too.’ I think being Australian is about enjoying life and wanting to contribute to this country, in whatever small way.
I also think that it’s important to retain your family history and heritage. Though I don’t have a Maori bloodline, I still love the culture that I was taught about during my childhood, and I respect both the native culture of my homeland and the English background of my mother. Culture seems to be a touchy subject in Australia. Ideas and traditions that aren’t ‘Australian’ are being practiced in homes across the land by immigrants and Australian children of immigrants. I believe that you have a right to retain your cultural heritage, but the land of Australia has laws that you must follow too. Surely part of the greatness of being in a different country is experiencing that country’s culture? So on this point, I think tolerance is key – the tolerance of embracing the cultural melting pot that immigrants bring and the tolerance of accepting and adopting the Australian way of life when you move here. It’s a two-way street. I’m just so thankful that in this land we can be free to express ourselves and follow our own religions (or not) without persecution or censorship (mostly), unless we’re being detrimental to others.
So, here endeth a rant from this non-Australian, on Australia Day 2012. Whoever you are, and whatever your background or culture, I hope that Australia Day has been a time of relaxation and mateship for you.