Australia Day always leaves me feeling conflicted about what it now represents. I wasn’t born in this country, I don’t swear at every occasion, don’t add an ‘o’ to the end of everyone’s name, I don’t drink beer, I don’t particularly want to spend my day watching the cricket or at a barbie. But I love this country. I love it in a way that I think people who were born here can’t understand. Not saying that people born in Australia don’t love Australia as much as I do, just that we love it in different ways. You can think of it like saying that a straight person understands completely how people who are gay feel. They can’t. Straight people can empathise, but they’ll never really know what it feels like to be gay, going through all the shit that gay people go through.
But I love this country in the way that it’s given my family opportunities to live a life that would not have been possible if my parents had stayed in Chile. It means alot that they would sacrifice their own lives and satisfaction to move my sister and I 12,734 kilometers across the Pacific Ocean to give us a better future. This country has helped my parents learn the language, find housing, income and to ensure that their qualifications were translated to Australian standards. Australia enabled my mother to work as a cleaner, my father in a factory when they first moved here, both earning a wage that, while is low income, would allow them to house and support their family, something that could never have been done if they stayed in Chile.
I love this country for the opportunities it has given me. I know to survive I don’t need to bust my ass working like my parents did, but I want to, to give back to this country that has practically raised me since I was 18 months old and to also say thank you to my parents for allowing me this opportunity.
This is why it upsets me to see images of “Fuck off we’re full” from “Australians.” If only they could understand how much people give up to be here. People who risk their family’s wages to send a family member on a leaky boat, to travel to a country miles away, through ocean where there’s every possibility of the boat sinking, of pirates kidnapping or a million other things could go wrong, to come to this county to live a better life. People who will perhaps never see their family members again, who will spend the majority of their lives locked up in a detention center but knowing that it’s still better than being in a war-torn country or being persecuted. People who will be ridiculed, made to feel an outsider for not being able to speak the language or not knowing what our social norms are. It makes me sick in the stomach to think that “Australians” think this sort of behaviour is ok.
That is not what Australia is about. Australia is a multicultural, diverse nation which gives people the opportunity to be safe and live their lives. For the most part, that’s exactly what people do here.
So while there is a downside to Australia Day, I still love this country dearly and will make sure that people around me who are being racist, know that to me, that is not ok. Being proud of your country doesn’t mean exclusion of other nationalities. It also doesn’t mean waving the flag and getting the southern cross tattooed on your person to show your patriotism. To me, Australia Day is about accepting everyone in this great country of ours, regardless of nationality, culture, traditions, gender, age etc. It’s about ensuring that everyone has the best opportunity possible, knowing that where you were born, doesn’t matter.