To people coming to Australia. I have an issue I need to get off my chest.
I of course know this is does not apply to all of you and you may think I’m sensitive, but I am constantly shocked by the amount of people who come to Australia and have to point out how many “Asians” that Australia has. And this is never Asian people themselves.
Firstly, I should point to the world map. To the people surprised by our Asian population, do you know that geographically Australia is situated very close to Asia? In fact we are often included in many Asian organisations (for example, the Asian Cup in soccer… “Football” to the rest of the world. Hehe) I assume plenty of Europeans holiday in North Africa and vice versa. That many Northern Americans travel to South America and vice versa. Etc, etc, etc. That of course is our situation here. We have many Asian people holiday here, work here and immigrate here. As do Australians holidaying, travelling and immigrating to Asia.
Secondly, what is it that an “Australian” looks like to you? It is a beachy surf dude? A trendy Melbourne hipster? A Sudanese refugee? A redhead like our first female PM? A Muslim? A person of Italian, Indian or Greek decedent? Or is it the first people of this land, an Aboriginal person? I have friends in all of those categories.
(Oh please let it not be like the “Patriots” who drape themselves in Australian flags and yell hatred- I have no friends in this category, ha!)
This is a genuine question. What do Australians look like? Or is it all of the above? But why is it that Asians don’t look “Australian”?
This country has had immigrants and refugees for generations and it still continues today. In fact just after white settlers, Chinese people came to Australia for the gold rush (in the 1800s) which was well before many other nationalities immigrated! And after the Vietnam War Australia took in a large amount of Vietnamese refugees. Then later in the late 1970s and 1980s a second and third influx of Vietnamese people came to Australia because of Australia’s family reunion scheme. There are approx 220,000 Austalians of Vietnamese heritage in Australia keeping in mind we have a total population of approximately 23 million. And that is just Vietnamese immigrants!
But how is it that Asian people are disregarded as being Australians too? There are so many communities and cultures that orginated from foreign lands in Australia that I myself couldn’t explain what an Australian person “is” to look at. I would like to think there is no such thing as diversity is part of what makes us. We are one of the most multi-cultural counties on Earth.
I suppose I will give you the benefit of the doubt as I assume you pointing this out is genuinely unaware and possibly curious why we have such a large population of people with Asian heritage. Although it feels at times like point blank racist.
I suppose it surprises me as I wouldn’t go to somewhere like The USA and say, “Wow, the are so many Latino people here.” As, without travelling there, I know there are. The countries are geographically close. I understand the relationship and history of the two. And I should point out (though it feels silly) that though someone may look “Asian” many are of course Australian. Like Americans that appear Latino or of South American decent.
But I do recognise that as an Australian, I think we need to take the majority of the blame for this misunderstanding. Asian-Australians are not on enough of our own tv screens, radio stations, advertising and jobs in the public eye. I’m positive that we, as a country, haven’t portrayed Australia correctly. We have failed to show the world what the real Australia looks like. While somewhat ironically, we saw a Non-Australian, musical genius, David Bowie, who filmed his video to the song “China Girl” here in Australia pass only a month ago despite highlighting Asian-Australians decades ago.
I am aware that Australia seems to have a long way to go in mending this. It has a long way to go for not only “Asian-Australians” but also people of colour, different religions and backgrounds generally. It doesn’t have to be difficult process but just one that starts being fairer to all. But I do hope this small rant helps even a few people from other counties form a more realistic version of what Australia looks like.
And to help penetrate the too often white-washed version of what Australia is in the media I thought I would post this photo of my incredible cousin, Ada. She danced at our wedding – a gift I will forever be grateful. I am her proud Godmum. Her Dad was born in Laos. She is as Australian as I am.
Image provided by Ada
And please tell me. What is an Australian to you?