“Are you sure?” I asked my eldest brother, Joe while suspiciously inspecting the glass of water he offered.
Tired, hungry and mostly thirsty, my mother, my other brother and I had just arrived in Canberra, Australia after a long overseas flight.
Joe and dad had arrived at our new home several months prior so they had had extra time to get used to the different lifestyle.
I had expected for Joe to bring out a kettle of ready boiled water because well, that was the only way I knew how to drink water.
For a 3 year old, I clearly understood that we had made a major location change. The fresh, cool air and the unfamiliar silence and lack of traffic; all the signs we were in new surroundings.
But drinking straight out of a tap?
That’s when it hit me. We’re not in the slums of Jakarta anymore, Toto.
Suddenly there was the convenience of knowing that tap water wasn’t going to lead to a nasty stomach bug or worse.
And there folks, is my first memory of this sunburnt country.
In 1975, just a year before we arrived in Australia, the government had finally abolished the White Australia Policy. For those unfamiliar with what that was, it was an immigration process that favoured applicants from certain countries.
Up until 1973, chances for non European migrants – such as myself and my family – to become Australian citizens were far more restrictive than European migrants.
How fortunate we came at the time that we did.
Then, in 1978, my family and I became Australian citizens.
However, rather than see how lucky I was, I cried and cried when my father showed me the certificate.
In my 7 year old logic, becoming an Aussie, meant that I could no longer eat rice and I would be forced, to only eat bread. Bleugh.
“How could you do this to me???!” I wailed at my parents.
It’s okay. I’ve come along way.
We all have.
This country has.
However, if you ask me if we’re still racist? Hell, YES!
It’s unfortunate but every couple of years, I’ll still encounter some filthy bogan spitting out a derogatory remark.
(Let’s not forget just last year, a French girl was verbally abused on a public bus for singing in her native language)
It’s disturbing that we still struggle to deal with such highly sensitive situations.
Like with most prejudices, we’re not aware of, or affected by racism unless we personally experience it ourselves.
No. But we have every potential to be.
And I’m adamant we’re very much on our way because the statistics tell me so.
First generation Australians (Australians who were born overseas) make up 27% of the Australian population.
Second generation Australians (Australian born with at least one overseas-born parent) make up 20% for our population.
These are still small numbers but they are significant. They tell me that my twinlets and I count in this growing culturally diverse nation.
So, while we’re not a family that will necessarily celebrate Australia Day with a traditional big BBQ, we will still be enjoying and appreciating all the wonderful aspects of what it means to be part of the beginnings of a multi-cultural country. To adopt parts of our cultural and ethnic backgrounds and making it somehow, uniquely Australian.
There might be some backyard cricket. Possibly a lamb roast. But there will always, ALWAYS be rice.
Do you think Australia’s multi-cultural?
Joining in Amanda and the gang over at A Cooker and a Looker for her special Australia Day Party Link up.