It’s Australia Day tomorrow and I just finished reading Dr Charlie Teo’s Australia Day Address. Wow, what a speech. I loved it! For those who haven’t had a chance to read it, you can access it here.
I totally agree with him about living in another country and looking back at Australia with rose-coloured glasses. Many times, whilst I was living in Glasgow, I would be in some awesome pub somewhere (Whistler’s Mother, Curlers, you know the ones), five pints of Tennants under my belt, cigarette held loosely in my fingers, eyes shut and singing “I Still Call Australia Home”. I would be remembering Byron Bay with my girls, the sound of cricket on the television, the sight of the Southern Cross in the night sky and those hot, balmy nights with the sound of an oscillating fan. Those nights in Scotland would always end in tears and invariably a take-away fish supper.
When I was in Munich, going to the Oktoberfest with my friends, I was so excited to meet some boys from home. I hadn’t spoken to an Australian face to face in so long and I was like an excited kid when I heard these guys speak. They didn’t say anything enlightening. From memory they asked my Spanish friend if she could teach them “some swear words in Spanish”. She wasn’t impressed. Way to represent…
Returning home after two years travelling was bitter sweet for me. I rolled off that plane ten kilos heavier, complete with a drinking habit and loads of friends and memories I will cherish forever. I wasn’t ready to come home, but I had to. A lack of funding was my biggest motivator. But it was such a relief to be home in so many ways. I could eat Twisties to my hearts content. I could run all my words in together and everyone understood me. My legs got to see the sun and I went from a weak-tea colour back to my usual mocha brown shade.
Charlie Teo’s reference to racism also rang true for me. Growing up on the southside of Brisbane in the 80’s and 90’s I had my fair share of racism going on. Boys up the road would regularly yell out “DID YOU FALL IN A JAR OF VEGEMITE!” whenever I rode past. A boy in my Grade 3 class stood up one day and announced that he believed that there should be a wall running through the middle of the world and all the black people should be on one side and all the white people on the other side. Meeting a boyfriend (who was white) at Expo 88 resulted in men walking up to him saying “did you know that she’s black?” The mother of my boyfriend in Grade 12 (who was also white) so kindly pointed out to him that it probably wouldn’t be a good idea if we held hands in public because he might “have people staring at you because Leanne isn’t the same cololur as you”. Seriously. She actually said that to him in front of me.
Whilst there were many more incidents such as these, like Dr Teo, I have not experienced “overt” racism in a long while. The memories have faded but I do remember the upset, the tears and the confusion. But it was so long ago and personally, things are different for me now. I don’t get abused on the street. People don’t walk up to The Architect and say “do you know she’s black?” I don’t see the colour anymore. Not mine, not The Architects’ and not my children.
So tomorrow I will be celebrating Australia Day like everybody else here in this fantastic country. I’ve got my lamb ready, the gas bottle is full and ready to go and let's hope I can get a pav (pavlova) on the table. We may not have the sun because “the rains are ere” but the spirit will be there.
Here's cheers and Happy Australia Day to everyone!