Rebecca, 22, Anglo-Australian, Epping
My direct heritage can be traced back to Ireland, Scotland and Wales, a typical feature of many ‘white’ Australians. However, my extended family includes French, Aboriginal and Chinese/Filipino. We grew up close to most of our cousins, with whom our childhood was shared. I don’t ever remember thinking my cousins were different, despite their darker skin or strange accent. To me, they were my family and we all came from the same place.
I remember my mother telling a story about my brother once. He was just a boy, with white blonde hair and a dusting of freckles covering his pale skin. He sat side by side our cousin, whose Aboriginality could not be mistaken with her black skin and flat nose. A news story came over the television about an English couple, who had just given birth to a black child due to the unusual phenomenon of genes skipping a number of generations. To my mother’s dismay, my brother, oblivious to the colour of the arm that lay against his own, relayed his horror at the thought of having a black child. His beloved cousin didn’t flinch.
The innocence of his remark, considering the context in which it was made, reflects a social conditioning rather than any inherent belief that the colour of anyone’s skin actually matters. Funnily enough, he is now engaged to a Thai woman with a dark complexion.
Experience with, and exposure to, other ways of thinking and being is essential to the acceptance of difference. A fear of difference is ultimately a fear of knowledge, because knowing what is different challenges our own beliefs and forces us to learn. Yet growing up surrounded by difference feeds a desire for knowledge - and ignorance becomes that which is feared. [page 61]
Natalie, 25, Torres Strait Islander (and many more), Winnellie NTI was born and raised in Darwin. My mother is from Torres Strait, but she is also Malaysian, Filipino, Japanese, Portuguese and Macassan. My dad is white Australian. He also has Irish and Spanish in him as well. That’s something that my parents kept reminding me about every day of my life so I wouldn’t forget. I think it’s fantastic having so many different nationalities in one little person. My children’s father was Aboriginal and Chinese and I think that’s also fantastic.
A lot of my family are from Thursday Island, which is part of the Torres Strait. Music is a big part of our family and they sing and write their own songs about living up there. I can’t believe how people don’t remember that Thursday Island is part of Australia. If you’re inside Australian waters it is still Australia, regardless of whether you’re on an island or not.
A guy said to me once that he couldn’t believe I considered myself Indigenous Australian when Torres Strait Islanders live on islands and it’s not joined to Australia. I said to him that the mob from Elko Island and Tiwi Islands are Aboriginal and they live on islands and they’re not joined to Australia but they’re still Australian. Tasmania is part of Australia, so why not the Torres Strait? [page 30]
Amie, 33, Filipino, NSW
‘The Path We Take’
One day as I was walking back home, a middle aged man driving along the road stopped behind me, honked his horn, then shouted “PIG”. I glanced back, looked around and then realised there was nobody there except me. I was stunned and fled very quickly. When I reached our home I was in tears.
Do we have to tolerate this behaviour? Should we be treated this way because of our Asian background? I still wonder what I need to do to be accepted into this society and prove that I am an Australian and part of this country. [page 49]
Search the SPAN Web