I have a friend who came to Australia as a refugee about five years ago. Her son is in school, and doing well, he is also excelling at sport. Isn’t it amazing how many of these young African sons are excelling at soccer, yet sadly not so great with water sports. Being in Australia and with the hundreds of kilometres of Coastline it seems to me that they all should have mandatory swimming lessons and be taught how to identify rips.
My friend has been studying since she settled in and is also working as a Librarian, to support her studies and maintain her household.
We were talking not so long ago and it got me wondering, when does someone who arrives in Australia under refugee status cease to be identified in that way? Five years down the track, they are all Australian Citizens, and yet are still referred to as refugees.
One of the biggest issues is about the label of the word refugee is that we (evidently) need the label for bureaucracy, but if you actually ask anyone who has come to live in this country as a displaced person, they more often that not find the label ‘refugee’ demeaning, I know my friend does.
Western society has this tendency to put people in a box, and it is very limiting. All any of them really want to do is to start living life again. They want all the destruction by regimes, to be left behind and they simply want to work, to live their life safely, to have people’s respect and to be seen as a fellow human, as a person and be treated as such. The suffering is behind them.
My homeland is New Zealand, yet I have been living on Australian soil (off and on) since I was 18 years of age. I too, have become an Australian Citizen and am accepted as an Australian in society now, even when my Kiwi accent gives away my roots!
So is it colour? We never hear anyone being referred to as a convict, because their ancestors who first came to Australia were. When someone is obviously African, (or Indian, or Asian, or Middle Eastern) are they always to be deemed as ‘outsiders’?
Since I was very young I have always lived in a multi-cultural society. At school, there were the Brits, the Maoris, the Tongans, the Fijians, the Samoans, the fruit shops in town were owned by Indians, and the takeaway shop was owned by Chinese.
No one really took any notice of where these people were from, yet I notice we seem to be more likely to voice our thoughts on the subject today. The reason I ask if it is a colour thing, is because if someone is South African, or English and ‘talk funny’, there does not seem to be the level of scrutiny as much as when someone is different in colour and was obviously not born this country.
I remember reading a book when I was in my early thirties. I still recall the suggestion that in years to come, humans on this earth will become a race of tan!!
This is happening in front us. Marriage between pakeha and Maori, between aboriginal and other nationalities, between people belonging to one culture to another.
It is interesting is it not? I wonder if we will tire of poking at someone’s colour over time, and as we become that race of ‘tan ‘ what we will choose to mark our differences then? The size of our feet? The length of our nose? It is so silly. We ARE all one!