United in diversity
WHAT will you be doing on Australia Day? Celebrating with a backyard barbie, catching up with friends and family, having a game of beach cricket perhaps or just quietly enjoying another public holiday?
Whether you were born here or have chosen to take up Australian residency or citizenship, Australia Day seems to be a day of celebration for some and for others more recently a day to reflect on the history of Australia Day, its relevance in modern Australia and whether the date should be changed.
I chose to take up Australian citizenship in 2002 for various reasons and I sometimes wonder how to define "Australian" and all that it means. And then I hear something being described as "unAustralian". I find that a bit confusing, too.
Because I feel that if you took a cross-section of Australian citizens which reflected our current multicultural diversity and asked them to describe Australian, there would be many different interpretations depending on what brought them here in the first place.
Whether as a result of increasing globalisation and ease of travel, climate change or international political power plays, there is no doubt that millions of people across the world have left their cultural homeland looking for somewhere else to rebuild their lives, and Australia has a lot to offer in terms of opportunities, climate, and size of population. As a result we are seeing greater multicultural diversity than ever before which, in itself, will change the Australian identity.
Some will find that positive and embrace it and others will find it negative and push against it.
Given that our brain is primed to always be on the lookout for "threats" and has a bias for treating anyone we haven't met previously as foe before friend, I would say that we all need to make an effort to overcome our biases and welcome these new Australians. Easy to say, hard to do?
It is only when we choose to see beyond language, skin colour, culture and belief systems, religious or otherwise, that we can start to recognise we are all the same; humans doing the best we can with what we have in the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Our primary drivers are to create a safe and healthy future with a roof over our head and food on the table for ourselves and our loved ones, irrespective of our cultural background. And then it's about building social connection.
So what I invite you to focus on this Australia Day, and every day, is greater tolerance and compassion for all of our diverse fellow humans. Rather than focusing on the differences that seem to divide, how about we celebrate and value diversity, safety, harmony and inclusion and all that they offer a healthy community.
That would be great definition of Australian, wouldn't it?