I am. You are. We are.

Australian.

On Australia Day this year I made a crass joke on the Twitters about how brown boat people under the age of 18 get locked up in detention while white boat people under the age of 18 get Young Australian of The Year.  Most people got that I was being facetious and tongue-in-cheek, but there was some feedback that I was being racist.

(There was also a suggestion that I was a Tamil Terrorist working for the Socialist Alliance via a hologram, or something, but I assume that guy was kidding too.)

If I caused any offence, I apologise.

Aside from my misgivings about whether Jess Watson was the most deserving recipient of the YAOTY* award, it was probably a bit harsh of me to use the brown/white dichotomy so flippantly.

In a country that draws its true wealth from its people, those who, as set out in the 2nd verse of our national anthem, have come across the seas and are of all the colours of the rainbow, it is important that we don’t create false divisions and invent tribes.

Obviously, I make lots of jokes about being brown, and I am very proud of my heritage (except when folks in the motherland are committing war-crimes, murdering journalists and establishing dictatorial monarchies, but that’s another story), but I am & always will be far more “Australian” than I ever was “Lankan”.

Despite the fact that I still remember quite clearly a day in Year 1 when a group of girls wouldn’t let me play with them because I had black hair (Yeah. Ouch.), my best friends since forever have been a pack of Skittles. (The men in my life have all been WHITE-white, though. I am totes sexually racist.)

And one of my mentors actually helped frame the multicultural policies of the 1980s mentioned by Chris Uhlmann that convinced my parents that this would be a wonderful country in which to raise their children.

So in the heart-breaking week when an orphan refugee was nearly forced back into detention a couple of days after his dad’s funeral (thankfully he’ll be with his family soon) and when we heard  that the Opposition’s Immigration Dicktwat Spokesperson might have maybe  suggested we should put religious considerations on our immigration criteria (allegedly), it was good to hear that the ALP has released a new ‘multiculturalism’ policy that aimed at ‘maintaining a socially cohesive and harmonious society’.

I look forward to seeking the initiatives that will be rolled out as part of the process.  I hope they are genuine attempts to address the problems we have been seeing, but equally, I hope they are no patronisingly didactic ads or fridge magnets.

The thing is, right—as much as I hope and wish that this works, I have to admit that I’m not holding my breath.

But let’s just cross all our fingers and toes.

* Wait. Did they give it to her because the acronym for the award looks kinda like “YACHT” if you squint? In that case, it totes makes sense now!

The one about reconciliation [indigenous affairs]

There are lots of serious things going on right now.  Like the economy crumbling and @TurnbullMalcolm threatening to take away my Rudd-given right to buy shoes and makeup with my $950 stimulus payment.

But I just wanted to take everyone back to that whole indigenous affairs thing — you know, the blackfellas you avoid at the train station because you don’t want to have to give them $2 if they ask for it.  I know, I know: when shoe-shopping is at stake, there’s less impetus to think about things like human rights and sad chapters in Australian history.  But the current crises doesn’t make these other ones less important.

I don’t know why I feel so strongly about this country’s reconciliation with its indigenous people.  I am not one, and I have barely known any (I grew up in the leafy Western Suburbs of Perth, how could I have known any??).  And I might be an immigrant, but there is no common factor here other than that I’m not white.

I suppose it makes me a bit of a patronising snob that all I’ve ever had to do with this area was through the academic or legal side — stuff about representation in literature and whether the whole “Stolen Generation” was genocide and stuff. Although my mum did work with the Aboriginal Medical Service for a while.  And when we were little my dad used to tell us he was Ernie Dingo’s brother (they do both kinda look alike. Like, you know, they’re both brown).

But I really think that people don’t think enough about what happened to indigenous Australians in the past and how that might affect the way things are these days.  Maybe it’s a remnant of the Howard/Windshuttle black-armband backlash.

As much as I hoped that last year’s Sorry would change everything, I guess I always knew it wouldn’t be that easy… I guess I thought there’d be more concrete stuff happening.

Last week, Professor Mick Dodson was awarded Australian of the Year for his work to “promote  justice and reconciliation through a process of education, awareness and inclusive dialogue with all Australians.”  I hope that honour is not another empty, shallow guesture, but I certainly agree that Professor Dodson deserves the accolade (the issue, I guess, is whether the accolate is worthy of Professor Dodson).

I honestly believe that that approach is the most important aspect of the whole debate.  Ignorance breeds hate and laziness and I reckon the only way to counter hate and allow empathy and compassion (the key to solving it all) to flourish is understanding.

The December 08 – Febuary 09 issue of The Monthly, my new favourite magazine, featured an utterly amazing essay by indigenous leader Galarrwuy Yunupingu entitled “Tradition, Truth & Tomorrow” that I beg all of you to read and pass on to others.  I can’t do justice in trying to summarise or explain it (or even copy-paste a few quotes) because it must be absorbed and appreciated in its entirety.  It’s long, but please take the time to read it.  And I’d love to hear how you felt when you finished it.

If you felt anything like I did when I’d finished the last paragraph of that epic piece of writing, there might be a crazy mix of emotions — shock, sadness, anger, helplessness, humor, joy, hope… or maybe I’m just weird for feeling so strongly about the issue?

Tradition, Truth & Tomorrow
by Galarrwuy Yunupingu, The Monthly #44.

The one about Australia Day [oi! oi! oi!]

John Saffron made an interesting observation about the attire of the crown in front of him during the broadcast of Triple J’s Hottest 100 Countdown — something about the flag-capes being one thing, but the “love it or leave it” t-shirts being a little creepy.

Now, I love Australia. I am eternally grateful for the opportunities I’ve had since my family moved here when I was four.  So I have nothing to fear from the wearers of those t-shirts.  But the flags have been totally pissing me off.

And as a friend of mine pointed out this morning, all the Aussie flags on the cars about town are rather reminiscent of the old General Lee from the Dukes of Hazzard that was painted with the Confederate flag: “because we all know that celebrating American slavery’s courageous last stand is a grand idea. ”

Similarly, idolising the flag that symbolises nothing much other than colonisation in honour of the day a bunch of Europe’s least-wanted were planted here, seems kinda lame to me.

It was only tongue-in-cheek when I asked if The West was giving the little car-flags away, but, as it turned out, people actually had to make the effort to cut out the voucher from the paper and pay $2 each for the things.

Which were probably made in the same factory as the Toohey’s New bucket hats the boys picked up at the bottle-shop yesterday.

I really think it’s time for a new flag and, honestly, a new Australia Day. But meh, who listens to me?

Update — better posts on the subject with like, Actual Arguments(™) and stuff:

because this fairy tale still needs a happy ending

Dear Editor

I proudly subscribed to your publication last month. I looked forward to reading insightful pieces written by prominent Australians about our nation’s “Politics, Society & Culture”, as your tag line explains.

My excitement when I pulled my first issue out of the letterbox yesterday fell, almost with a thud to the driveway, when I saw the sparkling smiles of The Obamas dressed in their fairytale finery on the cover of this supposedly Australian publication.

However, as I do adore the Obamas and cheered the US election result with some vigour myself, I figured they probably deserved their place on yet another cover (The Monthly is among such friends as Rolling Stone and Men’s Health in picking the same cover star). Obama’s election matters to all of us and I do hope he’ll come visit us soon.

But when I read Galarrwuy Yunupingu’s utterly amazing piece about his life, his hopes, his disappointment, his frustrations and his visions for our country, my own disappointment and frustration led me to writing this letter.

Why was his story not given the pride of place on your cover? Obama is the World’s Black Man, yes, and we are all incredibly proud of him. But Galarrwuy Yunupingu is Our Very Own Black Man.

I normally hate being parochial, but I truly believe his piece should be read and appreciated and acted upon by every Australian, and it feels to me that by adding yet another smiling Obama to newsstands you may have missed a great opportunity to bring our country’s own healing back to the front page.

Yours sincerely
Sunili …