Will the Real Australian Stand up Please?

The taxi driver laughs in reply to my father’s question. “In this country, no one is Australian,” he says. It turns out that he was born in Kenya – the driver, not my father – and has lived here for over a decade. No one cares to know that, he adds. “Everyone asks where you are from and everyone is from somewhere else.”

This is the story of every other Australian, and my own story too. My passport is Australian but I was born in India. I am not a dual citizen – India does not share her countrymen, although heaven knows there are enough of us to go around. I had to give up my country of birth to become a citizen in my country of adoption.

australian_passport_p_series.jpg

Australian Passport (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

I do know many others who enjoy dual citizenship though – triple citizenship even, spanning several continents by virtue of their parentage or simply for having studied in one nation and worked in another. I think of them as the world’s global citizens. This is the upside of living in a migrant nation that allows you to retain your original nationality.

Many dual citizens enjoy the benefits of an Australian passport but prefer to live in the country of their birth where they can celebrate the traditions of their culture and stay in close touch with family. Simple? Not quite. Where do one’s loyalties lie if you are a citizen of two nations? This is the question at the heart of the chaos caused by the dual citizenship crisis currently plaguing the Australian parliament. It seems that a number of our elected members are not quite Australian after all.

Of course, many of those caught up in this sordid saga are unwitting offenders. Their cases are similar to that of my son, Australian by birth but of mixed parentage – Colombian, Venezuelan, Indian. Which of these other nations can he claim as his own when he is older? Only time will tell. One thing is clear – he will need to be very careful if he stands for election.

So who are the real Australians then? I do have the answer to that one. It’s Mr. J at the newsagent’s in East Victoria Park who remembers my name and says ‘hello’ to my son. It’s R at the coffee shop who says I’m very predictable – English breakfast tea and carrot cake, today? It’s elderly Mr. B. who motors up on his gofer to check that I’m over my respiratory infection. It’s my neighbour who gives hugs when they’re needed and chats with my son about her cats. He likes her. And she wasn’t born in Australia either.

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Australia According to Peppa

I’m a bit worried. It’s Peppa Pig, you see. She’s visited Australia recently but her destination is a bit different to the Australia I know. My son is watching Peppa’s adventures with Kylie Kangaroo, over and over again (thank you, ABC’s iView), and he just might be getting Australia a teensy bit wrong.

I’m often described as a person of few words, but my vocabulary is by no means limited. “Bit” is, however, the key word here as Peppa’s Australia is made up of bits and bobs that don’t quite fit together. Australia according to Peppa is a right a puzzle for the resident although it probably fits right in with an outsider’s view of our nation.

Boat on the River

Random photograph of the real Australia: Swan River, Perth

So here we are once again watching another rerun of Peppa’s first outback cricket game, which ends with a six into the lone tree on an endless plain. Is that the Nullarbor? Only, the tree holds an unlikely koala and a possibly displaced but friendly platypus drops in. Then there’s Mummy Kangaroo the marine biologist who finishes a day’s work on the (Great Barrier) reef by salvaging treasure. I’m not sure what Daddy Kangaroo does, but he’s a dab hand at the BBQ and a mean surfer. What a bloke! There’s some (mandatory) boomerang tossing and Kylie lives close enough to the sea to get some surfing in.

I must say that Peppa does justice to her brief sojourn Down Under. I do feel though like I’ve just had a walking tour through Australia the Gift. Peppa’s Australia lies somewhere between rural Queensland and the Northern Territory, I reckon but I haven’t quite figured out where. Well, we are a country that’s a continent.

So let’s take stock. Kangaroos and koalas? Check. Not sure why the former are human-like and the latter not. Platypus and boomerang? Check. Game of cricket (read the Ashes)? Check. Indigenous Australian neighbours, footy matches, and (in the light of the current news headlines) dual citizenships. Well, perhaps not for a viewer of the children’s channel, ABC3.

Did I mention I’m just a wee bit worried? Stay tuned for more Peppa…

Oranges and Lemons

My little son scampers, skips and trips his way along the uneven pavements of Victoria Park. We’re off to see the orange tree and the lemon tree, flourishing occupants of a garden down the road. The branches are heavy with still-green mandarins and ripening yellow lemons. Infinitely more fascinating that our own of spiky desert scrub, wilting baby bean plants and an orchid that never flowers. Oh, and I’ve not yet killed the lavender.

Our walking route takes us past car shops, the Harvest Espresso café (always closed in the late afternoon) and the Victoria Park Hotel (always open and kids eat free on Tuesdays). This afternoon, the pub is dressed up in balloons – purple and white for the Fremantle Dockers, blue and yellow for the West Coast Eagles. Going by balloon preferences, I’d say my little man is a Dockers fan.

Oranges and Lemons

Inspecting the olives

Our little master – let’s call him “M” – is no stranger to the colour purple. No, not the film, but the colour. His favourite fridge magnets are a set of purple numbers (6 and 9 missing). His favourite plastic vegetable is a purple eggplant. However, his grandad has bought a white eggplant from the supermarket – we’ve seen it on Skype. The horticultural world can be quite confusing for a two-year-old.

Down that road, up this one. We are winding our way back home, stopping to inspect snooty cats, dogs stretching their legs – or should that be the other way round? – and rude magpies. The house on the corner is a delight with its olive tree drooping with black fruit, giant roses, green figs, and a persimmon tree whose branches dip invitingly over the fence with displays of orange globes.

“Touch it,” demands M. We have agreed that this should be the extent of his interaction with Somebody Else’s Gardens. Then he consents to cross the road. Any cars coming?

The next day, we retrace our steps – past lemon tree and spiky fruit (plane) tree, past car shop where the red car has now gone, past pub with ciggy smoke and chicken parmi, and to the persimmon tree again. The fruits are all gone now.

“Somebody ate it,” says M wisely but with some disappointment. He is easily placated with the prospect of viewing the banana tree next door. Then he’s off again – scamper, skip, and gurgle of delight. There are many more gardens to inspect and other streets to explore. And they are all there in Victoria Park.

In the spirit of this post, I felt I should also share my son’s favourite YouTube video – everything to do with fruit and nothing to do with Vic Park. Enjoy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4tk2xi85vE