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.
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.