By Daniel Martinez-Lopez
Australia isn’t perfect – in fact there is a lot of work that needs to be done both policy and cultural wise.
Climate Change, the wellbeing of our Indigenous community and many other issues have failed to make some Australians proud of this nation, however for a long time I have been bothered when certain activists, journalists and that one mate who has had a few to many say phrase they know will stir the conversation into overdrive.
“Fuck this country is so shit!”
It’s obvious that they genuinely mean it.
This bothers me. It bothers me not just as an Australian citizen, but also as a child of refugees.
My parents and other relatives left their home and majority of their family decades ago to escape one of the countless civil wars that plagued many developing nations during and partially because of the “Cold War.”
Even years after the war ending, my ancestral country, El Salvador, has one of the highest murder rates in the world and is place where the dangers towards tourists, women and queer folk have a very grim reality.
I have visited three times, and each time the love and connection I have with my parent’s first home faded as I grew older. I became more aware and soon enough realised the firecrackers I heard in the middle of the night weren’t firecrackers at all.
Myself and many other 2nd generation Australians are told our entire lives that this country is paradise to a point of annoyance. Then, after seeing their first homes and hearing the stories of loved ones and dignity lost to truly tyrannical leaders and unquestionably discriminatory systems and cultural norms, we realise we have it so easy here.
The horrible things that happen at places that were once home to our families cannot happen here, and this isn’t only because of systemic regulations. Australia as a society have proved their power in enforcing cultural norms. While there’s still a way to go, this country has seen communities come together and be successful in preventing and fixing humane acts towards marginalised communities.
As a multicultural nation of immigrants, many other people can empathise or at least sympathise with my parents struggle and my experience as a PoC. Here we have safety in freedom of speech to take a stance and criticize one another. Here we deem what is considered upper middle class in the developing world as middle-class standards. Here we can walk by the Prime Minster, call him a wanker in a Mega Death shirt and not have to worry about getting arrested – or shot. This is all true because the power and courage from an outraged Australian population, or at least a few passionate individuals, ensures that it stays that way or otherwise forces change on what we fall short on.
My parents and the parents or grandparents of many others didn’t have these privileges at my age and unfortunately many still don’t because of imposed fear. That’s why so many sacrifice so much to come here.
When they do, some may still struggle earning and adjusting into new surroundings, but many are very grateful for the safety and new opportunities that lay before them.
While it’s good to appreciate the privileges we have in Australia, we should not let our love for this country blind us of its wrongdoings.
While writing this I became aware of 21-year-old Habiburahman (Habib), a Rohingya man from Myanmar. For years Habib has been trying to flee his home and numerous atrocities such as ethnic cleansing and oppressive cultural attitudes towards his people – all because they are an Islamic population.
After years searching within the Asian Pacific area, he was finally recognised as a refugee in Australia and now looks at his future with optimism. This was, however, after he had spent 32 months in Australian detention facilities where he experienced further inhumane conditions and was shocked at our immigration policies.
Now Habib has a platform in Australia to speak out about the struggles of his people having been interviewed by numerous media outlets and even published a memoir of his experiences called First They Erased Our Name.
Habib’s story resonates with me and it should resonate with other people.
For those whom love this country there are many reasons why your love is justified, but beware that there are issues both political and social in Australia that preventing it’s own citizens within marginalised groups from living as comfortably or as safe as you.
For those protesting, writing and speaking about your frustrations and solutions to to legitimate issues, I applaud you for taking action but recognise that your ability to take action safely is one of many privileges that countless do not have.
Yes, it may be far from perfect, but for many migrants and children of migrants Australia is a Paradise.
To truly understand a migrant’s point of view, you need to do the most important thing in helping marginalised communities:
And reconsider. Criticise and protest poor behaviour – of your neighbours, of your friends, of your parliament. Exercise the incredible power you have to do so. But please, before you outright call your home a “shit-show”, the “worst place to live”, a “disgrace” think about those who call it “Paradise”.