I always get a little homesick in the cold of the US Winter. Perhaps that what made a few notes from the newly annoited Australian of the Year, Charles Teo, strike me so:
So on a very simplistic level, what is it about Australia that makes it the greatest place on earth to live? Those of you who have lived overseas for any length of time will recall that it is very easy to reflect on your homeland with rose-coloured glasses. When in the US, I would recall Australia’s magnificent beaches and national parks and sunny summer days with flawless blue skies. I would reminisce on the irreverent humour of Doug Mulray, the natural beauty of Australian girls, the fresh and bountiful seafood, my friends from childhood and university days with whom I could be at total ease and the relaxed quintessential Australian way of life. I conveniently forgot about the Sydney traffic, the tall-poppy-syndrome, the flies in summer, the geographical isolation and the hidden and sometimes overt racism.
My view of an Aussie was someone who was hard working, unaffected, genuine, affable, relaxed, egalitarian, irreverent and charitable.
Spending nine years in the USA was an enlightening experience. I felt Australia was such a great place to live, in no small part as a result of its isolation, not despite it. We appeared to be immune from world wars, border conflicts and dwindling natural resources. Why would you ruin this blissful isolation by allowing “queue jumpers”, potential criminals, into our Utopia?
My time in the USA made me reflect on how a country that was not that much older or bigger than ours had achieved such a standing on the world stage. In general, Americans were not more intelligent, diligent or talented than Australians. They have natural resources, so do we. Their pioneers did it tough, so did ours. They had a national pride, so do we. Speak to most Americans and they will be the first to concede the dependence of their economy on the hard-working and fiercely loyal Mexicans. Speak to almost any taxi driver anywhere in the 50 states and you will be inspired by a story of tragedy and conflict followed by hope and opportunity and concluded by a statement of national pride…in America NOT their country of birth. I don’t know for sure, and I don’t think anyone knows for sure, but, having lived in the USA for 10 years, I would be hopeful that our country would benefit from immigration of peoples from countries of conflict, or those subjected to political persecution, who are simply seeking refuge from violence and a better life for their children. I believe Australia has a moral and social obligation to demonstrate a higher level of kindness to and acceptance of refugees. I don’t know how this may be achieved but I certainly know that both sides of the political fence are floundering. I would humbly suggest that a bi-partisan approach would be one step closer to a solution and we need it now!