Seeing yourself reflected...

It was my first night settling in. I wiggled into a comfortable nook in the couch, put my feet up on the edge of the coffee table and switched on the TV. 

...only to release a high pitched squeal.

Fatima Manji

There was a hijabi lady reading the news, in Britain! THERE WAS SOMEONE WHO KINDA LOOKED LIKE ME! And she wasn't even talking about terrorism, or women's oppression! 

My first instinct was to send a pic to my insta story, the next to tweet about it. I had to share my excitement, after all. 

That's honestly been the most remarkable thing thus far about this move. Seeing myself, reflected.

I can't quite explain what it is like to walk around a city - an English speaking city at that, which, for better or for worse, feels more like 'home' - and see myself in the faces of those around me. London is (visually, at least) truly multicultural in a way no other place I have been is. To think of myself as becoming part of that is something that feels remarkable, subhanallah.

It's delicious. I'm walking around and seeing hijabi women - of all the colours - wearing all the styles wander past me. I am yelling 'Al-Salamu Alaikum!!' to every single one of them, my toothy grin in their face.  They look at me with bewilderment, but that's fine. Their confusion increases my joy. Because who they are isn't unusual here, and I guess that means I am not unusual either. Who would have thought it would feel so good to be 'not-unusual'? I mean sure, I've only been here for a few days, so it might be hubris, and sure, I am proud of who I am wherever I am, and sure, I love standing out...

...but for the first time, I know what it's like to be one of the crowd.

To have people say 'oh you're from Sudan? I love Sudanese people!' instead of being the first Sudanese person they know.

To walk around and see my aunt, uncle, brother...

...to hear my aunt, uncle, brother, grandmother.

And to see them right alongside my neighbour, my boss, my colleagues.

What a gift. 

Subhanallah. 

It's been a while...

Hey y'all!

A few things have been going on so I thought I'd share a few links, thoughts and announcements... 

1. I wrote this piece after attending an Iftar with the Prime Minister of Australia, the first Iftar held by a sitting PM in the history of the nation.  It was also in response to some pretty vicious reporting following the event... check it out here!

The fallout has been pretty rough, and has definitely provided lots of food for thought. I'm still ruminating but hope to share some reflections soon. Stay tuned inshallah.  


2. I had the pleasure of being interviewed by the lovely Meri Fatin for Cover to Cover WA talking about 'Yassmin's Story' and the process of writing a book. It was broadcast on Westlink TV a little over a week ago. Check out the video below!


3. I started a new Instagram! It's very self indulgent...

*chuckles*

@HijabKween is where I'm sharing my hijab/turban styles, fashion influences and bits and pieces of inspiration that I collect on my travels. Hit a sista up!

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4. Junkee let me reminisce about the last year. Subhanallah, it has been a full year, Alhamdulilah! Check it out here...but more importantly - if you'd like a nomination for Junket let me know - and nominate someone you think is cool for Aus or Young Aussie of the year! It's how we recognise those changemakers around us! <3 


5. Amaliah are doing this really awesome thing where their readers 'takeover' their Snapchat for a day and show what Ramadan looks like in their world! Follow the account below...I'll be doing a Ramadan Takeover on the 29th of June inshallah! Watch out for it! 

 SNAPCHAT YO.&nbsp;

SNAPCHAT YO. 


6. Still haven't picked up your copy of 'Yassmin's Story'? Well, fortunately for you, Mammia Mia posted an excerpt (a particularly angry one, haha!) here.  Check it out...then BUY THE BOOK! *grin* *angel face* #MyHijabCoversMyHaloRight? :D 


7. I'll be cruising around Switzerland, The Netherlands, Berlin and Uganda over the next month inshallah. Follow my travels on @yassmin_a (twitter, snapchat and insta), but if you're in these areas and you'd like to catch up and say hello, holla @ me! Email yas@yassminam.com - I'd love to meet you inshallah, and bonus points if you have a copy of the book for me to sign ;) 


8. Last note... this is what I wrote on my FB wall today. Food for thought.

 

  

A Strange Trip on the Newcastle Train Line

Her face was not a gentle one.  It was marked with remnants of resilience borne through struggle, a defiance forged from necessity.  She was travelling to the NRL (National Rugby League) grand final alone.

I wondered.

Her right hand looked deliberate, holding the window sill while her other hand grasped the rubber clad iPhone with authority. The woman's short nailed thumb flicked through Facebook and Words-With-Friends with determination, the seepage of an attitude she probably approached everything in life pervading even her interaction with social media. 

My eyelids drooped, a headache throbbing.  Dehydration; I should have known better.  My mouth was dry as I contemplated dry swallowing Panadol to banish the thought-deadening pound.  My mouth twitched.  Sort yourself out girl, my inner voice chided.
What accent is your inner voice?  Today, mine was British.  Perhaps I internalise the effects of post colonialism more than I thought...
***
My lip curled in slight annoyance when the newcomers walked into my - the - carriage.  It was the quiet carriage, but not for long.   The older man and younger counterpart in a Jack Daniel’s cap started talking loudly and with a familiarity that belied a close relationship.  Father and son, perhaps.
On any other day, I’d jump at the opportunity to talk to people, new folk, humans obviously going to enjoy themselves and open to worlds of possibility.
But as my eyelids grew heavy and my head tightened, my headphone cans acted as a physical barrier disallowing any possible interaction and it was all just a bit too hard today...
***
The younger man’s eyes danced as I looked up from my laptop screen, assessing how irritating their chatter was.  His seat faced mine and our eyes locked briefly as I glared in his direction.  I looked pointedly at the quiet carriage sign but the connection was lost, the communication lines in different languages.
The two men in the seat across the walkway from mine me stood up to go relieve themselves. As they walked past,  the rabbitoh-jersey clad woman turned to look at me, red lips bright on her tanned complexion. Our eyes locked, and after a split second I smiled.  The universal sign…
She smiled back warmly, unexpectedly transforming her face.
I wondered how my face transformed when I smiled.
***
The man whose eyes danced had an interesting face; crinkles around his eyes and an expressive mouth.  Today, that was a gift, the easy smile belying a life which on surface, had been good to him. I wondered if his toothy grin and open face was always that way, or when faced with people like me those lips became tight, the face mean.  I’d seen it happen before, a frightening and trust shattering change.
I wondered what made people whose lives were (on surface) so blessed, so very closed minded.  Perhaps it was an underlying recognition that their life was fortunate and a fear that if they thought about it too hard they might be obliged to share.
I guess noone ever told them that sharing does not necessarily lessen one’s wealth in the way that one might think.
***
The woman behind me wailed.  “I need to go to the toilet!” she cried, her voice high and childlike.
Her hair was white flecked with grey, her girth demanding.
An older man sat across from her.  A husband, brother, carer?  Either way, a man who was invested in this lady’s wellbeing.
“I need to go and I can’t hold it in!”
The man looked at his phone.
The jersey clad men sitting next to me turned around.
“Hey mate, there is a toilet over there”, he said, motioning at the door. “I can help you man if you need it…”
“She can’t fit”, the elderly gentleman replied with resignation.  He stared down at his brown slacks.
“Oh.”
“I’m sorry mate.”
The young man turned around and his smaller mo-hawked friend averted his eyes.
The woman continued to wail and we all sat in the carriage, not acknowledging the difficulty this man was facing.
Politeness or a lack of empathy?
I turned around.
“Excuse me— sir, Excuse me”, I asked, attempting to make a contribution, not matter how ultimately futile. Maybe I needed to feel like I had done something, done the right thing.
“Excuse me sir— “
No acknowledgement.  Mo-hawk turned to look at me.
I turned back around and started to type.
***
The lady started to sob behind me, her sobs turning into wails.
We all averted our eyes.
***
It is fascinating how anything slightly different can make us feel so uncomfortable.  Whether or not this lady was suffering from a mental illness I can not honestly say, but it is a possibility.  It only took a few loud lines to make the carriage awkward and unable to deal with the breaking of an unwritten social contract on what is civilised.
What was fascinating is the conversation that took place between the man and the woman as the train journey continued.
***
“You don’t understand how I feel”, the lady commented.
“Yes I do. The whole train does. We all know how it feels to need to want to go to the toilet”.
She whimpered.
“Yeh but you don’t know what it’s like not to be able to fit."
Brown slacks fell quite for a moment.
“Well that’s not my fault is it? It’s yours. It wasn’t my idea to bring all the chocolate or eat so much at breakfast.  It’s a choice you made…"
The temperature in the carriage changed.  No longer was the situation clear cut, an obvious hero or victim.
Cognitive dissonance abound.
“Mate. I’ll help you carry the bags out."
Brown-slacks looks constantly grateful. Its an expression of time and place and legitimacy we’ve done our bit.
That is my transformation exciting.  When help is freely given without string attached

What *really* happened in Monaco: Day 1

The Monaco Grand Prix is known as one of the most glamorous events on the global social calendar, and a definite chart topper in the Formula 1 season. 'A sunny place for shady people' they say, and with the multimillion dollar yachts, billionaires making deals and supercars the norm, you can see why...

Monaco-GP

I had the fortunate of reporting for Richard's F1 - my third ever Grand Prix as an internationally accredited reporter - at the Monaco GP this year, and I had absolutely no idea what to expect honestly.  My plane arrived on the Friday before the GP weekend and the events that unfolded over the next few hours make up one of my favourite traveling tales to date...

***

I arrived in the French Riviera exhausted but pumped: I had driven three hours from a tiny place in the Netherlands to the Hague and then on to Amsterdam, dropped off the rental car (that had served me so well on the Autobahn, thank you VW) and caught the flight to Nice.

A friend had told me I could stay at an apartment she had sorted in Nice, so accommodation was sorted - or was it? Logging onto the airport wifi informed me that in fact the girls had changed plans and were staying at a villa in Monaco.  Armed with the new address and instructions to message them on arrival, I picked up my new chariot, a turbo Astra.  The two gentlemen helping me with the hire car were lovely, but were interestingly very quick to correct me when I asked if they were from the area.

"Oh no no no, I am from France," one said.  "Monaco is weird. The people are weird, their cars are weird, the lifestyle is weird... you'll have fun though. Enjoy your time here!"

Cheers! My thoughts were joyful as I sped off.

IMAG1957

What a drive! Honestly, television does not do the difficulty of navigating that street circuit justice. Driving to Monaco that night gave me a tiny taste of the adrenalin rush the drivers get for 78 laps...

Almost the entire trip almost was on the edge of the cliffs with winding streets and tiny lanes; the blind corners and fast cars are an intoxicating combination. I drove the hell out of that Astra and thought to myself: 'Welcome to Monaco girl. You've made it!'.

It was only when I arrived at the villa that I realised I would need to find a place to park, and unlike places in suburban Australia, not every house has a dedicated car parking spot. Furthermore, streets are not just straight, up and down and grid like - they wind in and out, up and down and across the landscape in an insane manner, meaning my semi-logical mind lost all sense of direction almost as soon as I passed the address.  I did a couple of laps of the suburb looking for a park and eventually capitulated, parking about a couple of kilometres away.

An easy few kilometres... or so I'd thought.

Walking back to the villa, I got completely and utterly lost.

Completely lost. To the point I eventually started going up random streets in the hope I would see something I recognised, and up and down stairs for the faint chance of a spark of inspiration. I couldn't find any wifi for a map, and didn't want to ask anyone - because what kind of non-shady person is up at this time of the night?! At one point I tried to retrace my steps but didn't want to pass by a bunch of guys who were lingering outside a shop...I'd passed them once and if I walked by again it would be obvious I had no idea where I was going.  Dilemma!

After a stroke of luck and a healthy amount of internal praying that I stumbled across the right street after about an hour of walking.  Success! I skipped to the door... and stopped.  There were about 8 different villas for the one address, and I had absolutely no idea which one the girls would be staying at...

Not one to be dissuaded, I perched on the steps in front of the villa and began searching for a wifi connection, which I eventually found (after paying an exorbitant fee, naturally).  My phone was inoperable overseas, thank you Telstra, so I was dependant on the Weefee connection.  I sent off some messages, confident that I would now be all sorted, and waited.

Nothing.

I decided to make a couple of calls via Skype and Viber.

Nada.

Oh dear, I thought. Hmm...

By this point, I'd reached the early hours of the morning and it was quite cold. People were starting to return from their night out, and I was running out of viable solutions.  Hmm...

I googled the nearest hotel and was glad to see it was noted as an 'affordable option'.  Trundling over, I pressed the doorbell and the guy at reception reluctantly buzzed the glass door open.

"Englay?" I asked, hopeful.

His face grew even more unimpressed.

"A leetle."

"Is there any chance you have a room for the night sir?"

He looked at me, eyebrows up.  "Miss, it is impossible! 500 Euros a night, but we have nothing. Very very busy until Sunday."

500 Euros! My goodness.

"Can I use your phone then?"

"Oh no miss, impossible, impossible. Try Olypmica, they may have a room."

I picked up my luggage and shuffled out. No way was I trying another hotel.  What were my options? Well, I was running out of battery on my phone, so option one was to head back to the car and charge the baby.

A seed of thought formed as I made my way to the silver beast.  I sat in the driver's seat and pushed the back all the way down.  There was enough space, I thought. Let's just have a nap...

I slept in the car! Never have I had to do anything like this before, and it was ironic that I was slumming it in the ritziest place on earth...

IMAG1963

***

Three hours later I woke up, freezing my rear end off. Although the place is sunny during the day, the temperature drops significantly overnight and my Australian body was not able to handle it.  Heater on full blast, I scrubbed my eyes and contemplated the next step.

If I had checked the wifi, I would have seen my friend message and say the doors of the villa were open. I missed her message by about ten minutes though, and drove again to Nice.  Again, through the crazy awesome roads - stopping briefly to check out the view - and found a parking spot right out the front of the Nice apartment I was originally to stay at.

As luck would have it, it too was in a set of blocks so I had no idea which to choose. Too much effort I thought, and put my mind to the next dilemma.

Where to have a shower?!

Tired, not-very-fresh and in need to head to the media center in a few hours, I needed a shower stat.  However, apparently these are not a readily available commodity in Nice.  I wandered around the streets with my luggage (again) looking for a hotel or a place which would work.

Zip. It seemed like everywhere was closed at 5.30 am...but seriously?! How could this be!

I walked into a bar (the only place open!) and remembered that in French, shower was 'doosh'.

"Doosh?" I asked the lady behind the counter hopefully.

She looked at me puzzled, and replied in French.  A few minutes later, we came to the conclusion that there was no place I could get a doosh nearby.

Le sigh.  What's a girl to do...

It was almost 7am, so attention turned to the stomach.  The bakery in front of the apartment was open and smelt inviting, so I walked in and the baker was a Muslim lady. Success!

"Madam, do you speak Arabic?" I asked, remembering that there was a large population of Arabic speakers in France.

"Wee!"

Double Success! I asked in Arabic whether she knew where I could have a shower.  She didn't, but asked the other customers in the bakery.

A lovely old lady behind me quickly replied in French and the Muslim baker turned to me.

"You can have a shower at her house, she said you're welcome to!"

I couldn't believe my ears!

"Really?"

She nodded, and said some more in French.

"Je parle un pue," I said quickly, emphasising the 'un pue' - only a little French. She nodded and motioned for me to follow her.

***

The apartment was tiny: a single bed, a desk and a sink, adjoined by a tiny bath, but I felt so incredibly grateful. Nicole, her name was, and she opened the doors of her home to me. I had a steaming hot shower, got changed into my Monaco outfit and we sat together in front of a French kids TV show, making broken conversation. She had two kids and a grandchild and was a former French Professor at the University of Cannes.  An accident that had damaged her head meant she was no longer able to work, but she seemed happy and laughed at my terrible attempts speak her language.  She made me tea and breakfast, with a loaf of bread that looked like it came out only on special occasions. I felt so incredibly blessed to have been invited into her home, and found it ironic that it was those with the least to give who gave it most readily...

"What do you like?" I asked, "Qu'est ce que tu aimes?"

She laughed.

"Smoke cigarettes!"

***

I left Nicole's house on a cloud and after lots of hugs and kisses.  I returned to the car, keyed in the address in Monaco and began to make my way to the media centre...

You'd think that is where the drama ends, but of course not.  The rest however, is for another post...

IMAG1969

MONACO!

Being trackside is one of the world's best feelings... It has been too long since I have written; long enough for it to be too embarrassing to even excuse.  So, instead, I shall regale you with some photos...

I've found myself blessed again with the opportunity to attend a Grand Prix as a journalist for RichardsF1.com.  First Malaysia, then Barcelona and now...Monaco! It has been an absolute honour really, and I do not know how to do the experience justice...

I wrote about walking along the track for the website, and some of the photos are worth sharing.  Check it out by clicking here...

There is also an epic backstory to this trip, but that is for after the race ;) Hope you're watching!

IMAG1958

How do you eat a prawn with chopsticks?!

Cookingsukiyaki I stare into my bowl, the steam slightly clouding my glasses.

'Should have just gone with the beef tepanyaki'...my mind wanders.

***

I enjoy taking a punt on foods and eating things that I don't recognise (as long as they are Halal!).  It keeps life interesting and I've had some great experiences and well, some not so good ones.

This was shaping up to be a 'not-so-bad-but-should-have-gone-with-something-else' category.

I'm sitting at an 'authentic' tepanyaki house, if by authentic it means frequented by locals and staffed by people who look like they know what they're doing.

It is in a mall in Kuala Lampur though, so I am not sure how 'authentic' it can be called really, in the grand scheme of things.  10 meters away from this step into another world is a Burger King.  The magic of globalisation...

***

It was the first non-franchised chain I had come across in the mall and seeing I was running out of Rinngets in cash and didn't want to exchange any more money the prices were relatively reasonable I stopped and looked at the menu.

Beef Tepanyaki - something I'd never had but was always curious about, 12.90 RM.  Sukiyaki, a dish I had never heard of with an interesting looking picture in a pot, 10.90 RM.

Ah, the bottom-line wins! Sukiyaki it is!

I mumbled to the man standing at the entrance, he nodded, ticked a box on a paper and handed me the slip.

I stood there, waiting and looked expectantly.

He gestured again, slightly impatiently.  I ventured into the restaurant, bumped into a lady holding hot tea - sorry! ah, terimakasi! - and sat on an empty stool, one of the many at the large oval table surrounding the cooking surface in the middle.  I placed my paper in front of me, hoping that was the right thing to do. Do I talk to someone? Who knows.  Let's just look at what everyone else does...

***

Eventually a chef walks into center of the oval, looks at my sheet of paper, looks at the paper of those sitting next to me, yells a few things at the kitchen behind the counter, and begins cooking.

Ah! The fluidity of the movement! The gestured flippancy in the applications of herbs and spices as if he was merely miming how to put a dish together. I am mesmerised.

He isn't cooking for me though. My pot comes out after a wait, steaming, and definitely not what I expected.  It is a bowl, hotter than hot, with at least three servings of broth, random eggs and bits of protein and full of thin, clear noddles that prove to have a very low friction factor.

I struggle slightly, sure that all the staff are secretly sniggering at my balancing attempting to balance a ladle with chopsticks, eating with the right hand and attempting not to splash myself.  Such self indulgence, to think everyone is paying enough attention to be laughing at you.

So vain! I mentally kick myself and return my attention to tackling the enormous portion.

A family comes in; mother , father and son, and sit near me on the oval table.  They stare at my pot; perhaps I have ordered a family size my accident? I suddenly feel self conscious and clumsy.

***

Having gotten the hang of the noodles and tackled the bits of chicken in the soup, I am left with copious noodles and...a prawn.  With the head, tail and shell intact.

This was something I hadn't prepared for. I am yet to see anyone use their hands to peel a prawn, and I don't want to make a mess.

How do you peel a prawn with chopsticks?

I try to spear it with my chopsticks unsuccessfully.

Attempting to remove the head with my ladle isn't successful either.

I end up with a chopstick in each hand, attempting to leverage the shell off.  The father sitting opposite me observes me with a strange expression.  The wife and son then begin watching the battle in turn...

For the first time in my life, I have a question that I am too embarrassed to ask. How was I expected to eat this prawn?

***

I arrange the chopsticks and ladle neatly next to the half finished pot and scurried to the counter to pay.

The prawn lies in the black pot, its head slightly peeking above the surface of the broth.

Prawn, you may have won this battle...

***

On the taxi ride to airport I ask the driver what he would do.

"No idea! I would probably use my hands. I am not very good with chopsticks..."

 

Video: My Room while on the Rigs!

I'm trying out something new and venturing into video territory :) Here's a little clip of a typical room that we are housed in as oil and gas workers...

It's actually not too bad, all things considered!

Cosy right?

What do you think...?

SBS Online: Getting to know our neighbours

Defining ‘Australia in the Asian Century’ has been the subject of some debate since the release of the Federal Government’s White Paper in October last year. But how much do we know about the neighbourhood we are calling our own?

Last month I found myself in the hot and humid Malaysian city of Kuala Lumpur with five other ‘cultural exchange’ participants and a diplomatic entourage. I was a guest of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and our mission was to learn as much as we could about this nation’s rich tapestry in one week.

Malaysia is often seen as an exemplary model for Muslim countries around the world; a country with a Muslim government where halal food is abundant and hijab fashion shops sit comfortably next to Chanel and Hermes.

For me, the opportunity to delve beneath the surface was an experience that offered much to reflect on, particularly for a migrant Muslim who calls multicultural Australia home.

Read on...and check out my first piece as a blogger on the SBS Online website! 

I will hopefully now be a regular contributor on a whole random range of issues so watch this space!

Malaysia's Identity Issues.

Why the sudden interest in Malaysia? As part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's Cultural Exchange program, six young Muslims from Australia are partaking in an exchange program in order to deepen cultural understanding. I have the immense honour of being one of the participants of said initiative.

Traveling through Kuala Lumpur over the last couple of days and engaging in deep and meaningful conversations with various Malaysians has been an enlightening experience indeed.

What has emerged from the conversations?

To an outsider, it seems there is an underlying undercurrent of confusion and frustration in the Malaysian population about identity, politics and religion.

***

It is important to start with the understanding that Malaysia is made up of three main ethnic groups; Malays, Chinese and Indian.

The Malays are the majority, and they are also defined in the nation's constitution as those who are Muslim and speak Bahasa Maleyu.

If you are Malay, you are entitled to many privileges under the 'Bumiputera' policies.

This leads to an interesting dilemma.

1. If a nation is seeking to be truly multicultural, an affirmative action law that racially privileges one over the others makes life difficult for those in the minority (Malays make up just under 60% of the population). What then is a 'Malaysian' exactly?

2. If the criteria to be a Malay includes being a Muslim, how does a nation separate 'Mosque' and 'State'? Does the religion simply become part of an identity of a race rather than a true spiritual practice? How do minorities fit in a society that only 'accepts' one standard version of Islam?

These are the two questions that have been at the root of many of our conversations. It seems clear that the issues are far from resolved, and the results of the recent election raise more questions than they answer.

***

There is much more to be said and shared, but this is only the beginning of the program, and I am weary of making judgements that may be unfair.

Observationally though, it seems there is an insecurity around the idea of identity, of what it means to be 'Malaysian', both individially for Malaysians and for the nation itself. It is clearly still a country that is journeying through the nation building process.

What is concerning is the politicisation of Islam and the use of the religion for political gain, or on seemingly superficial matters. This is one such example.

What this means for the future of the nation, particularly one where the opposition is a coalition of the PKR, PAS and DAP parties (i.e. Muslim Malays and Chinese Malaysians who are varied) is interesting and unknown.

***

I will no doubt learn and reflect more as the week goes by. What are your thoughts though, on how Malaysia deals with the issues of identity, as a nation and individually?

 

 

Malaysia: Are you ready for this?

Just a quick community announcement! Heading off for the week to Malaysia for the Australia Malaysia Institute's cultural exchange program...

Stay tuned for blogs, photos and insights from the road!

Any questions and suggestions? Particular things in Malaysia I need to do or check out?

 

 

Excited? The Sydney Writers' Festival is on!

The Sydney Writers' Festival looks insanely awesome this year!! Are you going to be there?

There are the likes of Barack Obama's Chief Digital Strategist, Anne Summers, Ruby Wax, Slam Poetry... ahhhh! I am so excited!

Are you going to be there? Who are you excited to see??

If you are free and around, maybe you can pop by and check out lil ol' me talking about big ol' issues like Women and Power and a "young lady's survival guide to life on the rigs"...

Should be fun ;)

 

 

Global migration: Changing the way we define our identity?

This was originally posted on Future Challenges! Check out the [button link="http://futurechallenges.org/local/global-migration-changing-the-way-we-define-our-identity/" newwindow="yes"] Original Link[/button]


When my parents moved to Australia with me as a screaming baby in tow, the situation in Sudan was dire, true, but it was much more an economic and socio-political decision rather than one of safety. This type of migration is increasingly common, particularly to a migration based nation such as Australia. How a nation and its people – as well as migrants themselves – deal with these global flows currents of people will define attitudes and perspectives of our current generation and generations to come.

I describe myself as either a “global citizen” or “mongrel”, both labels of which I am proud. What exactly does that mean though, for me personally, for many others in similar situations and for our society as this becomes perhaps the norm?

Menschentraube on Wiki Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

From a purely economical point of view, there is no doubt that migration, particularly skilled and business based migration, is of great importance and benefit to a society. The introduction of policies such as 457 visas (officially known as the Temporary Business (Long Stay) Visa), which allow Australian companies to sponsor employees from overseas has allowed for the development of sectors where skills are required, for example the oil and gas industry. Australia is no stranger to migration by any means; more than a quarter of the population in 2011 was born overseas, we speak more than 260 languages and identify with more than 270 ancestries. With the ease of travel this century and the relative stability of our economy compared to the global status quo, it is no wonder that more people are looking to cross the oceans to call this land girt by sea ‘home’.

If we are to look at this from a cost-benefit point of view, there is no doubt that what is gained from migration – an increase in labour supply, national income, skills, development, cultural depth, awareness and exposure, heavily outweighs any perceived disadvantages; identity crises, housing and services, the cost of humanitarian arrivals (although this is an international obligation), possible rise in community tensions due to a lack of understanding leading to changes in social cohesion.

It can be said that from that point of view as well, Australia is lucky in the sense that it only stands to gain skills from migration. By and large, we are not suffering from the ‘brain drain’ affecting other nations; our Net Overseas Migration (NOM) is 232 000 (497000 arrivals and 265000 departures, ABS and DIAC projections, 2012). It should be noted that NOM is the net gain or loss of population through immigration to Australia and emigration from Australia.

Although the drivers and immediate economic benefits are known and recognised, the effects on the socio-political landscape are those that are more often talked about, highlighted and debated. Migration can be seen as a purely economical factor perhaps, however we must not forget that we are dealing with actual people, who have hopes, dreams, desires and families. Migrants not only bring economic impacts, but their very presence changes the fabric of communities, and it is this change that can turn the tide of opinion. Economic factors are enough to convince a company perhaps, but “not in my backyard” is also a term used…

A cursory look at headlines over the past year or two clearly indicates that migration and identity are in the forefront of people’s minds. The discourse hasn’t always been friendly:

Tony Abbott plans to block people from Australia, news

Australia is a nation based on multiculturalism, and we have a great untapped resource in our cultural diversity. It is important that we appreciate the value of our migration and cultural diversity, capitalise on its benefits and ensure that we do not neglect the socio-political effects that it has. We must ensure the communication lines are always open between migrants and those who have been settled for generations, and that we provide the space for young people to discover and mould their own identities to find the balance between their heritage and their current environment in a manner that is comfortable and familiar to them. It isn’t something that will happen overnight or be ‘resolved’ but more one that will change over time as influxes and migratory patterns change.

This level of cross cultural pollination has never been seen in history before, so we are at a unique point in human civilisation where we can create and mould identity based on more than just an accident of birth location – we almost have the choice and freedom to form whatever identity we want. What effects will that have on our society as a whole? Who knows yet. It could mean that nationalism no longer has the same power that it used to, or that it becomes based on something other than race, birthplace or religion. It could mean that cultures become based on hybrids of existing national traditions… who knows? All I know is that it is within our control.

Migration is not a crime

Migration is not a crime, by dkalo on Flickr, CC BY SA 2.0

 

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The irony is never lost on the Indigenous population – apart from them, we are all migrants to Australia. So who is anyone to deny the benefits of a concept that brought them there in the first place?