Jan 15, 2012

A Wet Sunday. Being A Migrant To Australia.

Toasted turkish bread and rainy Sunday mornings are a match made in heaven.  I'm so used to eating it fresh with dips that I'd forgotten it also makes fantastic toast - for those jaded palates that have moved on from sour dough and artisanal wholegrain type breads.

Summer rain is also so conducive to giving into your inner homebody and opting to stay in for the day.  We're so blessed with the weather in Australia, I suspect we're the only country where people change their plans according to the weather.

And so it was that I was coerced into spending another day hard at it cleaning SSG Manor.  You'll be happy to know that it was our final day of cleaning for possibly the next 5 years.  I've never seen the place so tidy.  I've never seen so many empty shelves.  I've also never seen so many garbage bags and compacted cardboard boxes.  We're living from bin day to bin day at the moment and counting down until the bulk rubbish collection day in May.

I don't have too many happy snaps of today's cleaning session actually.  All the bells and whistles moments with new furniture and bits of cutting edge technology have passed.  We tackled the kitchen today and I had a very virtuous moment when it came time to empty the pantry.  Look, 2 unopened packets of Homestyle Creamies (and a pair of Arnott's WA Ginger Nuts in the background).  They've all been in the pantry for months and I've not touched them.  If that's not proof that I've been sticking to this no carbs after 5 business then I don't know what is.

Image courtesy of www.cherriipop.blogspot.com
Have you been watching Once Upon A Time In Cabramatta on SBS?  I'm taping tonight's second episode.  This three part documentary tells some of the stories of Vietnamese refugees who came to Cabramatta in Sydney's west as part of PM Malcolm Fraser's decision that saw Australia help political refugees and their families escape both the horrors of the war in Vietnam and the appalling conditions of the refugee camps in Malaysia by enabling many Vietnamese refugees to settle here and hopefully start blessed new lives in this luck country.

For many, the reality of their lives here was the complete opposite of what was hoped to be achieved.  Families fell apart as traditional hierarchies of parents and children as well as of men and women fractured as the new Australians had to do whatever it took just to survive from day to day in a completely foreign culture.  Large families, lack of English and also lack of skills (or recognition of those gained abroad) saw both parents and children labour impossible hours in menial jobs just to put food on the table and clothes on backs.

The parents had great dreams that their children would have better lives here in Australia by obtaining professions and financial security.  However, for many of the children, trying to achieve this dream without the guidance of parents who were worked to the bone was impossible and the lure of fast money in the drug fuelled gangster world proved too hard to resist.  Life in the gangs also promised a kind of love and unity that many thought they did not recieve from their own parents.

I have been watching Once Upon A Time In Cabramatta with shock and also now with empathy becuase I had no real idea that this is the story of people who migrated to Australia around the same time my own parents migrated here from Singapore.  My own experience of migrating as a very young child was a very stable and uneventful one.  The only life I know is that of my life here in Australia.  I glibly assumed that migrating to Australia was the same for everyone.

My parents always speak fondly of how Australia was for them when they first arrived.  They had jobs waiting here and the luxury of migrating by choice and not to escape any horrors of their birth countries.  There were cultural differences but many people were in a similar situation.  With English (and a sense of adventure) on their side, friendships were made and a little of each culture was exchanged.  My own childhood was completely different to the Cabramatta story as well.

Australia's current multiculturalism is something I've also taken for granted.  The diversity of food and people on the streets, the celebration of a wide range of religious days and the ability to drive to a different part of town to visit another culture are all things I saw a little of in Perth and have completely embraced here in Sydney.  There have been also the more mundane things like multi lingual educational material, the wide availability of interpreters and the use of culturally appropriate techniques to spread a message to particular communities.

This has all happened virtually within my lifetime.  I have benefitted greatly from all of it.  Yet little of it would have existed before either myself or the refugees from Vietnam arrived here.  Perhaps the happy ending of the Cabramatta story is yet to be fully developed but already it is leaving a legacy of a more multicultural Australia.


  1. Immigration, by the more and less privileged, is so interesting. I'd love to read a book analyzing the phenomenon, on a high level. On a more immediate level, have you seen the Clint Eastwood movie, Gran Torino? I love it. About Hmong immigrants in the US. A little too heroic etc for me, but so well done.

  2. Lisa, I've seen Gran Torino several times.  It is one of the most powerful films I have seen in recent times.  It would be interesting, I agree, to read a comparison of different immigration experiences.  There are so many stories to be told and lots to be learned from them all.

    SSG xxx

  3. Indeed - I myself am so grateful that I grew up in Singapore. Yes it might be 'vanilla' but we did not have to jump on a boat and escape prosecution or risk being killed and raped by pirates. I am also ashamed to say that I did not know that many of my own Vietnamese friends were refugees.

  4. Lorraine @ Not Quite NigellaJanuary 16, 2012 at 3:52 PM

    My parents migration here was much easier from what I understand too (although I was born here so I didn't experience it first hand). I can imagine some people come here under very difficult circumstances.


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