Lucky! That’s how I feel…well that’s how I’m meant to feel. I know I am lucky to be here right now. I had heard so many stories about this place, good and bad; Australia. “Australia really is the lucky country”1. I feel safer here than back home in Afghanistan and I know it is a better environment to live in, I don’t need to live in constant fear. It took a while to get used to. I recall one of my firsts nights here when I was very young too young actually, it’s hard to remember. “The air seemed dead”2but then it shocked me. The smell in the air, it reminded me of home. at first but it wasn’t a pleasant, happy memory this smell made me anxious and scared. It didn’t seem right. It was New Year’s Eve and smoke was everywhere. It didn’t smell like the smoke I was used to. What surprised me was that people here were actually excited about the smell and the smoke. My first reaction was fear.
I was shocked, I could hear squealing, but these were squeals of delight not squeals of pain and suffering that I am used to. Smoke from the sparkling fireworks was all I could smell, “her beauty and her terror”3, so similar to the smoke smell caused by gunshots and fires from back home. It reminded me of how dangerous Afghanistan actually was. But it also made me miss home, not the war, but my family and friends, my sense of belonging. Memories of people being pushed and shoved,“ a country with no peace”,4 War and violence a constant surrounding 5. I am truly grateful to be in Australia, but where and how do I fit in became a constant battle of my thoughts as I got older?
I remember my early days at school, it was easy to make friends, and children weren’t concerned about our color and appearance. The other kids seemed interested in my lack of English, whether I could “speak their language”6 and were very helpful in teaching me, particularly Aussie slang. Even though it was very difficult to understand but I got the hang of it. I knew that I was expected to do well. I did often wonder why I never got to go to my friend’s houses on weekends. The feeling of isolation only ever surfaced on the weekends. Once I got to the age where I had to cover up, my views of the lucky country began to be challenged. I remember when I first began covering up, I had friends that told me they could no longer associate with me.
I felt like people here “were born to conquer fate’’7. People started to treat me differently on the streets. I started to be on guard all the time, waiting for someone to approach me with his or her negativity towards my culture, “I am prey.”8People began to show hatred towards my people and myself for wearing scarves and covering up. I felt totally confused; wearing a scarf didn’t make me dangerous, or a threat to this country. I knew that I didn’t care what other people wore. My parents kept reminding me and I had to continually remind myself that it’s just a small percentage of Australians acting this way. “I am this land”9and the “land is me”9 , Australia was now my country and I needed to prove to others that being a Muslim is an advantage. In some cases, I have found myself justifying my position in my Afghan community. Trying to fit into two communities can be challenging. I love it here; I’m just scared of the
Since then I go to schools every day and educate the youth on reasons why Afghans cover up and to educate students in acceptance. To reduce the number of issues and troubles refugees are facing today.
I knew that compared to Afghanistan, living in this country I was free, “ADVANCE AUSTRALIA FAIR”10I could go anywhere. The majority of people here all talked to each other even if they didn’t know them. Men talked to women and women talked to men. So, unlike my home country. People showed me around and helped with my language and understanding. In my workplace, I was valued. I worked hard.
Australia has an ambition and reputation to be multicultural
In the majority of my experiences, I have been accepted into this multicultural society. Coming to a new country was challenging, as was growing up trying to hold on to my identity and sense of belonging. I am honoured to be nominated as 2018, New, Young Australian of the Year. I am proud of my heritage and endeavour to use my life experiences to help others with their transition into our country Australia.
1 The Lucky Country – Mark Boyle
2 Outback – Henry Lawson
3 My Country – Dorothea Mackellar
4 Strange Meeting – Wilfred Owen
5 The Past – Oodgeroo Noonuccal
6 Land Down Under – Men at Work
7 The Men who made Australia – Henry Lawson
8 Nightfall in Soweto – Oswald
9 Spiritual song of Aborigine – Hylius Maris
10 Advance Australia Fair – Julia Anthony
PoemHunter.com. (2011). The Lucky Country Poem by Mark Boyle – Poem Hunter. [online] Available at: https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-lucky-country/ [Accessed 23 Aug. 2018].
Poetrylibrary.edu.au. (2013). The Past – Oodgeroo Noonuccal – Poem – Australian Poetry Library. [online] Available at: https://www.poetrylibrary.edu.au/poets/noonuccal-oodgeroo/the-past-0719068 [Accessed 23 Aug. 2018].
Arigbabu, S., Arigbabu, S. and profile, V. (2018). NIGHTFALL IN SOWETO- OSWALD MTSHALI. [online] Keerahsnotes.blogspot.com. Available at: http://keerahsnotes.blogspot.com/2015/02/nightfall-in-soweto-oswald-mtshali.html [Accessed 23 Aug. 2018].
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