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Wednesday, December 14, 2005


You're different—we don't like you

When my daughter Melanie started school many years ago, she went to Belmore South Infants School in suburban Sydney. Believe it or not Mel was the cultural minority. I think she was the only kid in the school who had two parents born in Australia. In fact, many of the other kids were not even born in Australia. There was a kid whose parents were English. He was the nearest, ethnically, to Melanie otherwise they came from many countries all around the world. There was an amazing mix of cultures and races.

And everyone got along without any problems.

One night the school held an international dinner. Everyone had to bring a dish from their country that went onto the table for all to share. What a wonderful feast we had. And what a wonderful time we had meeting and talking to such an interesting mix of people from so many different cultures. Our lives were enriched by the experience.

While Mel was still in infants school we moved house. We moved to an outer Sydney suburb where just about everyone was of Anglo-celtic ancestry—all what you might call 'dinkie-die Aussies'. Over 90% of the kids at the new school would have fitted that description. So you would think Melanie would have fitted in quite well.

Not so.

It seems that when everyone is the same then differences are created. Mel was the new kid so she was picked on because she wore glasses. She was so upset by this I had to go to the school to sort it out.

We Australians like to point the finger at migrants and blame them for our troubles but perhaps we should be looking at our own culture to see why we have such difficulty getting on with people.

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