Australia...the Census...and ongoing Manners

You Have to Be Taught...
“You've got to be taught to hate and fear, 
You've got to be taught from year to year,
 It's got to be drummed In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.
You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made
 And people whose skin is a different shade
You've got to be carefully taught.
You've got to be taught before it's too late
 Before you are six or seven or eight
To hate all the people your relatives hate
You've got to be carefully taught”

(Rogers and Hammerstein)

I wrote about immigration in Australia and The White Australia Policy  recently and it has been interesting to receive feedback...and to reread my emails following the Census release this week.

When I was a child of 7 my father, as an exchange naval officer, attended Fort Queenscliff Army Staff College.  It was a magicial time.  One of open eyes for a young child, with people from around the globe teaching my sister and me how to play the piano; and how to  eat food correctly with rice with our fingers ("Aunty Nanna" from Sri Lanka),  General "Sherry" with the turban ( a Sikh general in the Indian Army) on  how to make, and eat curry for breakfast, and a general from Pakistan (who taught me about music).  Only a few years later the generals from India and Pakistan were to kill each other in a war;  and the Indonesian general who gave me a Christmas present of shorts with a matching top, would engage wtih my father in a military "stand off" between Australia and Indonesia over a situation regarding father and he recognised each other and engaged in polite diplomacy.

I remember as an older child being more interested than my peers in children from other cultures who were joining our school communities.  The Italians with their "smelly salami" sandwiches, the Greeks with their equally smelly lunches...and them being astonished about our Australian white bread sandwiches with cheese and Vegemite.

 In 1980 I married my childrens' father (an Italian-Australian)...he was born in Australia, his father was born in Australia at the turn of the last century but then returned with his family to Italy;  prior to the outbreak of the Abyssinian War,  being a clerk in the  council of his region he received advanced notice of the "call up" for the war and left the country for Switzerland.  He subsequently arrived in Australia, accepted University placement and then in 1939, with the outbreak of war from Australia's perspective, he was "interned as an alien" on Rottnest Island, despite having being born here. 

A coincidental story, related by my mother, told how the Vienna Boy's Choir was on tour in Western Australia during that period..and  that some of the younger members of the choir were billeted with her family in Kalgoorlie prior to their deportment.  She was always incredulous about the politics of this situation.

These stories  would be considered normal in Europe.  My childrens' Italian grandmother was born in Italy.  After she was conceived her father left for Australia to try and find a new life for his family...this was 1923.  Nonna arrived in Australia when she was three...she never again lived in Italy. But she remained "Italian" until the day she died...

During the past ten years I have conducted  business in Asia. In  Singapore for some years;  and later as a result of partnerships in Hong Kong and China; I have also had the opportunity over the past few years  to live for periods of time in Europe. My experiences have opened my eyes to the differences in culture being nothing more than wonderful opportunities to appreciate, with respect, other people .

The recent Census reviewing Australia has some interesting points of view.  Bernard Salt in The Australian has, I think, very sensibly divided us into five tribes. The editorial in the same newspaper quotes that "of the 22.3 million Australian, 24.6 percent were born overseas and 43.1 percent have a parent born overseas".

I was taught by my parents to develop friendships with people....not opportunities.  A perspective which respected  peoples' values, cultures and differences. I am grateful to them and their advice which  encouraged me to be "a world citizen".  And I choose to pass that perspective  on to my children...


  1. Louise, Like you, I've always enjoyed contacts with people from different countries and cultures. That is, as long as there is mutual respect. Unfortunately, many of the immigrants we get nowadays - mainly from Northern Africa and Eastern Europe - don't show that respect towards the country that is taking them in. Slowly but surely we are becoming strangers in our own country. In a way I'm glad not to have any children, because - considering what is happening today - I'm dreading what the future has in store for us. Martine

  2. Martine, yes I am sorry to say that I have noticed the lack of respect from the new arrivals in France, Belgium and Switzerland when I have visited over the past few years. Fortunately we do not seem to have that problem as much here, but with the increasing immigration rates I hope that our government will continue to encourage the immigrants, who can be so wonderfully beneficial to a country's development, to integrate into our Australian society...with respect for our values and culture.


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