We are one, but we are many,
and from all the lands on Earth we come,
we share a dream and sing with one voice –
I am, you are, we are Australian.
This song never fails to move me to tears. Most likely because it is often sung by angel voiced youth choirs. But also because, for me, it really encapsulates so much of the emotion I feel when I reflect on the fact that I get to live in this amazing and beautiful country.
From all the lands across the earth we come
Like many of my fellow Australians I wasn’t born here. I was born in Trinidad in the West Indies – the southernmost island in the Caribbean chain. My parents are both Trinidadian, their parents were Trinidadian, my family on both sides is Trinidadian through and through.
But 27 years ago my parents decided things weren’t as great as they could be in Trinidad for us kids and they didn’t mess around. The next thing we knew we were on a plane to Perth, Western Australia, chasing a dream.
We share a dream
And that was the dream of freedom and opportunity.
In Trinidad we lived behind bars. Over there, communities are gated. Houses are fenced and gated like Alcatraz. Every window and door is burglar proofed. At night, the corridor entrance to all our bedrooms was closed off from the rest of the house by a locked iron gate.
When I left Trinidad I was nine so I remember this stuff but I am pretty sure my younger siblings did not appreciate the comparative freedoms we had once we were in Australia. We could roam our one hectare property at will. We could run back and forth from our house to our neighbours’. We could ride down the street to the park by ourselves.
As an adult I can go for a run through my suburb at 5am in the morning by myself. Anyone can walk right up to my front door and knock on it. And I can answer the door to a complete stranger without fear.
The ability to live without fear is a freedom that is beyond price. And living here in Australia we have that freedom in spades.
Living here in Australia we also have endless opportunities. Any dream or challenge I have ever wanted to chase, I have been able to do so. Ironically, one of the greatest opportunities this beautiful country has afforded me was the ability to represent my birth country at two Commonwealth Games. How cool is that?
And sing in one voice
Today I was down at the beach and I listened as people chatted and laughed in myriad accents. And it caused me to reflect on how much people loved our unintelligible Trinidadian accents when we arrived. And how my friends still love to listen to my parents talk. I love how multicultural Australia is and wish that every new arrival to our country nowadays was welcomed the same way we were all those years ago.
I am, you are, we are Australian
I hear a lot of angst directed at those who come from across the seas to share our boundless plains and who apparently don’t appreciate what they’re getting. But in reality, I think the ones who take this beautiful country for granted the most are (sorry possibly unpopular opinion alert!) those who were born here.
If you were born in Australia you live in a country that has never fought a war on its soil. You live in a country free from hunger, oppression and fear. You live in a country where your gender is no barrier to what you can achieve, where you can practice whatever religion you like and where your sexual preferences will not land you in jail.
You live in a country that is rich beyond belief – not just in natural resources and sporting talent, but also in spirit.
And I believe it’s that spirit that we celebrate on Australia Day.
Were you born in Australia? Or did you come from across the seas? If the latter, do you thank your lucky stars every day like I do?