I’m Australian. And I’m not exactly like you, or like what you might imagine Australians to be like. And that’s OK.
To start with, I’m Australian and I have olive skin, dark hair, and an unusual name: “Dana”.
It’s not that I look odd. I’m well-presented, have trimmed hair, and am dressed like your average middle-aged entrepreneur. My name isn’t hard to say, either; it’s just not one you hear every day.
But still, my name and appearance seem to be an invitation for people — Australians and non-Australians — to ask me where I’m from. Which is fine, when asked with the right spirit of curiosity and a desire to connect with others. I’ll happily tell you I’m Persian, because at least I have a story to tell.
Sometimes, non-Australians will tell me that I don’t look Australian. I don’t blame them; the media has given them an image of what to expect Australians to look like, and it’s not me.
But I’m still Australian.
I’m just an Australian with olive skin, dark hair, and an unusual name. And that’s OK.
I’m Australian and I don’t drink beer — or any alcohol.
I grew up not drinking alcohol for religious and cultural reasons. I’m no longer religious, but I haven’t started drinking beer.
I have nothing against alcohol (in moderation, of course). I get it. It can be tasty, and a rich cultural experience. It’s a good excuse to socialise, and it makes you feel a little better, to boot. I drink coffee, after all, for similar reasons.
And I don’t mind alcohol in cakes or in desserts that are on fire. I actually enjoy it! I’ll even sip a bit of a drink if someone insists I try it because it’s delicious or interesting.
I just don’t want to add alcohol to my lifestyle and health routine, because it’s hard enough to get everything done and stay in shape as it is. Plus, it’s expensive!
So I’m an Australian who doesn’t drink beer. And that’s OK.
I’m Australian and I don’t like watching sports.
I mean, don’t get me wrong. I think any excuse to hang out with friends is a good one. I also respect athletes for what they achieve.
But I don’t want to watch other people playing and having fun — unless I’m analysing their moves or something. I want to play myself! I want to be the one with the ball, the one in the ring, or the one on the waves.
So I don’t have a team. I don’t barrack (Australian slang “root”) for anyone. And I don’t know when the grand finals are or who’s playing.
But I’m Australian. I just don’t like watching sports. And that’s OK.
I’m Australian and I don’t have a strong accent.
I grew up in an immigrant family in the city, not with multi-generation locals in the countryside, so my accent was mild from the beginning.
I made mistakes in school, and then in my fancy degrees at university. I’ve had my English corrected by educators into my early adulthood. And it helped.
These days, I’ve lived abroad for most of my adult life and speak ten languages (and counting), most of which I’ve learned. I now know English better than most native English speakers ever will.
So I’m Australian and am intelligible to most people in the world, and don’t have a strong Australian accent. And that’s OK.
Finally, I’m Australian, and believe everyone has the right to be.
I didn’t choose to be born to Iranian parents who emigrated to Australia from a country where life has become progressively more terrible. I am just lucky. People who were born in Australia are also lucky.
Not everyone is lucky, though. Through random fate, many people are born in poverty, war zones, or failed states the world over. Nobody would choose that.
But those people can, with opportunity, be wonderful members of society. They can be the ones building your homes, teaching your kids, or helping cure disease.
I want more people to be Australians, and I want our definition of what’s “Australian” to continue to expand.
If you’re Australian, but feel insecure because you don’t do some things that Australians are expected to do — it doesn’t matter. You’re Australian, and you’re other things, too, and that’s OK.