What Does it Mean to be Australian – In Conversation with Blessing Maduka

Blessing Maduka is an Inclusion Engagement Coordinator for Victoria and comes to Australia from Nigeria. She has not yet received her permanent citizenship status, and yet her understanding of what it means to be Australian certainly makes us proud to have her here and calling Australia home.

We had a conversation with Blessing and she gave us insights into her life:

Q: What cultural background do you, or your family, identify as?

 I identify myself as a culturally and linguistically diverse person with an African heritage. I am from    Nigeria, and stem from the Igbo ethnic group.  

Q: What is your most favourite place to visit in Australia?

I have two favorite places to visit in Australia. First is the Blue mountains. I like this place because it reminds me of my love and wonder for nature, and also the beauty of God’s creation. The cable car, steep train, echo point and 3 sisters are my favorite spots.

The second place I enjoy visiting is the beach, most specifically Bondi beach. Aside from enjoying the cool, serene and fresh environment, it is also accessible and there are lots of nearby food places to eat at.

Q: What does it mean to you, to be Australian?

To me, being an Australian does not necessarily mean having an Australian citizenship or permanent residence. It goes beyond the papers and to more of the spirit, the personality, the humor, the food, the animals and the love for the country. It means appreciating the beauty of diversity while bringing in my own unique culture, food, interest and color. It means getting to experience and explore the beautiful blue beaches around, the hot summer days, the cold winter days and the footy seasons.

Being an Australian to me also means been less judgmental, more accommodating and inclusive because at some point everyone migrated into this country. 

Q: What makes you proud to be an Australian?

What makes me proud to be an Australian is the fact that I am in a multicultural environment where I feel I belong and am included. I have the cultural sensitivity to realize that we may be different, but our differences make us unique. Because of this I will treat everyone with respect and love irrespective of your beliefs, race, sexuality or ideologies.

I am also proud that this is a free country where my fundamental human rights are protected. There is a high quality of the standard of living, good infrastructural development, and it is a good place to raise my kids in a country that allows me to achieve and become whatever I want to be despite my gender. Living my true life and displaying my true identity without been judged or humiliated is something to be proud of.

Q: What is one thing you would like to change about Australia?

One of the things I will like to change among Australians is the act of individualism. Everyone is really all about themselves, which in the long run is not always the best. I would prefer to see a community that is more of a collective society.

Another thing I would like to change would be the laws and conditions for international students and migrants who have come to settle permanently in Australia; specifically, in the area of education and health needs – to be more accommodating for parents who have school aged children. There is no inclusiveness for people who are on a visa, despite being one of Australians major sources of revenue.  Imagine a year one child student’s family having to pay over $9000 per year for school fees in a government school, whereas citizens and permanent residence pay almost nothing as school fees.

Q: Do you know the Aboriginal name of the area you live in?

Yes, the Aboriginal name for the land in which I am living and standing on is Twallumatta.

Q: Do you think Australia Day should be celebrated on January 26?

No, I do not think that Australia Day should be celebrated on January 26, it could be celebrated on 27th or any other day. I advocate for a more inclusive Australia, where everyone should be treated equally and respected. One cannot be celebrating, enjoying their barbecue, relaxing on the beach, etc. while others including the decedents of people from the Aboriginal and Torres strait Islanders are in sobber mood, mourning, and remembering all the injustices done to their forefathers: that to me is un-Australian. Even the bible mentioned in Romans 12:15 “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep”.

In my opinion, Australia day should not be celebrated on the 26th of January as this will be a way to pay respect, show acknowledgment and show solidarity to those who were murdered or where affected on the day the colonists arrived in Australia. The Aboriginals were on this land long before the colonists came to invade their land, and celebrating Australia day on the 26th means that there is no acknowledgement that people were already living here before then.

The 27th of January or any other day could be set aside to celebrate Australia day or friendship day. This would show that we are not ignorant of what has been done, but because today we are in a more multicultural society, we encourage diversity and inclusion. That is why I think the day should be marked as a friendship day, remembering the day the two cultures met and celebrating our new and united country.

We can’t take away these memories from the Aboriginals, the best we can do is to acknowledge them and show our support.

Hofstede once said that “every society has to maintain some links with its own past while dealing with the challenges of the present and the future” and I think he was right.

*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Salvation Army

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