What Does it Mean to be Australian – In Conversation with Andrew Lee

Captain (Capitano) Andrew Lee is an Australian Officer currently serving as Finance Officer at The Salvation Army Command for Italy and Greece in Rome. He has also served before officership in Pakistan and as an officer in Bangladesh.

As a man who has called many places “home”, and yet identifies as Australian, we asked Andrew some questions and the following are his answers:

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

I would identify my cultural as a mix of mostly Australian having lived there most of my life, and Singaporean/Malaysian Chinese background.

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

My favourite place to live and visit is Melbourne.

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

Wherever I am in the world, being Australian means the freedom to learn and gain experience from other societies but knowing that I can return home to a place where I fit right back in regardless of the length of absence. Being Australian means being fair, respecting and caring for others.

Q: What makes you proud to be an Australian?

This: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-01-04/darwin-charity-organises-funeral-for-lonesome-stranger/13028558

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

I think Australia is a risk-averse country but there have been / are many individual Australian pioneers and innovators. I would hope Australia could change to be more supportive of people who are willing to take risks to improve the lives of other Australians.

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

Italy? I’m not sure if there is alternative name for other countries?

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

Aside from Christmas, Easter and New Year’s holidays, Australia as a nation only celebrates two national holidays – Australia Day and ANZAC Day. For me, Australia Day in the past is a time to get together with friends for a meal and to watch the fireworks. More significantly ANZAC Day has greater meaning and I have a deeper understanding of what it really means to be an Australian – courage, mate-ship, fighting for equality, freedom and justice, and defending others regardless of their differences. Should Australia Day be celebrated on January 26? Is there anything of national significance to celebrate? Maybe the change could wait for a national Indigenous treaty in the future.

Q: You have been overseas for the past few years and watching from afar as Australia has been beginning conversations afresh about black lives matter, the strain of Australia Day, and the calls for a treaty and congressional recognition – As a temporary outsider looking in, what have you been thinking about all this?

Most of these questions were there before I left Australia. I think including other issues such as robo-debt, climate change action, trade barriers and border control point to a deeper societal issue that we have. Pope Francis sums it up well, “Guaranteeing justice for all men and women is not possible while a few people control most of the world’s wealth and everyone else’s right to a dignified life is disregarded.” I think there needs to be a better way to engage society, because looking from the outside, it seems right now the only pressure point is economic that influences our business leaders to push for a better change in society rather than a healthy general public discussion that changes society’s attitudes and behaviour.

Q: Having just got married to someone who is not ‘Australian’ and on your way home, what new cultural traditions or differences do you see becoming a part of your family life?

As we are both Salvation Army Officers, so our culture is quite similar. Being a protestant Italian means there are a lot of Italian traditions which are ‘Catholic’ that are not part of my wife’s traditions. The cultural differences are minor and mostly from personal choices, e.g. she likes eating freshly made meals (although fast food chains are increasing in Italy) while I like Macdonald’s and Hungry Jacks (Burger King).

*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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