On Sunday, 18 December, I found myself in the heart of Sydney with thousands of others. It was a beautiful sunny day, which should have been spent at one of Sydney’s beaches. But not wanting to take any risks just yet, we gathered instead at Sydney’s Town Hall.
We marched as one multicultural group of Aussies towards Belmore Park. There were no slurs of racism and no acts of violence. We had no common political or religious persuasion, but gathered together with one goal on our minds: to combat racism.
It was a day of peace and leadership and my heart was once again filled with national pride. I expected to see a lot more ‘Middle Easterners’ or Muslims present, but was nonetheless thrilled that the many Anglo and other Australians who turned up proved that we were not alone in our fight against racism, and it was certainly not going to be so easy dividing this nation.
Thanks to Fiona Katauskas
Bob Marley and Crowded House blared through the speakers at Belmore Park as people carried their slogans of ‘love not war’ and ‘racism sucks.’ A picture of Alan Jones stood out with ‘un-Australian’ written beneath his face. Groups of people sang out ‘we welcome Muslims not racism,’ and I was greeted with smiles by many who obviously identified me as an Australian-Muslim. They made sure I got the message clearly, and indeed I did.
A young boy of about 10 carried a sign that said: ‘I am Australian. I am Muslim. And my country is Australia.’ Another youngster carried a sign that said: ‘I am a brown-haired, brown-eyed Aussie.’
Goosebumps prickled my flesh as I listened to Christine Anu’s ‘My Island Home’, and it was then that I truly felt once again so proud of this country that I was born and raised in, and have spoken so fondly of.
I listened intently as people gave speeches on multiculturalism, racist radio jerks being ‘un-Australian,’ and how the previous weekend’s events had shaken many of us and taught us about the greater responsibility we had within Australia. They spoke against the demonisation of communities and that there was no room for this type of division in Australia.
We were reminded that we have become too caught up in thinking about ourselves and not enough about the future of this country. Do we really want to fall behind the rest of the world, caught up in worrying who belongs here and who doesn’t? Who looks the part and who doesn’t?
What ever happened to: ‘For those who’ve come across the seas we’ve boundless plains to share with courage let us all combine to advance Australian Fair’? Our very own national anthem is filled with multicultural pride and yet we refuse to endorse its meaning and apply it to our lives.
We were urged to meet and greet as many people as possible who looked or sounded different to us, and to go away with more friends than we came with.
I sat in the glaring sun and looked around at the people who collectively condemned the incidents that occurred during and after the Cronulla riots. The crowd sat together and sang with passion: ‘We are one, but we are many, and from all the lands we come. We share a dream, and speak and sing with one voice. I am, you are, we are Australian.’ I heard my own voice ring out in chorus with the others. This song, without a doubt, is the true meaning of Australia
The only real disturbance that I noted was a young man who was slightly drunk and adamant about getting his message across to the crowd in front of him: ‘Merry Christmas,’ he would say, again and again, as speakers attempted to give their speeches.
In the end we finally gave in to his persistence and despite cultural, religious or personal beliefs, all shouted ‘Merry Christmas!’ to him in unison. It would have put a smile on anyone’s face.
There was one other message that needed to be delivered to the people present at Belmore Park, and to the rest of Australia. Amid all this feeble argument about ‘This is our beach’ and ‘This is our Shire,’ let us remind ourselves that this land does not belong to Anglo Australians, nor does it belong to Muslim Australians. It belongs to the Indigenous people who were here before any of us, and by God they have surely suffered the most.
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