Chances are, the majority of people reading this are not originally from Canberra. When you moved here how long did you plan to stay: three months; one year; until you could afford that place in Sydney?
Ten years ago when I moved here from London I was definitely in the three-month group. Initially, some issues with a potential job in Sydney meant I had to stay here a little longer. Then after the first year, having married my partner and turned our attention to starting a family, we decided to give Canberra a crack. And I am very glad we did.
Other than the town in England in which I grew up, Slough (yep, of The Office fame), I don’t think I’ve felt as at ease in any other place I’ve lived in. It was like slipping into a life I already knew.
I wonder what it says about me, not to mention Slough and Canberra, that those are the two places I’ve felt most comfortable.
Perhaps one of the most surprising aspects, to me, of Canberra was just how many shades of people there were. Apart from London, the places I’d lived in while in England didn’t have the same number of different cultures that we see in Canberra. There may have been two or three significant communities but I can’t recall the same breadth of communities, and from all parts of the world.
And can you recall any examples over the last decade of racial tensions flaring in Canberra? I can’t. There have been enough potential triggers and there have certainly been racist incidents but it never seems to have taken root.
In fact, aside from the sledging I get when the Ashes comes, I can’t recall a time when my different cultural backgrounds (my parents were born in India) has been an issue while I’ve been in Canberra.
I’m not naive enough to think Canberra is immune from racism. There is one form that seems to be less shame-faced than others – racism against Aboriginal people. This is not unique to our community but it is too common.
I haven’t been here long enough to know if this particular area of racism has increased or lessened in Canberra.
I can say that my children are teaching me about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures from what they learn in school. From songs, to traditional beliefs and more. It’s a learning curve for them and me.
I get genuinely excited when my two eldest come home from school and talk about their friendship circles, encompassing Aboriginal, white Australian and an invigorating number of different cultures.
It’s a good feeling to know I can go anywhere in Canberra and do so safely. It’s an infinitely better feeling to know that my mixed-race kids can do the same.
As my eldest says: ‘I’m half Australian, half English and half Indian.’ An inability to do basic maths is one of the skills I’ve passed on to him.
Pictured above are families enjoying a traditional Indigenous performance by the Wiradjuri Echoes at the National Museum of Australia on Australia Day. Photo: Charlotte Harper
Like to help Canberra celebrate its diversity? Support the ACT Human Rights Commission’s #diversitygoeswithourterritory campaign here and share a video featuring Australian of the Year David Morison discussing the issue here.