I HAD a real taste of Australia’s wonderful multiculturalism at the weekend, and it’s to be embraced.
While right-wingers were making a fuss in Melbourne I was in sunny Queensland with my old mate Peter.
Now I first met Peter in London in 1981, so we have known each other for a while … it’s probably his fault I now live in Australia, but that’s another story.
The trip was to attend Peter’s mother’s funeral, not the best time for a catch up, but then again perhaps it was.
In 1989 when I migrated to Australia I lived with Peter’s parents for six weeks, and spent many an evening at their home after that. You don’t forget such kindness.
In the years since I last caught up with Peter he has found a new partner.
They have been together for eight years now, so she realises quite how bad he is, and they are very settled.
I will call her Ana, she might not want to be part of my tale, and from the moment we met we seemed to get on.
Ana was born in Colombia and has lived and worked there before living and working in Spain.
Now Australia is her home and she works in a role where her language skills are needed.
Peter has over the years been immersed in her Colombian heritage, probably not realising how much.
Ana has a lot of family support, and they are a big part of her life, and over the weekend I met many of her friends and relatives.
They welcomed me into the fold, despite me being a new face and I was surrounded by happy Spanish-speaking people, all of Colombian heritage.
At one lunchtime gathering we all crowded around and eat paella, a Spanish rather than Colombian dish.
Present was Ana’s son, her daughter and partner, her sister and partner and two children, her friend and daughter and partner … Peter and I were there too.
Now this could have been a daunting experience, but it wasn’t and I really enjoyed my taste of another world.
It was as if I had flown to South America rather than Queensland.
It was double the holiday value.
After the lunch we headed off to the big city to watch a football match, better say soccer so you understand, and once again it was strength in numbers with 11 supporting Brisbane Roar, and me for the sake of difference supporting Perth Glory.
The whole day was rich in culture of many kinds, and I was very much in favour of the family bonds and friendship… as an observer.
I am as guilty as many others in this country of not taking the time to learn other cultures, and to be honest was thrown in without choice, but I found it an eye-opening experience, and one I will repeat.
As an immigrant myself I don’t wish to preach, but we really should learn to be tolerant to those who just want to get on with their lives in our beautiful country.