February 24, 2017

The Gossip behind I’m Australian Too

Illustrated by Ronojoy Ghosh

I have a good and multi-talented friend—a prolific author, therapist, and multi-faith preacher—Stephanie Dowrick. Many of you will have read her books. My favourite of hers is Forgiveness and other Acts of Love. It’s as inspirational as she is.

In late 2014 Stephanie sent me the YouTube clip of a homily she had delivered a few days before. Its message was that if you have a talent you should be using that talent—that’s why you were given it. It struck home. I hadn’t written a word for ten months.

Stephanie was about to go on a ten-day retreat to Bhutan. I promised I’d have something written by the time she returned. But on the Saturday morning of the day she was due back, I hadn’t written a a word. I was listening to Radio National, waiting for inspiration…

It came. I was listening to something ghastly about our immigration system, and I found myself reflecting on the less-than-positive attitude we have always had to newcomers in Australia. Weirdly, in spite of that, because our basic national character is one of such magnificent, open warmth and friendliness, and ultimate acceptance—we end up living as the most harmonious multi-cultural country in the world. Go figure, as they say.

So I decided to write a very rhythmic, loving, friendly Australian book, (going back to my Possum Magic roots) about all the people who have come here to make Australia the lovely place it is. The last three verses cause most adult readers to cry, or a least to become misty-eyed. They contain the same passionate love for this country that we find in songs like ‘I Still Call Australia Home,’ and the Seekers’ song: ‘I am Australian.’

They also contain a scream on behalf of refugees, and a longing for a kinder Australia—the country we used to be, before high-profile racists in politics and the media were granted the power to make heart-breaking decisions and speak detestable words against many of the decent, inspiring people who populate this beautiful land.

The dedication list in I’m Australian Too is the longest in any book I’ve written. Each person is dear to me. Each was born outside Australia. Each now lives here and has made a magnificent contribution to this country, and to me personally. Three cheers to all of them! Mem Fox, March 1st 2017

I'm Australian Too