Prime Minister Tony Abbot has just announced a new slogan: Team Australia.
I like the ring of it, and more so the rationale behind its coinage. The PM said, “Everyone has got to put this country, its interests, its values and its people first, and you don’t migrate to this country unless you want to join our team.”
The slogan about sums up the overwhelming feeling I had when I migrated to Australia 25 years ago this month.
The date was September 10, 1989. I was part of the Filipino diaspora, a migrant for economic reasons; a willing exile who longingly yearned for his homeland.
Like many immigrants before me, culture shock heavily factored in my acculturation and resettlement. I remember being apprehensive coming to this friendly – yet unfamiliar – new world, with its modern technologies and infrastructure, stringent workplace conditions and protocols, socio-political expectations and realities, multicultural habits and habitations, local accent and jargon, and the adjustment process.
From the first day of my arrival, I negotiated these barriers like I would negotiate the zigzag road to Baguio – with extreme care. The process of my Australianisation began in earnest.
In 1994, I became an Australian citizen which gave me the right to vote for the government that I believed would lead the country to prosperity. This sealed my membership in team Australia, because my new status made me more aware of my responsibilities and obligations to the country, its institutions, people, and environment. My membership to this dream team required me to respect other cultures and beliefs, and to tolerate our differences with civility and without rancour.
It was proper to find a job so as not to burden our host country. In my case, my first job was as proofreader and trainee editor, and joined other income earners in their ‘work-pay tax-invest in first home’ stories. This was the Australian dream many have dreamt of. But I was retrenched 13 years later as a result of the vagaries in the economy.
Australia has seen the best of times and the worst of times. I lived under both conditions. Despite these changing fortunes, in my books, it is the best country to live in, and being in team Australia is the best experience that a citizen or resident can have.
The idea of living in a community, of being one in purpose with other cultures, of being a law-abiding, tolerant, and respectful Australian, has always been an ideal that I, too, have advocated. I have written about unity in the community in my past columns, pleading with the disparate tribes to become one, to become teams, to unconditionally join hands for the common good, to put the interests of the community first and not of one’s self.
I humbly rate myself a success in the goals I have set out to do in the past 25 years. I owe my sliver of silver to being a member of team Australia.
Allow me to acknowledge my sister Emily Rudd for pioneering the way that opened our family’s migration to Australia. Thank you very much for your vision and courage, Manang.