I’m new here

Australia is a land of immigrants. The first Australians arrived, it seems, about 65 000 to 40 000 years ago, after the second migration out of Africa. The second group arrived only little more than 200 years ago. Some think of Australia as a young country with a history beginning with arrival of Europeans in 1788. But Australia is not only the oldest continent, it is also home to the oldest living culture and was inhabited long before many other parts of the world. It is a tragedy that little recognition and respect is given to this culture and its peoples.

Disharmony and conflict, on a scale from the personal to global, often occurs because of perceived differences: “He’s not like me. She doesn’t think like me. They don’t believe what we believe. I am right and you are wrong.” The realisation that what we share in common far outweighs the differences, and the appreciation of those similarities and differences, would go a long way to soothing that discord.

The National Geographic Genographic Project aims to find out more of our collective human history; where we originated and how we came to populate the world. Projects such as this may help to strengthen the focus on what we share rather than ways in which we differ.

Young children are generally accepting of differences they may notice in each other and are usually more concerned about having someone to play with than about visible differences.  Fear of and discomfort with differences is often learned.

Mostly my classrooms were a microcosm reflecting the rich diversity of cultural heritages represented in Australia. Learning about those heritages from the children and their families, as well as through literature and other media, helped us all develop an appreciation for our differences as well as our commonalities.

The celebrations of International Days when children would wear traditional clothing, bring items from home to display and discuss, contribute cultural food to a shared lunch, teach how to play traditional games or share traditional stories were always appreciated by the children and families; including those who considered themselves to have a cultural background and those who didn’t.

 

Units of work, such as my Getting to know you — Early childhood history unit, learning to greet each other in the languages represented in the class, reading traditional tales and discovering each other’s favourites of anything also contribute to developing understanding and empathy.

Whoever you are.

Whoever You Are by Mem Fox is a wonderful picture book which can be used to discuss similar themes. It explains in a simple and beautiful way that although children around the world may live in different houses, wear different clothes or eat different foods, for example ‘inside, their hearts are just like yours.’ Mem Fox explains the story on her website.

I have drawn upon the ideas discussed above for my flash fiction response to this week’s challenge by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows the interaction of a migrant culture on the place of migration.

Playground connections

The adults dotted the perimeter, holding tight to their own; bound by the security of sameness reflected in their own eyes, excluded by fear felt for differences perceived in others: different dress and hair, unintelligible words and unfamiliar scents.

In the centre the children romped together, united in the secret language of smiles and laughter, funny looks and gentle patting hands; no words needed.

The children smiled, waving promises of future plays, as one by one the adults called them home, delighting in their children’s easy ways, wishing for their own nonprejudicial days. A nod. A smile. A beginning.

Recently I found this quote on Yvonne Spence’s post in 1000 Voices for Compassion. I think it sums up the intentions of this post  beautifully.

we are together

 

 

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.

 

 

25 thoughts on “I’m new here

  1. Bec

    A lovely post! I adore Mem Fox’s book, it brings tears to my eyes. I love how your FF demonstrates that the untainted views of children can serve as a bridge for new friendships among the parents, too.

    Although I haven’t listened to this, Glenn happened to mention that he heard a radio show which was discussing a sad trend in schools for increasing segregation along ethnic lines. Here’s a link: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lifematters/is-school-choice-reducing-cultural-diversity3f/6759432. Hopefully the multiculturalism which was so wonderful in your classroom continues to be the norm in other schools, too.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for linking to the radio program. I haven’t listened to it in full yet. I love the diversity in our multicultural classrooms. It is an education in itself. When some schools cater only for the wealthy who mix only with those from more privileged backgrounds, I think something is lacking in the quality of education they offer, and it’s got nothing to do with curricula!

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  2. Pingback: Migration Reflections & Exchanges « Carrot Ranch Communications

    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you Charli. It is difficult to overcome some of the hurdles of cultural identity, worn like a cloak often invisible to the wearer, but highlighted and bold to observers. The cloaks are removed for play, but wrapped tightly in moments of fear. I think the world needs more play!

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  3. julespaige

    When our children were younger and we were new to this area, we joined a group – One young child was in a small wheel chair. I told my children that the child might like a smile – they went to the child, and to make a long story short the child’s family and ours have been close ever since.

    The child in the wheel chair was differently-able and non-verbal. But the child understood ‘smile’. And the parents understood ‘smile’ and acceptance too.

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  4. Annecdotist

    I love that flash – it’s great how children can play together without a language in common. But it’s also something I’ve experienced as an adult on my travels particularly in rural communities – I think when you know your lives are extremely different, you can find intense pleasure in small moments of communication.
    I’m afraid I take issue with your quote (or Yvonne’s). I might be using the word differently to how it was intended, but to me being separate is a positive (as in discovering we are separate people from our parents in the course of growing up) and doesn’t necessarily imply fear. Recognising something as “not me” can be a source of fascination and curiosity in an extremely rewarding way.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for sharing your insights, Anne. I haven’t done a lot of travel so I find your experience in rural communities interesting. Perhaps it’s similar to the way we talk about the friendliness of the people “in the bush” here. There’s fewer around so you talk to everyone.
      I take your point about “separation” too and understand the importance of the ability to define oneself as a separate being. I guess in this quote I took it to mean the connectedness between all things, including humans and the greater feelings of empathy that can follow from those feelings as opposed to feelings of difference.
      I do appreciate your voicing your different opinion. It gives me a reason to interrogate the quote and its meaning a little more deeply and has inspired me to seek more knowledge about the person quoted rather than take the quote at my first interpretation. I appreciate your prodding. Thanks. 🙂

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  5. TanGental

    Your wavelength and mine are at one. Now to make mine link to those around me. Interestingly I will be citing Yvonne in my post. She’s a wonderful resource for making me think. Or perhaps rethink. Your flash just hits those buttons and well done for your meliorist ending!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Geoff. I look forward to seeing how our wavelengths align. I am always pleased to have the opportunity to think more deeply about issues that I may otherwise barely consider. Glad you liked the meliorist ending. I was pleased to fit it into the word count too! 🙂

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  6. lucciagray

    Norah, what a beautiful flash! Children are good at non-verbal and non-
    prejudiced communication! It reminds me I have snap out of my introversion and go back to my flash fiction challenges! Great introduction to the ‘ancient’ continent you live on, and Europeans tend to think if as ‘new’. Lovely quotes, too! I have an English born Australian friend coming to visit next week. All the way from Sydney! I’ve planned an exiting and culture+fun packed 4 days 👏🌞💖 Thank you for your inspiring words 💝

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Luccia. I’m so pleased you enjoyed the flash and other contents of the post. I’m sure your Australian friend will enjoy the “home” visit with all the wonders you have planned. I hope the time together in other adventures helps to lift your spirits. I look forward to your renewed participation in the flash fiction challenges. (I think that is maybe where we first met?) Have a wonderful time! 🙂

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