An Open Letter To Pauline Hanson

 

It is many, many years since I spent some of my formative years in what you have described as the once delightful suburb of Hurstville, which you allege has now been spoilt by an influx of Asian people.

I agree with you in that I do not remember any Asian or any other overseas or indigenous children in our neighbourhood. But we still had plenty to fight about in those old days of the Hurstville forties that I remember! There was the constant war of the Catholic children against the Protestant children. This was only matched by the ceaseless war of the Protestant children against the Catholic children. As an embryonic non believer I kept my head down and perhaps saved face occasionally with both groups by pinging a couple of the weapons of choice, crab apples, at a passing cicada, hoping I might miss the poor thing.

Even children can be influenced to fear differences and to be aggressive towards that which they do not understand.

My epiphany fortunately came when we moved to Cooma on the Snowy Mountains Scheme. There the next door neighbours on one side came from Norway, the neighbours on the other side were Australian Jehovah’s Witnesses who had been interned during the war for their beliefs. The woman that became a very dear friend of my mother was a Mormon from the USA and one of my my best friends came from Germany. There were a huge number of languages spoken that we marvelled at hearing. Seventy eight percent of children at our school spoke English as a second language. Some of the people from other countries were brought in as experts in their field and were here on loan to help. Others were refugees from many countries having been displaced by World War II. And those of us local Australians were diverse. Some were country children living out of town, some were children of the towns people who ran the commerce for the town and others of us were children of those employed by the Snowy Mountains Authority. Working together, we became a wonderful community, united in our diversity, working towards an end of which even we children were proud. I often wished my family were multilingual like that of many of my friends.

Later my obstetrician and gynaecologist was a wonderful Jewish woman from Hungary. She had worked in several countries before she settled here to raise her children. I learnt more from her about life and death than just how to have babies and rear them.

Now I am privileged to have two little granddaughters whose other grandmother is a wonderful, gentle, Muslim woman, born in East Africa, of ethnically Indian descent. (She has never been to India.) She and I, among other things, play Words with Friends on line. I have never beaten her but am learning a little from her every game as I watch her clever mind at work. The fact that she can speak seven languages might help her!

I would hate to go back to the crab apple throwing of  Hurstville in the forties because of religious or other differences.

And I don’t even want to throw crab apples at dinky-di Australian cicadas just because they are on a slightly different trajectory of flight to the one I am on.

Let’s live together and learn from one another.

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About Anne Powles

I am retired from paid employment. During my working life I have been variously and sometimes contemporaneously, wife, mother of four, lawyer, teacher and psychologist. I have also been a serial education junkie. As are we all, I have been an observer of the world around me. Here I have recorded some of my memories, observations and theorisings.
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