Come on Stray’a! Take a look at yourself! Your face isn’t as white as it used to be. And no, it’s not a summer tan that’ll disappear come winter. It isn’t a melanoma you can cut out. And it certainly isn’t that gross fake tan that makes you look more like a grapefruit than a human being.
If we were to consider the overall face of a nation as being the total sum of every face that calls that nation home, then the golden glow of Australia’s previously pasty face is the result of successful immigration policies, compassionate refugee programmes, and an overall commitment to diversify, and welcome people of colour from all over the world. This is not to say that there hasn’t been resistance to the 2020 tan of Australian society, and that is not to say that we are not now seeing a resurgence of unnecessary, unsubstantiated, and unfair commentary from various sectors on the ills of immigration, in particular of people of colour, from countries and cultures looked upon with suspicion and, frankly, through a xenophobic lense.
I have a complex relationship with Australia. I am a Permanent Resident (not a Citizen), although I was born here in 1987, the year of the first coup in Fiji, the country from which I derive a large part of my identity, my values, and my spirit. However, I have spent a large part of my early adult years in Australia, specifically Sydney, moving here to study when I was 19 before then carrying on to make a life for myself in the city I now call home – in many ways as much home as the city of my youth, Suva.
Who am I though in this space? A space wherein the reflection I see in the media and cultural/creative institutions is overwhelmingly white? Even if I wanted to call Australia home, could I really? Who is having these discussions for people like me caught in the in between?
Then walks into my life the indomitable Arrnott Olssen. A successful Australian of colour, working in media, with a wildly successful mens lifestyle online publication, who happens to also be Fijian. Imagine my luck at being able to share the experience with him, or at least part of it, of being an immigrant to this country, of not seeing myself, and yet finding a sense of belonging which I can’t completely understand. We have discussed at length the idea that we can belong to two places, and at the same time have both those places reject you in different ways. I am of course also a descendent of the coolie line, of indentured labourers brought to the Pacific under a system that closely resembled slavery. Surely Australia is the perfect place to find myself because doesn’t the majority now, immigrants from the time of the first fleet, live in this in between space too? Of belonging but not belonging? Of being, but not quite being? Or acceptance, and parallel rejection?
Apparently not. Some Australians, some immigrants, it seems, are less immigrants than others. And this comes down to colour, to language, and to culture. Some of us may never feel as Australian as the rest, and this is exacerbated by the complete lack of representation in the media and other forms of expression that demonstrate the Australian identity. There aren’t many spaces where people of colour in Australia today, immigrants just like everybody else who is not an indigenous person of this country, can discuss and negotiate our identity, collectively.
So here is Kult.d, a space where we can do that. Where we can explore Australia’s tan and the significant role we play in the creation of the future of Australia. It is my hope that this will be a space for open discussion, for celebration of our achievements both here and abroad, and a place that we can call ours.
Words by Fuzz Ali