With courage let us all combine


October 12, 2007

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Friyana Billimoria – Friyana Billimoria, in year 11 at Kingswood College, Box Hill, is Youth Ambassador for the Metropolis

Migration works if everyone embraces it wholeheartedly.

MANY centuries ago, a group of people left Persia due to religious persecution. Braving the perilous seas in tiny boats, many perished. A ragged few survived and reached the shores of Gujarat in western India. Obviously, the ministers of the rajah refused entry to the bedraggled lot, dressed strangely, talking gibberish. However, the rajah was a compassionate man and requested the strangers to convince him why they should stay.

The first Persian elder requested a bowl of warm milk and a teaspoon of sugar. The next elder stirred the sugar in the milk until it dissolved. The third urged the rajah to drink the sweetened milk, with not a drop spilled. Thus the migrants would assimilate into the population, enhancing the culture, all being richer for it.

Hence the Parsi Zoroastrians came to live in India and contributed hugely to the economic growth and rich culture. Parsis earned the respect of the Indian community. This is the tale of my ancestors.

Many centuries later, my family migrated to Australia, in 2002, in the quest for education and diverse opportunities to succeed. I was 10. It is amazing how history repeats itself. Unlike my ancestors, we were lucky as we came to Australia out of choice, safely, with language skills and in control of our futures. Today, we are citizens – studying, working and contributing to the Australian economy, culture and way of life. We have achieved so much in such a short time and both Australia and we have benefited.

Migration is a difficult process, an amalgamation of joys and sorrows, of welcome and rejection, of discovery and disaster, of companionship and isolation. The migration process is a once-in-a-lifetime decision not to be taken easily. We have to interact with people who may speak many tongues, prepare different foods, dress in unusual ways. Once you migrate, the process is one of exploration, of finding new destinations, of obstacles overcome and achievements celebrated.

An Indian proverb goes: “You need two hands to clap.” I know that migration is successful only if both the migrants and the country of adoption embrace the concept wholeheartedly. It is only when there is a give and take and the intention is genuine that migrants can and do become one with the Australian people.

As my grandmother in India says, no two fingers are alike. As my wonderful Australian neighbours Pat and Geoff say, do not judge a book by its cover. The colour of our skin and hair may differ but our blood is as red as yours. Let us not spill it in vain. Today, I donated my blood so that someone may live.

We migrated to Australia as it offers a democracy with freedom of speech and expression, freedom to practise our faith, opportunities to develop and succeed.

I can say with pride that we have adopted the Australian way of life and yet stayed in touch with our roots. Our neighbours and friends are most pleased to join in, be it relishing tandoori chicken or enjoying Bollywood music. We have come to love Tim Tams and Missy Higgins.

However, I’ll be honest and say that this path has been fraught with hurdles and we have faced racism, intentional and hurtful. For after all, in one way, aren’t all Australians migrants? Did not our forefathers come to Australia across the open seas? Migration has made me endure the test of fire, forging a stronger and tensile me, who may bend but will not break. It has made my family all the more determined to succeed, work hard and play fair in the game of life. We want to ensure that all migrants be given the chance to assimilate and prosper, giving back to the community.

Australia values the fair go – it may help to practise what you preach. We migrants come in peace, many leaving behind poverty, strife and despair. Give us hope, a warm heart, a helping hand and respect and we will reciprocate manifold.

Multiculturalism is the way forward. The migrant is the sugar that will sweeten the bowl of milk. Migration only makes the Lucky Country even luckier.

Friyana Billimoria, in year 11 at Kingswood College, Box Hill, is Youth Ambassador for the Metropolis conference, which opens in Melbourne today. This is an edited version of her winning essay.

Original article here