INTERNATIONAL STUDENT REFLECTION
How could a nation, so rich in diversity, turn its back on its First Peoples.
Australia's Voice referendum was a thunderous slap in the face of progress, a jarring wake-up call that reverberated through my very core. As a Chinese international student, I carry the profound legacy of 5,000 years of Chinese civilisation. Yet, here, on this vast Australian land, I felt a gut-wrenching twist of sorrow, a tidal wave of disbelief crashing over me.
Born in a quaint coastal town in China, my world was once small, insulated. But a trip to Beijing at the age of 10 was my gateway to the dazzling spectrum of global diversity. The sight of foreigners, with their radiant hair and oceanic eyes, was like witnessing a burst of colour in a monochrome painting. Their presence ignited a spark of wonder, a burning curiosity that had me reaching out, hungry to connect.
China, with its ancient tapestry of traditions, has always valued national unity and cultural continuity. This deep-rooted ethos has positioned it as a predominantly non-immigrant nation. But Australia? I believed it to be a vibrant mosaic of cultures, a beacon of multiculturalism.
The referendum's result, however, shattered that illusion. It felt like a cold, biting wind, cutting through the warmth of my hopes. How could a nation, so rich in diversity, turn its back on its First Peoples? The very foundation of its land?
This isn't just a political or societal issue; it's a heart-wrenching, soul-searching moment of reckoning.
It's a mirror held up to the world, reflecting the simmering tensions, the unspoken biases that lurk in the shadows of our global society.
'The referendum has ignited a fire within me ... to advocate for a world where every voice is heard.'
China, my homeland, is a symphony of 56 ethnic voices. But amidst this harmonious chorus, have we drowned out the whispers of minorities like the Tibetans and Uighurs? Have we truly listened?
Roaming Sydney's streets, the vibrant pulse of multiculturalism is palpable. Once, while on the steps of the Town Hall, I was captivated by the melodies of the First Nations' didgeridoos. Their deep tones stirred memories of the hulusi, a traditional instrument of the Dai people from Yunnan in my homeland, creating a harmonious fusion of two distinct worlds.
Yet, the referendum's result cast a dark cloud over these moments of cultural fusion, prompting a storm of questions in my heart.
At UNSW, every interaction is a vibrant exchange of ideas, a kaleidoscope of perspectives. But the referendum has ignited a fire within me, a burning desire to challenge, to question, to advocate for a world where every voice is heard, every culture celebrated.
I often think back to the unfiltered curiosity and openness I felt upon seeing foreigners in Beijing as a child. How I wish we could channel that child's genuine curiosity, transcending our biases, and wholeheartedly embracing and respecting every culture and voice with the same depth of reverence.