Being a proud member of Australia’s multicultural landscape since I set foot on this land 57 years ago, there is one thing that has always struck me. And that is my high regard for my fellow Australians. Overall, I found Aussies to be very friendly, easy-going and very welcoming.
It is seen every year when people of all colours, creeds, ethnicities, nationalities and language groups gather across Australia to receive their citizenship. It is an immensely proud moment for many who have endured inhumane conditions, segregation, racial prejudice and blatant discrimination in the part of the world they come from.
In this new land of promise, we are happy to join in the chorus of the national anthem, “Australians, let us all rejoice…” – a song most appropriate for a young nation. It is also comforting to know that slowly but surely First Nations people are finally making their voices heard.
We proudly salute the Australian flag; many of us display it in our homes. It is worth asking why we appreciate the flag so much? The simple answer is that every human being likes to belong to a group whose members share the same values. The national flag represents for us a symbol of what we strive to be: a united and cohesive land that will fulfill all our dreams and expectations.
As a symbol, a flag represents immense pride. We often see that the notion of pride is transformed into the notion of superiority and sometimes hatred. Naturally, in a multicultural society like ours, these notions must be avoided at all costs.
I have watched with great concern the rise of far-right racism in our country. These groups also resorted to displaying the Hakenkreuz – the Nazi swastika. No one would dispute that such symbols should be eradicated and I am glad that our politicians have taken strong and decisive action to ban this symbol.
One wonders if simply banning this hateful symbol would do much. I would have thought that educating these extreme groups and also our young people would be the most effective answer. However, that is yet another topic.
New laws banning the use of the Nazi symbol make an exception for the cultural and historical significance of the swastika for Buddhists, Hindus, Jains and other religious communities. As someone of culturally rich Indian descent who honors the swastika, I would like to dispel some misconceptions about the symbol. Far from being a symbol of hate, the Indian swastika is imbued with auspiciousness, kindness and love. This wonderful symbol awakens my childhood memories.