Australia rolled out the orange carpet for me, the weekend that I landed in Sydney with my baby on my hip, a stressed new migrant from South Africa.
Wherever I seemed to look, on that first Sunday, were orange adverts and posters celebrating multi-culturalism and diversity, and welcoming migrants. I felt like I had arrived to open arms in a promised land. The Rainbow Nation I had just left had only recently learnt, under the inspired leadership of Mandela, to love all of those who were born to the land. I found the laid back welcome and acceptance that Australia extended through Harmony Day, to not only her citizens but also to outsiders who had freshly stepped off the plane, quite remarkable.
Before I left South Africa, I had stood with sadness on the slopes of Devil’s Peak at Rhodes Memorial, gazing over the Cape Flats towards the familiar curves of the distant mountains of my beloved land. Late on my first day in Sydney, my jet-lagged baby and I stood alone on a northern beaches headland, looking away from the sweep of golden coast toward the suburban hills. The famous words of Rhodes seemed to echo around me: “your hinterland is there”.
As the orange day receded, the practical matters of settling into a new land dominated my first week. In the hunt first for a cheap place to stay, the baby and I trawled from Hurstville to Epping. One day, lonely, homeless, and grieving the loss of the land of my birth, we got off the train to look at a house to rent in Killara. The first thing I noticed was the council sign at the station that said “Killara. Permanent. Always there”. That was it for me, our roots went down in Killara.
Australia, my people, my country. Please remain as welcoming of new migrants to Australia as you were to me on the first Harmony Day in 1999.