In her role as deputy chair of the National Australia Day Council, Tamworth agribusiness identity Robbie Sefton shares her vision for a more culturally diverse rural Australia…
In the lead up to Australia Day, many Australians are gathering to celebrate this event, including with local awards. You may have seen the NSW 2016 Australia Day Address, delivered by Deng Thiak Adut in Sydney on Thursday.
Deng’s story is extraordinary and inspiring. A child solder in Sudan, he was rescued by the United Nations and resettled in Australia. He is now a refugee lawyer, completing his Masters of Criminal Law – and the face of a Western Sydney University YouTube video.
Deng’s story – and the others I’ve heard in my role as Deputy Chair of the National Australia Day Council – have got me thinking about what diversity really means in Australia – particularly out here in the bush.
For generations, rural and regional Australians have faced extraordinary challenges, quite different from those of people in cities. Those of us living in rural and regional Australia know what it’s like to live through tough and unpredictable times – drought, floods, fire, low commodity prices, rural communities and services shrinking. It’s hard – particularly when we have no way to shape or change these challenges.
On the plus side, we know what it’s like to have good mates – and communities – that look out for us. We’ve learned to be patient, tolerant, and good-humoured. We tend to believe in a fair go for all, and that hard work brings rewards.
We’ve learned how to get through tough times. Sometimes so tough, they’re nearly unendurable.
That was Deng’s story too. As a child soldier, forced to fight until he was shot in the back, Deng had few choices at that time. But he endured, and when life presented him with opportunity, he seized it – and then considered how he could help others.
In 2015/16, Australia has committed to take an additional 12,000 refugees as part of our response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria. While it’s believed many or most will be settled in capital cities, there is a strong push to welcome them in regional Australia.
Let’s applaud this move and welcome more diversity into our world – like Deng, let’s hold out a helping hand. I’m calling on rural Australians to get behind efforts that encourage our newest residents to live and work in the bush, sharing their skills, knowledge and culture with us, as we can share what we love about our rural lives.
One of the things to remember on Australia Day is our strong belief in all Australians having a fair go and a right to a good job and a secure and safe place to live. These are core values and principles that we must stand by and extend to our newest Australians.