As we moved into George’s office things became friendlier. We found so much common ground between us that we started talking seriously at first but later on the light side with a laugh which followed almost every paragraph. Right from the start though I realised that what we went through in the process of settling in Australia happened like a carbon copy to both our fmailies. What we recognised as mis-treatment mainly by government migrant settlement policies at the time was part of what caused the divisions between Australians and ‘New Australians’ or ‘New arrivals’, (everyone knows today that the only true Australians are the aboriginees) was not the proper way to treat people who left their homes for a better life.
The only difference in our views was that George kept insisting that there are remnants of this culture even today whilst I was trying to find a change, an improvemnt, something to celebrate about.
But come to think of it now as I write this report, remnants of the treatment we received asylum seekers are receiving today. Being isolated, being treated as something different rather than the embrace we all expected from the system that brought us here. Furthermore the changes in policies and understanding that we see around us today was not because all of a sudden the Australian government became the wiser and decided to change them, but because the children of these mostly unskilled migrants became lawyers, politicians, doctors and these children in turn became the voice which brought about fairer and lasting changes.
The government decision in the mid-nineties which forbid the word ‘wog‘ as a derogatory term was only achieved after migrants in this country fought for their rights, and after many years of being let down by the system. Personally, it must be said at this point, I witnessed it first hand since I was one of these people who were called ‘wogs‘. The situation even prompted me to write a whole story about it which may eventually make it to Diasporic, however it is to be published elsewhere first.
Getting back to the meeting in George’s office we carried on like two little children who found they could share the same toys and at the same time give something back into history from what they saw and felt.
Below Diasporic has some of the conversations which I must admit at times included words which may not be published, nevertheless relieving and historic. Oh how I regret that I didn’t meet George and his brother Con a long time earlier than this…!
Here following is approximately how the conversation progressed. Firstly George started talking about his brother Con. Con is an illustrator who was involved in many publications, some very famous ones too, that helped shape this country into what it is today (please press play to the left here):[audio:http://diasporic.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/brother_Con.mp3|titles=Brother Con|artists=George Aslanis, Iakovos Garivaldis]
Every time I have similar conversations they remind me of my time in Bonegilla, where we were placed in the first two weeks of our lives in Australia as a family of five children. The high wire fence around it as well as the sub-standard food offered will never be wiped off my mind.
[audio:http://diasporic.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/settlement_hardship.mp3|titles=New Australians, tollerance|artists=George Aslanis, Iakovos Garivaldis]
Then we discussed ‘New Australians’. Those who were not part of the same lot, but they were new, hence they needed to be ‘Naturalised’, as if they were ‘unNatural’ before.
[audio:http://diasporic.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/New_australians.mp3|titles=New Australians, tollerance|artists=George Aslanis, Iakovos Garivaldis]
And as ‘New’ Australians we had to behave in a certain way, we had to have a certain manner that made us stand in the crowd, distinct from everyone else we should assimilate with.
[audio:http://diasporic.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/Greeks_Australia_wants.mp3|titles=New Australians, tollerance|artists=George Aslanis, Iakovos Garivaldis]
Finally we got to the core of the problems. It was time to say the word ‘racism’ in order to move ahead and rise above these petty matters that created so much division in the Australian community as a whole. Sadly there still is a lot of racism in this country…
[audio:http://diasporic.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/Racism_in_Aus.mp3|titles=New Australians, tollerance|artists=George Aslanis, Iakovos Garivaldis]
Even from here and this article I would like to thank George for his generocity to spend so much time in order to show me around his ‘home’. I would like to also thank him for sharing with me his inner thoughts. For me it was an eye-opener and a recollection of memories past that were hidden in a forgotten post within my brain.
[audio:http://diasporic.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/thanks.mp3|titles=New Australians, tollerance|artists=George Aslanis, Iakovos Garivaldis]