Sitting here, on the West African coast, I’m dreaming of another coast, the coast of Australia. For an Aussie girl in a foreign land, it’s a an indulgent memory of a coast of sublime blue, bordered by green which fades into ochre. It’s the coast of my childhood, and while the palm trees of west Africa recall the tropical coast of North Queensland, it’s the yellow sand and the silvery seagrass which backs onto dull greens of coastal scrub that I am remembering tonight.
Indulging in these sweet recollections is a pleasant distraction from todays ‘work’, which has been a mild panic over a long avoided university assignment. This one is on the importance of ‘voice’ in narrative. So logically enough my thoughts have turned to the sound, and more importantly, the authenticity, of voice.
So, what does the Australian voice sound like?
:: Is it the tragic, but much parodied, “A dingo stole by baby?”
:: Is it the crass cries ringing out across pubs on Australia Day of “Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi! OI! Oi!” from drunken yobbos (now there’s an Australian word for you), stumbling on their Australian flags draped around their shoulders?
:: Is it the voice of our former PM, apologising to the ‘Stolen Generations‘, (generations of Aboriginal children forcibly removed from their parents)?
:: It is the roar of a crowd at a rugby pitch, a football ground, a cricket pitch or a swimming pool?
:: The chatter of a BBQ…men and beers around BBQ, women and wine in kitchen?
:: Is it this ode to ultimate Australian icon, performed by icons of our music and arts industries?
:: Is it the voice of Chinese waiter taking my order for Dim Sum in Sydney?
:: Is it the voice of the Afghani taxi driver?
:: Is it the call to prayer at a suburban mosque?
:: Is it the bumper sticker of the anti-migration movement “Piss off, we’re full”?
:: Is it the heavily accented voice of my darling Greek grandmother, who left Greece aged 21, never to return, who died, dressed in her black widows clothes, aged 96?
:: Is it the voice of my farmer grandfather, a descendant of the second fleet, whose low, slow strine I remember from beneath his akubra, then later his bowls hat, and always from the verandah of the farm house?
:: Is it the voices of my children, which now carry twinges of English and American accents?
In a country where 1 in 4 people were born overseas*, all of these voices, and thousands more, are Australian voices. We have a rich history of migration which has shaped our nation and the tapestry of these different voices is something to be proud of.
There is no single, authentic Australian voice. Whatever our heritage or our history, those of us lucky enough to think of Australia as our home, wherever in the world we might be living, our voices are Australian voices…all of us stumbling and mumbling over that damn second verse to Advance Australian Fair.
Happy Australia Day everyone…
*30 June 2013, 27.7%. abs.gov.au