Selecting sessions from the Melbourne Writers Festival program guide is like a lucky dip. This year I picked no duds. One session that stood out was Our Restless Life with John Carroll and Brigid Delaney. John thought distractions pushed us away from ourselves (I couldn’t agree with him more) and touched on the Ancient Greek theory of achieving beautiful rhythms; normal acts carried out in every day life that make us transcend and quell restlessness. Brigid spoke of excessive choices that make us want to belong everywhere and as a consequence we belong nowhere. As I listened and scribbled illegibly on my notepad, I couldn’t help but feel restless. Yes, having too many choices can make us stray from the important things in life, but what about connection? Isn’t it possible that for some people this restlessness may stem from a faulty connection to Australia? No? Well how about our lack of national identity? I posed the theory to our panellists at the end of the session. Yep, with trembling nerves and an intro that may have been a tad too long, I put it out there. Multiculturalism is the strength of our country but I think it’s the very thing that divides us. Because of this diversity we struggle to find common ground. Our panellists didn’t agree but I stand by my words. We’ve lost our respect and tolerance for diversity and therefore can’t move forward to establish a common identity. We have labels instead. When we go overseas we are Aussies no questions asked. When we come back home we are wogs, Anglos, Italians, Turks, Lebos, Greeks, black, brown, yellow, white, Christian, Orthodox, Muslim. What if this hostility and division, this sense of not being welcome here that generations of migrants have experienced has reflected on their children and the current generation struggle to find a place? Or is it simply a case of not being able to find our identity on a land that was not ours to begin with?

Being an Australian is more than draping the Aussie flag, uniting at the MCG, the tennis, at a time of national crises. An Australian isn’t blonde haired, blue eyed. Australians have broken English. Some have none at all. They eat rice for breakfast, kebabs for lunch. They wear a cross, a head scarf, come in different shades. It’s time we reshaped the jigsaw of our society so the pieces fit.

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