I spent part of my childhood living in Innisfail, FNQ, and as a white Australian family we were the ethnic minority in our neighbourhood.
Fortunately we got on extremely well with our multi-cultural neighbours, largely because we owned the only telephone and TV set in the street.
The Mayor of Innisfail once quipped that our community only needed an Eskimo to have every nationality on Earth represented in the shire. An Inuit family eventually turned up but they didn’t stay long, thanks to the stifling humidity and lack of walrus meat.
Growing up in a culturally diverse community was great! Not because of all the different languages, beliefs and traditions we were exposed to; but the amazing variety of foods on offer. We Innisfailures were shovelling down ravioli, pizza, quiche, kebabs, couscous and at least thirty different types of spaghetti, while the rest of Australia thought rissoles sprinkled with parsley flakes was the height of exotic culinary daring.
Then, in the mid-70’s, we moved to Gladstone, and a much blander diet. Back then it seemed like everyone was new to Gladstone, and the original locals found themselves circling the wagons as their town filled with strange faces and numerous new developments, industries and suburbs.
Well, on the weekend I got an inkling of how those old locals must have felt. Because as I shuffled around the multi-cultural fair, cheerfully stuffing who-knows-what into my mouth, I became aware of how many folk around me I didn’t know. Who were all these people?!
Gawping at the crowd of strange faces I recalled the advice of an old Hungarian workmate, “When you are foreigner, it is best to smile and nod a lot.” So that’s just what I did, and it worked! The ‘blow-ins’ returned my smiles, and suddenly I no longer felt like a stranger in my own home-town.