Australia has shown me possibilities

Workers' Party at Hougang, General Election 2011 (Image - Darren Soh, used with permission)
Workers’ Party at Hougang, General Election 2011 (Image – Darren Soh, used with permission)

Thank you to Australia for showing me kindness and compassion. More significantly, thank you for showing me possibilities. Possibilities of moving towards a compassionate society that were rejected by Singaporeans without a chance for a proper debate in parliament.

Thank you to the people I meet everyday when I go grocery shopping who smile and chat with me. I am happy to be paying a premium for groceries when I know you will be paid fairly and you are also in the capacity to put food on your table. I am happy to pay a minimum of $10 for food knowing the very people who are serving me, clearing my tables can afford to pay for the same food I am eating.

Thank you to the bus drivers who never fails to greet everyone with a “hi”, to which I will reciprocate with a “thank you!” when I get off the bus. I am happy to pay $2.60/2 hour trip knowing you are paid fairly, and you have a union representing your rights. Thank you to train conductors who looked out for me when I almost overslept on the train and missed my stop to Geelong. Thank you just for remembering when we were casually chatting before the train departed on its 1.5 hour journey. I am happy knowing you too have an authority looking out for your rights in a thankless job. Thank you to the Australia Border people for exercising caution and due diligence at the airport, just so illegal substances that can threaten the society are being kept out. So yes, continue checking me for bombs, explosives… even though I do not believe I am a threat. But thank you to this group of people in public service for having the courage to show it through your actions with planned protests just because the government proposed to slash your benefits and wages.

Most of all, thank you for showing me the greatness of adopting an Australian First policies in jobs. Thank you for not extending VISAs just because employers need to show that the very reason for hiring a foreigner is because Australians can’t do the very same job. Even though I might one day be subjected to the same treatment, get sent home etc, but I am happy because you do it to make sure Australians have jobs.

Thank you for teaching me patience and kindness. To my supervisors and all those at my uni who was worried for me, stepped up to offer assistance when in times of need, I want to say thank you for believing in me. Thank you for telling me to ‘trust my gut’ when the Singaporean in me needed more affirmation.

My view and appreciation of Melbourne deepened significantly on the morning of 29 August 2015. It was the day Operation Fortitude was announced. As much as I did not, and still do not agree with the idea that people walking around the streets of Melbourne (tourists, students, basically anyone) can be approached and request to produce a valid VISA to prove that they are not committing VISA fraud, the “obedient” Singaporean in me simply placed my passport, printed out my VISA, and placed them in my bag. The “kiasi” attitude in me kicked in as well. I was willing to accept the policies because I am not an Australian citizen. I had no say. My plans to attend the last of the Winter Fireworks at Docklands was cancelled, as I just did not want to be approached and be questioned unnecessarily though I did not commit any offence.

The most amazing thing happened. A snap protest was called, and a crowd gathered at Flinders Street Station at 12pm, holding up traffic, blocking the streets, and led to the cancellation of the press conference. The entire operation was called off approximately 3 hours later. The people of Australia thought it was racism at best. Some thought it was to incite fear. It was a divisive operation essentially.

These protestors did what they thought was right – to represent the voiceless, the under-represented in the society. And they showed it through their actions. They do not know this. But they spoke up for me. So thank you.

Yes, Australia is not perfect. And yes, Australia has shown me possibilities – possibilities offered by alternate parties that were rejected by Singaporeans without a chance for a proper debate in parliament.

The above is a note first posted on the Facebook page of Jean Zi. We republish here with permission.

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