Discussions on Diaspora: A personal insight

I am Australia born. And bred. My accent is a batter of Queensland Aussie twang and transatlantic drawl (thanks to time spent residing in Europe and riding the high waves of superyacht crewing). I have the colouring of a Mauri and have been mistaken for a woman of Mauritian or Pacific Islander descent. I have the perverse wit of the Irish and the dark hair of a Romany Scots. Frugal as crazy rich Asian and just as superstitious, I am all of these things and none of them.

I identify most strongly as a citizen of the world or perhaps, that is how I wish to be perceived. Maybe this is why I resisted so fiercely to answering the frequent question of my youth, 'But where do you come from originally?' 

In truth I have no recollection of a former life prior to being born. All that backstory is filled in as ones future narrative unfolds. Why then should it have been a subject of such scrutiny when I was too young to understand the reasons behind their interrogations? I understand better now of course. Curiosity, for the most part, was their motivation; a disposition most worthy of encouraging. But I felt violated and exposed by these types of questions as though revealing the answers was giving away a piece of me I did not feel qualified to hand over. If I did, I felt that would accentuate the differences that prompted such questions in a negative way rather than in a way I should have recognised with pride. 

Diaspora. All these years later it is a word I can use to partly describe the sensations and situations I found myself in as a child newly established in the state of South Australia after moving from my birthplace of Townsville. I was excited to continue the adventure of childhood but after encountering unexpected racial prejudice at my new primary school, all I yearned for was to return to Queensland. Which I did, some 15 odd years later. When living in Adelaide I experienced my first ever overseas holiday. Hong Kong was an exotic melting pot of past and present, vivacious, pungent and outrageously overwhelming. I loved it! But not so the reception from some of its inhabitants, Chinese who labelled us gweilo, foreign devils. Ironically, this attitude still prevails to this day. I am neither Chinese (which I am on my father's side) or Australian (in the eyes of those misconceived bigots). Where then do I fit in? Have I no right to my homeland, the one I was born into?

QWC with hosts Lori-Jay Ellis QWC CEO and Sandra Makaresz WQ Editor

Diaspora - the dispersion or spread of any people from their original homeland. It is more than that. It is a sense of displacement, of disconnect, of shift that is hard to reconcile and may occur geographically, culturally and emotionally. My diaspora was localised and personal stemming perhaps from my father's enforced move from Hong Kong to Australia. Some stigmas and doctrines are hard to erase. Much easier to allow them to tag along as you navigate each new place life tenders.

Age and reason have diluted many former discomforts. I have no time or inclination to lug them around anymore. I try to project kindness, compassion and profuse understanding in all that I say and do. I am more at ease with myself and better able to let intolerance slide into the sewers like spent dishwater. It is easier to walk my journey without the weight of yearning to belong all the time pressing down. Why should I care who cares? I am me. Citizen of the universe who will one day return to the stars that bore me, sharing the same particles with those who may yet still not understand me, whose skin colour and language differ from mine but are essentially as much a part of me as them. We are one. Sucks to be them!

Sharon, June and Dimity WQ issue 275 Diaspora

A little while ago I had the extreme pleasure to sit alongside two other great women on a Queensland Writers Centre (QWC) panel who shared their feelings about diaspora with me. Our rapport was instant and genuine. The emotion produced was palpable, felt by all those who shared the room with us. For me it was oddly personal yet simultaneously cathartic and inclusive. 

As writers we aim to harness life experiences and anchor them with words on pages or with images, in poetry or song. We hope by doing so to inform, share, enlighten and educate readers to think and feel more carefully and kindly about each other. Only then will we be able to hold hands with everyone around the world, to truly be - citizens of the world. As an author this is one of my many tiny hopes; that my stories for children encourage an unyielding impassioned and fervent linking of hands.

With humble thanks to the Queensland Writers Centre for initiating, facilitating and hosting these important discussions, to Dr June Perkins for inviting me into her heart and bosom of friendship with the most sincere respect and understanding. To Sharon Orapeleng for her passion and verve and unremitting spirit. To those whose hearts and sense of identity were (re)awakened by our initial discussions and continue to bloom. Thank you for being part of this journey. Your journey. My story.

Photo attributions: QWC and June Perkins 



Severgnini said…
Brilliant Dim. Black, white, yellow, red, green! It doesn't matter, the first time we met your warm heart was all I saw.
DimbutNice said…
Oh Sandra, what beautiful words. You have filled my heart. Thank you, Dimity x

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