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You know the saying, “What goes around, comes around”?

Wiktionary defines this as “A person’s actions, whether good or bad, will often have consequences for that person.”

Let me apply this notion to a commonly expressed sentiment concerning migrants to Australia.

There is much presented, especially in social media, that runs along these lines: “If you want to live in our country then speak our language and follow our customs.” John Howard, among others, is purported to have expressed such thoughts in the quite recent past, and many agree with him.

However, to gain a bit of perspective, let’s take a trip back two hundred years to when white Anglo-Saxons arrived in Australia. Did these new arrivals to Terra Australis show any appreciation or concern for those who already lived in the land? Was there a concerted attempt to learn indigenous customs or language, or adapt to their prevailing way of life?

Short answer? None.

Admittedly some settlers attempted to learn some of the many languages and tried to appreciate the indigenous way of life, but this was extremely rare. Generally, with colonizing arrogance, white settlers killed indigenous people, separated them from their families and land, and expected them to assimilate to white ways of doing life.

Two centuries later, descendants of those first white settlers are appalled that migrants bring their faith, language and culture to Australia and refuse to give it up.

Hmmm, sounds familiar!

White Aussies—myself included—can be thankful that we’re not herded into settlements or separated from all we hold dear, as indigenous Australians were in the early days of white settlement.

It’s time that white Australians took a long hard look at our past behaviour and attitudes, and realise that what is happening with migration to Australia in the 21st century is minor by comparison to the atrocities our forebears committed in the 18th and 19th centuries.

There will be some who’ll call me ‘unAustralian’. Well, to my way of thinking, speaking English or scattering “fair dinkum” or “g’day mate” throughout your speech doesn’t make you an Aussie, any more than wearing an Akubra or draping yourself in an Aussie flag does.

I reckon an Aussie is someone who is true to their mates, loves fair play, sticks up for the underdog, and values freedom and egalitarianism. These are Aussie characteristic that anyone can embrace regardless of cultural heritage, religion or language.

Before white Australians complain too much about the influx of ‘foreigners’ into ‘our’ land, we need to look again at our past with less arrogance, and humbly accept that we are experiencing what indigenous Australians have lived with for over two hundred years.

Perhaps then we can all get on with making “The Lucky Country” lucky for all who call it home.