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Discovering What It Means to Be Australian

by Thought Starters

In this article I explore what it meant for me to be an Australian in 2017 as I considered one of Australia’s increasingly unpopular public holidays.

The past few years have been transformative for me, with the growth of Think Bespoke, the steep learning curve that comes with running a business in the digital age and processing my Mum’s journey with Dementia. As we come to the end of 2016 I’m feeling thankful for how my paths have crossed with some of the most interesting individuals, ranging from established business owners with 50+ staff, senior executives embarking on new career directions and an incredible dementia consultant who’s helped my sister and I charter the waters of residential care for my dear Mum. In all my experiences with new clients and new friends this year, I have found great joy in helping people find their voice, share their stories and build their presence and influence on LinkedIn.

Talking To My Country

What’s had the most profound impact on me this year is Stan Grant’s second book, Talking To My Country. An uneasy feeling about what it means to be Australian has stirred within me for some time. I’ve felt it for the last few ‘Australia Days’ and I feel it whenever I hear jokes told that are at the expense of other cultures. I have an increasingly strong desire for connection to my country and what it means to be Australian. I chose Koori Continuum, an elective offered by RMIT, when I did my Bachelor of Business, Marketing in the mid 1990s. This confirmed how little I was taught at school about our traditional land owners. Some of the statistics Stan shares on how Aborigines are treated in Australia will bring you to tears. For example, an indigenous youth has more chance of being locked up than educated. This book poses lots of questions for all Australians to consider.

Stan Grant for Prime Minister

My desire for Stan Grant to be Prime Minister is my own personal thought. Did I just say it out aloud? Stan states in his book that he sees himself as a storyteller, not a politician. However he poses many questions that require our attention. On January 19, 2016, the IQ2 Racism Debate was posted on The Ethics Centre’s Youtube channel. It runs for 8:35 minutes. The text with the video states:

Is Australia really a multicultural safe haven of equal opportunity? Or is racism more prevalent than ever before? Stan Grant took to the stage for the last IQ2 debate of 2015. His speech is widely acknowledged to be one of the most powerful ever heard at IQ2.

On Australia Day this year, I showed my 11 year old son this video. I wanted him to understand why, in more recent years, I had tended not to celebrate ‘Australia Day’ in the way some of our community did. My son now refers to Australia Day as Invasion Day and is developing a consciousness about Australia’s history that I wish I had been more aware of at his age.

Close Encounters with the Australian Publishing Industry

A lovely encounter with one of the above mentioned clients over 3 months ago, led to me being offered a complimentary ticket to a charity event hosted by Readings, where Richard Flanagan spoke to Stan Grant about his book, Talking to My Country. I saw this as a wonderful opportunity for my son to continue his education about Australia. We were two rows from the front and my son was second in line to have his book signed by Stan. In this moment, when Stan signed his book for my son, I did what I could to briefly and succinctly explain to Stan the impact his speech had on us. In truth, I was tongue tied. Unusual for me. Interesting, isn’t it.

Be the Change You Wish To See in the World

I believe I can be the change I wish to see in the world. It was Gandhi who originally said this. I want so much to live in a country that embraces both its’ heritage and future. At a time when we are experiencing the disruption of traditional industries, ‘welcoming’ all nations to our land and heading into an employment landscape that may feel disconcerting for the establishment, our identity as a nation is a critical piece of the puzzle.

I also want to be proud to say I am an Australian. Until the statistics on indigenous youth improve, I do not feel proud. Until the murmurs of racism and prejudice stops, I will not feel proud. And I know it’s not simple. I am only beginning to really walk down the path of getting to know the real Australia. And I welcome your comments with your point of view and recommendations for further reading and viewing that will help me increase my knowledge and understanding. In the mean time, what I can do is use whatever means I have to make a difference, and so I am choosing to run some of my workshops each year with proceeds going to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

The Indigenous Literacy Foundation

I was first introduced to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF) when I heard Richard Flanagan speak to Stan Grant about his book, Talking to My Country. This event was run by Readings and raised over $20,000 for the ILF. It inspired me to do what I could to contribute. I ran a LinkedIn Publishing Morning and we raised over $500, which was donated to the ILF. In 2017 I plan to run more of these types of events.

The Indigenous Literacy Foundation (ILF) is a national charity that was founded and set up by members of the Australian book industry in 2005. It draws on the skills and expertise of the book industry to address children’s literacy levels in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

I believe we have a choice and we can be the change. In 2017, I am going to continue my journey of self discovery, exploring what it means to be Australian. As far as my identity goes, I’ll keep you posted.

Karen Hollenbach, LinkedIn Expert Consultant, Educator & Mentor

Karen Hollenbach, LinkedIn Expert Consultant, Educator & Mentor

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