“So, where do you come from?”
A simple question offered up to me by a lovely hairdresser when I first arrived in Sydney as a fresh-faced 20 year old. Naturally, I responded by telling her about the small coastal town on NSW’s north coast that I recently moved from. When I asked her the same question, she said Afghanistan.
In that moment, I realised two things. One, I had no idea where Afghanistan was. And two, she didn’t mean the cocoon I grew up in, but rather where I inherited my dark appearance from. Looking around me in that tiny salon in Parramatta, the world suddenly became very big and my wide, brown eyes had no idea about what it was looking at.
My hometown was one of those places where everyone knew everyone and for the most part, the community was Caucasian as well as Indigenous Australian. Of course, we were taught geography and history, but when you live in a bubble like we did, those stories were like fantasies that happened in places far, far away.
Fast forward 15 years and I have brought a little girl into a very different world. One of beautiful colour, culture and diversity of many kinds. When she turned three, she first starting asking about skin colour. By four she tried to teach herself Spanish by watching Dora. And by five she was chatting about marriage equality to anyone who would listen.
Now she is six and attends primary school with children from all different backgrounds. She is a never-ending flow of questions and curiosities, which makes me both wildly excited and just a tad nervous. After all, I grew up in a town where diversity was just a word in a spelling bee.
From day dot I made it a point to help her understand the world around her – where people came from, why they spoke different languages – but I still struggled with actually being able to show her how wonderful diversity is. My one true love (apart from my husband) however, is the epitome of diversity and inclusion – and the perfect learning ground for building a kind, understanding and accepting child – sport. More specifically, rugby league.