MY parents always told me that we were lucky to be born in Australia.
To a degree, I understood what they meant, but I figured that it just had something to do with the great weather, the beaches, or religious freedoms.
It didn’t truly hit me until I left its safe, free, prosperous shores in pursuit of love.
I’ve since spent the last twelve months abroad in Asia with another twelve months ahead of me.
What I have witnessed in this time has been rather confronting and culturally shocking.
It began when I caught my first bus.
As I got on, I gave the driver the usual warm smile and a hello but all I got was a stony face in return.
When I stepped off the bus at the end of my journey, I called out a ‘thank you’ to the driver.
The response was hostility from the passengers around me as though I were insane.
My husband (boyfriend at the time) pulled me aside afterwards and awkwardly said, “Michaela, we don’t do that here.”
I delved deeper into this foreign land and found labourers on $6000 a year salaries, a small homeless family unable to find financial assistance or emergency housing because they are unmarried, and husbands and wives working twelve hour days, five or more days a week, visiting their children who are being looked after by their grandparents or the family maid.
The lack of respect for human life, the limits of access to welfare, and the general nonexistence of compassion has left me disillusioned and frankly, quite angry.
Even the churches and charities are unable to help – whether it’s because there is a lack of volunteers because everyone is working such long, hard hours, desperately trying to stay afloat themselves, or because there are legal structures in place to prevent them from helping, I cannot be sure.
Australia on the other hand, has so much welfare available that people rely on the system, it has office norms of leaving at 5pm and being paid for overtime, it has families – albeit many that are broken – that raise their children and actually spend quality time with them instead of ferrying them from tutor to tutor.
What I have come to realise is that with Australia, there is always an option.
Perhaps it’s a result of the “everyone is a winner” generation of schooling, or the abundance of personal space, or access to fresh produce.
Whatever it is, the result is clear – in Australia there is always a back up plan, someone there to catch you.
In many countries overseas, don’t expect anyone to be there to catch you when you fall – it’s do or die.
By Michaela Hillam