Melita Hegarty Gold Coast, QLD

‘Culture’ is this word that has been constantly defined and redefined as we continue to evolve. People fail to recognise that ‘culture’ is something that is learned rather than passed down biologically. Personally I identify with three specific cultures: I am a woman, I am an Indigenous Australian and I am a University student. With heritage in four different language groups across Queensland’s East Coast (Bindal, Kabi Kabi, Darambul and Gangalu), I am a proud Indigenous Woman. Growing up, I did not understand how lucky I was and the power I had from being part of the longest standing culture on the planet!

I realised this when I was assumed to be like the stereotypical Aboriginal during my school years. These moments are what drive me to succeed today.

Being brought up on the Northern Gold Coast I was unfortunately unable to learn and practice my ancestors’ traditions, dances and stories as much as I would have liked. Luckily, I was able to attend Indigenous Enrichment Camps, run by my Nana Ruth Hegarty, four times a year to dive in and learn the small parts of my heritage that are left. I attended these camps for almost 10 years and still sometimes visit today.

A massive trait that I see adapted nationwide, by Indigenous groups is this culture of community and family. These are also attributes that I see across Non-Indigenous Australia. Australia is this beautiful country with such a rich history, which is sometimes looked past. For us to move forward with harmony as a nation I see it as important to not only acknowledge the past but work together to truly become one harmonious nation, or as my people would say ‘one mob’.

A few years ago I attended a youth leadership gathering with the Foundation for Young Australians. I was put in a group with people who had like-minded beliefs and passions. The common passion between our group was equality. We discussed why there is miscommunication between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australia. After a lot of analysis, we discovered that it was people did not want to listen or learn the other side of the story. So I propose we ask more questions to people who are different to us, those who have a different culture, sexuality, background, gender or age or even those who have made different life choices.

Asking questions open mindedly could have the biggest impact yet on creating harmony in our own communities.

Australia is known for being a multicultural country. It is a place that people come to seek refuge, harmony and a new start. It is a country where our people feel safe, but most importantly it is a place where everybody belongs. No matter what culture, background, ethnicity or religion. It is a place for everyone.

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