© Valerie Wallace, February 2010

Winner 2010 ‘C.J. Dennis Poetry Competition’, Toolangi, Victoria.

At the airport, when I spotted him – (a beacon in the crowd)
His tee shirt was emblazoned with – “I’m Aussie and I’m proud!!”
In spite of his Akubra, with the corks around its brim–
His RM Williams’ Driza Bone – and Boots, as well for him.

His Aussie flag, his Oz tattoo, he stood out from the pack
but odds on fav’rite you would bet – he‘d never been Outback!
The lady at the check out desk was mystified like me,
“I’m Aussie – Been ‘ere all me life – From Ballarat “, says he.

I knew the Chinese came out here in Gold Rush times they say.
If what he says is ridgy didge. Well, good Gawd, spare me days!
I’ll ‘av’ ta do more checkin’ ‘cause it means they came before
my kith and kin, who fronted up, in Eighteen Eighty Four!

‘He‘d caught my eye the moment we had lined to check our gear
and now that we had boarded, he was sitting oh so near.
“G’day Mate. ‘ Ow ya goin’?”  –  So I shook his offered hand.
He looked and sounded “Aussie” (though I‘ll never understand)…

…why an Asian bloke with slanty eyes, declarin’ he’s “True Blue”
should need more proof to sway me that he’s Aussie through and through.
I’d have to say how sneakily I sought out vital proof,
to verify the evidence was not some shonky spoof.

“I s’pose you’re lookin’ forward to returnin’ to ya folks?”
He looked a trifled puzzled then the blighter nearly chokes!
“You’ve made the same mistake” he moaned, “that locals often do.
You seem to think that Chinese folk aren’t Aussie jist like you!”

I tell you what; he came so close to cop a bunch of fives
but just before I lost me cool – the hostie chick arrives.
“Drinks gentlemen?” she quietly asks, then dinkum strike me dead.
‘e ups and orders Aussie Beer – then – “Same for you?” ‘e said.

This got me thinkin’ e’s orright, if ‘e’s the first to shout.
I might be tempted now to give the benefit of doubt.
Still, “don’t be rash” me conscience called. You need to delve some more.
“’Ow long ago did you arrive, on Aussie’s, sun blest shore?”

“Aw! Near enough two ‘undred years, One ninety two, exact!
(This bloke was pullin’ at me leg) – “Ya sure? Is that a fact?”
“Ya think I’d lie?”  –  His cheeky grin dismantled many fears.
“Ya mean to say your folk ‘ave been around for all these years?”

“Yeah! That’s a fact I’m tellin’ and our records from the past
are proof enough I reckon, that our dynasty will last.
When Great, Great, Great Granddaddy – The pioneer, Mak Sai Ying,
Arrived a new free settler – changed ‘is name to John Shying. *

“What year was that?” I asked him (This is where I’d catch him out)
“Eighteen Eighteen” ‘e calmly says. –”’Ow ‘bout another shout?”
I’d have to say me confidence was rocked right to the core.
If this was true, then he must be – much “AUSSIER” for sure.    

I wondered if he had a clue, what these new facts involve.
Me mates down at the Footie club would have a job to solve
the problem – who’s real Aussie and the cream of all our land.
Their tune would change. Some humble pie. Not really what they’d planned!

Right then and there I made a choice to ditch my biased past.
Accepting that together we can help this Country last.
When a few rows back I hear this voice – “Now listen here old mate,”
We came to this here country in year Eighteen Thirty Eight.”

Confronted by this turbaned bloke I was amazed to hear,
“My Great Great Granddad Merban was an Afghan cameleer.”
“He worked in South Australia. – Wed my European Gran” #
“Sit down,” I gasped, “and join us.  Would ya like an Aussie can?”

A few more sherbets set the scene. We shared ancestral tales.
The gist of all our stories to inconsequence then pales,
when a tall and lanky Koori wanders up to join with us,
“Ya know we’ve been ‘ere longest – Merely forty thou’ years, plus.

Now things were really murky and I needed to admit,
the more we were discussin’ meant the more that I should quit.
Forget about the gruesome past, be mindful of today –
to make this country greater in the true, blue Aussie way.

Accept folk as you find ‘em but remember all the while,
The Aussie way of doin’ things – A cold beer and a smile.
And new chums should remember, the old saying, oh so true.
That like in Rome, when now in Oz – just do as Aussies do.

Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi! We all will sing.
All of us together. Don’t it ‘ave a mighty ring?
Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi! We all will shout.
All of us together – that is what it’s all about…

Poet’s Notes –
I have attempted in my own way to try and convey my typical Aussie accent in the vein of CJ Dennis. Thus the many spelling errors.
* Information taken from a speech to National Trust of Aust NSW 2008 Sense of Place Conference by Hon Henry Tsang OAM LC.
# From South Australian History Flinders Ranges History The Afghan Camelmen.

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