Ingeborg van Teeseling

About Ingeborg van Teeseling

After migrating from Holland ten years ago and being warned by the Immigration Department against doing her job as a journalist, Ingeborg van Teeseling became a historian instead. She endeavours to explain Australia to migrants new and old at her website, and runs, telling people's life stories.

Turnbull’s calls for renewed patriotism a dangerous statement

In an effort to combat domestic terrorism, Turnbull has called for a new sense of Patriotism. However, in my day-to-day experience, it just enables the racial divide further.



I wonder if it will ever stop. Or maybe I am overly sensitive to it. No, I am definitely overly sensitive to it. But still, I wonder. This need for me to prove that I am worthy of being here, I mean. That I am one of you. Listen, I have learnt not to be annoyed anymore when somebody changes my name or asks me when I will be going back ‘home’. I breathe in and thank my lucky stars that I am white and don’t wear a hijab. God only knows what life looks like when you can’t hide your otherness. Actually, He does, thanks to some recent research: 67.7% of victims of physical, verbal and online attacks are female. Almost 80% of them were wearing a head covering and 30% of them were with children. Three-quarters of the abusers were male. Tough guys, really masculine behaviour. But I digress. Because this is old hat, right? We know that, as the study says, ‘visibility increases the risk’ of abuse. So not being overtly visible, as I am, should minimise it. And yet, I get my fair share of it. Interestingly enough, there seem to be trends in the insults. And since Malcolm Turnbull called for new migrants to become ‘Australian Patriots’, that word – patriot – is the new black. As in ‘fuck off, we only want Patriots here, bitch’ after I had the gall to criticise the state of the local public transport.


But the hand-on-heart fervour, the tear-in-the-eye devotion, it doesn’t seem to fit our she’ll-be-right mentality at all. As far as I can see, patriotism here is for bogans.


Now, I think this word needs a bit of investigation. I don’t know what Turnbull means by it. I guess something vague to do with nation and unity and whatnot; all concepts I could tear apart, but won’t, because I’ve done that a million times before. Here and elsewhere. And I am tired of it. So you must be exhausted by now. But patriotism is a new one, and actually sort-of curious. Because it seems so incredibly un-Australian to me. Sure, Americans are big on patriotism. They start the day by pledging allegiance to the flag ‘and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God’. But when I became an Australian, I had to swear to be loyal to ‘Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect and whose laws I will uphold and obey’. That has nothing to do with patriotism, but with citizenship and taking responsibility for my civic duties. I am absolutely fine with that and take that very seriously.

But the hand-on-heart fervour, the tear-in-the-eye devotion, it doesn’t seem to fit our she’ll-be-right mentality at all. As far as I can see, patriotism here is for bogans, who wear a flag on their bum on Australia Day and a tattoo of the Southern Cross when they go out looking for somebody to king-hit. In fact, I was recently reminded that the first play ever to be performed in this country took the mickey out of patriotism. The occasion was the opening of the first Playhouse in Sydney, the writer was George Barrington, famous pickpocket turned policeman, and the actors were convicts. We are talking 1796. This was the line: ‘True Patriots we, for be it understood/we left our country for our country’s good’. See, that is how I know and love Australia. Taking the piss, having a laugh, sending up not only the powers-that-be but also yourself. For that country, I don’t mind being a patriot. Oh, by the way, just in case you want to know what I did to defuse the bitch-caller: I called him ‘sir’, with a question-mark. Learnt that from an Australian friend who worked as a beach inspector when he was younger. He used this quasi-politeness to disarm drunken louts and other riff-raff. Always a great success.

See, that is my kind of Australia. Hail to the chief!

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