The other day I cycled through Box Hill. Box Hill is today a hub of Chinese immigrants to Melbourne. It’s wall-to-wall Chinese restaurants with a myriad of other Asian cafes, kitchens, speciality food stores and the like. It’s great – a thriving expression of where Australia finds itself in today’s world – profoundly and irreversibly connected to Asia.
Except there was hardly anybody there. Pavements that are typically teeming with people were deserted. Vehicular traffic – which is often as chaotic and random as you’ll see in Shanghai – was sparse and well-behaved. Shops and eateries were closed or mainly empty. It wasn’t a far cry to imagine tumbleweeds being blown down the drafty streets and alleyways.
While avoiding entirely the complete lack of logic that has seen the Chinese community in Australia duplicate the locked-in lifestyle being demanded of their friends and families all over China, the people I really feel for are the business owners in Box Hill and the countless other Chinese centres in Australia, all of whom are really feeling the pinch right now.
In most cases, these people have relocated in a foreign country, brought their families with them and have invested here, bringing with them the diversity of culture and experience that stands Australia proud and unique. It’s a sad irony that it’s their own kind that is largely bringing them to their knees, but no matter how regretful it may be, this is a cultural issue largely beyond anyone’s control.
While I’m personally convinced that humankind will have settled into a new normal with this virus and its outcomes within the next year or so, I’m deeply worried about the damage being done to the Chinese presence and culture in Australia.
What can you do about this? Next time you’re thinking about heading off to a restaurant with your friends and you’re wondering where to go, why not consider either your local Chinese or a restaurant in your local Chinese hub. Sadly, while you might be the only ones present in the place that night, your presence there could be invaluable.
Let’s not forget it was China that saved Australia from the worst of the GFC. Now it’s our turn to help their people, especially those who have made their homes here. Please let’s support this wonderful and integral part of modern Australian life.