Many thousands of people call Australia home each year, but how do they cope with the conflicting feelings of leaving another home. We explore some big questions migrants face coming to Australia and how something bigger helped them in making Australia home.
Our guest: Natalie Swann has just finished a PhD in anthropology at the University of Melbourne, where she researched the interaction between the faith journeys and migration stories of migrant Christians in suburban Melbourne.
This conversation was recorded live in Melbourne in August 2019 in partnership with the Simeon Network.
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Bigger Questions asked in the conversation
So Natalie, you recently finished writing your PhD. How was that experience?
Today we’re asking Natalie Swann if Australia is the ideal home. So Natalie our smaller questions to you are about “songs about home and Australia”.
Research into faith migrants
Natalie, calling Australia home is a part of your research. Though the people you spoke to didn’t come from New York, Rio, London, or even Rio. In fact some did come from Baghdad. So what did you look at in your research?
So what did you do in your research?
What surprised you in your research?
Your research was conducted in the field of anthropology, yet would it be fair to say that in the past there has been an uneasy relationship between academic anthropology and religious faith? How was religion seen amongst academic anthropologists?
So how is it perceived now? And I suppose this is connected to your research as well?
Experiences of migrants
So what did you find in your research? What were the experiences of migrants? Are they glad to call Australia home?
What are they grieving over? Aren’t they in Australia, ‘the lucky country’, with a ticket to paradise?
But isn’t there a feeling that migrants should be grateful for being in Australia? In an editorial in the Herald Sun in 2016 Tom Elliot wrote, ‘recently arrived migrants and their children should feel grateful...for the second chance at a decent life that Australia provides’ So isn’t a “good” migrant a grateful migrant?
Do you think that we almost demand migrants be grateful at being in Australia?
So do migrants prefer to be here or in their home countries?
Does the Christian message assist in the loss and sorrow of the migrants?
Biblical reflections - citizenship in heaven giving a cosmopolitan view of the world
The Bible contains a number of images connected to the idea of ‘home’. 1 Peter describes the lives of believers in the world as ‘aliens and strangers’ - ‘foreigners and exiles’. So Natalie did those ideas resonate with Christian migrants to Australia who in some sense are foreigners and strangers in Australia?
This idea of something solid is found in the New Testament book of Philippians. The Apostle Paul writes to believers in Chapter 3 verse 20,
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ
Was this heavenly citizenship, a connection to something greater, an important factor for Christian migrants?
Given that these migrants have travelled in different cultures’ does this make migrants more cosmopolitan - and hence open to difference?
Though some have thought that this allegiance to the higher citizenship that Paul writes about here, and is a part of the Christian message - will in fact lead to a toxic cosmopolitanism, a more conservative dogmatic force that won’t allow for moral or cultural difference. Is this how we should understand the interplay of simultaneously being a citizen of heaven and earth that the Christian message affirms?
Anthropology helps us understand what makes us human - so how does your research help?
The Big Question
So Natalie, is Australia the ideal home?