Australian | Indonesian

Photo credit: Alexandra Phillips ( http://www.alexandraphillipsphotography.com/ )

Photo credit: Alexandra Phillips (http://www.alexandraphillipsphotography.com/)

I identify as half Indonesian and half Australian, mixed-race and straight. Although I'm 99.9% convinced that there is some Dutch blood in the mix as my Grandmother and I look very much alike. Nobody truly knew my Great Grandmothers marital history as it was somewhat of a taboo subject, so no one dared to ask. I was born Muslim. My Dad was Protestant Christian and converted to Islam in order to marry my Mum.

My Mum was born in Bandung (West Java) and brought up in Bogor (West Java). My Dad was born in Camden (New South Wales) and brought up in Brisbane (Queensland) They met in 1978 when my Father went to Indonesia for work. He was actually my Mum's next door neighbour and the rest is history as they say! My parents managed their different cultures with a lot of challenges along the way. There were a lot of misunderstandings in my household. Despite being a witness to this I could sympathise with both "East & West" disagreements and never took sides. My parents are still together after 40 plus years!

I think being in interracial relationships today versus my parents generation has changed. First of all the idea of being in an interracial relationship is no longer a taboo or viewed negatively anymore, of course this depends on what exposure your family and peers have to multiculturalism. At the beginning, my parents faced disapproval from my Mum's side and therefore very discreet with their relationship at the beginning. As well as courting struggles my Dad also faced the challenges of learning Indonesian language, traditions and common courtesy. In the end my Mum's family learned to embrace him, they love him now! So my Dad’s persistence paid off!

The general challenges I witness being mixed Indonesian, and what I experience personally are to do with religion and how religious you and/ or your family are. To have a child who marries within the same religion is most desirable for Muslim parents. Honestly speaking, this issue does affect me as well. For the most part I was brought up and still am moderate, but as the years go by my Mum practices the religion a little more diligently. There are constant family and social pressures, so ultimately it boils down to how much you want to please your family elders and adhere to the confines of society.

Like anything, being mixed-race has its pros and cons. When I was younger it took me a very long time to accept myself physically. I always longed to have blonde hair, blue eyes and have a normal western name (that didn't sound weird) just like everybody else. I remember used to cringe so hard when the teacher at the beginning of the school year would try and pronounce my full name during roll call. It usually followed with the entire class laughing at me. In Australia I spent some time in a small regional town. At school I faced racism every day especially during my 6th year of elementary school. Mainly boys would bully me and call me derogatory names, they would squint their eyes at me and call me "ching chong" and all the rest. The kids were cruel! Generally speaking, growing up I always felt different. In Australia, I never properly fit in to a Australian (White) group, In Indonesia I never properly fit in an Indonesian group. I had my best friends that accepted my uniqueness. To be honest I still feel this way!

Fast forward to now, I love being different, people are always curious about your ambiguous, unique look. The ambiguity does come with the eternally annoying question, "Where are you from?" "But where are you REALLY from?". I wish I had a placard around my neck or a business card with my background on it so I don't need to constantly answer the same old question! Most times I don't let if effect me as it its people simply being inquisitive. Besides, you can easily identify if someone is being racist towards you vs someone being genuinely interested in your heritage. I have not faced racism since childhood, which is a good thing! I attribute that to living in big cities and multicultural areas.

Within my childhood and teen years I was lucky enough to be brought up in both countries. Through this upbringing I was bilingual, I was aware of both cultures, I ate a variety of food, I listened to music, watched TV shows and films that were Indonesian and International. I learned about different cultures because I was immersed in it!

Despite its ups and down, I feel so privileged to have been brought up this way! It’s molded me as a person, I'm so open minded, I embrace and love change, travelling is in my blood and I am ALWAYS gravitate towards different people who are cultured. Different is good! In conclusion, my outlook on my mixed ethnicity has changed since childhood as they were my formative years. I felt shame, I wanted to be fully Caucasian and like everybody else. Now I am proud of Indonesian heritage, I love the culture, history, food, traditional dress, stories and folklore! I view my mixed ethnicity as a positive and unique thing now! I don't think my outlook will likely change, as I get older I am as comfortable as I can be in my own skin.

If I was born again I don't think I would come back as anyone but myself. I try to not think about 'what ifs' and hypothetical situations. It's hard to not compare yourself to others, but the reality is you can't change who you are, so try and happy with your unique self. Mixed kids - we are amazing!