We beat the green and gold at rugby and netball (wasn’t that Commonwealth Games final great?), we breed champion race horses (So You Think, Phar Lap) and we make pretty good films (Boy, the Lord of the Rings trilogy) but aside from that, New Zealand and New Zealanders are near invisible here in Australia.
This is strange because New Zealanders are one of Australia’s biggest, fastest-growing migrant communities. About half a million New Zealanders (and their kids) live in Australia. Some of them, like journalism lecturer Rachel Buchanan, teach at La Trobe University. Others are students here.
Buchanan’s essay, ‘Ngati Skippy’, published in Griffith Review 29, was about this New Zealand diaspora in Australia, especially the many Maori who now live here.
Kiwis are fortunate to enjoy unrestricted entry to Australia under the reciprocal 1973 Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement and in 2007-08 34,491 New Zealand citizens came to Australia with plans to stay for 12 months or more. This figure might sound tiny to residents of a big city like Melbourne but it is the equivalent of one and a half times the population of Masterton, the town where Buchanan lived as a teenager.
As well as exploring the cultural and political reasons behind this surge in arrivals from across the ditch, in ‘Ngati Skippy’ Buchanan writes about her own feelings of being torn between being at home in New Zealand and Australia.
Next Tuesday (23 November) Buchanan will read her essay on Radio National’s Book Show in the First Person Segment (usually broadcast about 10.40am). Her essay is part of a week of short stories about being a migrant. The other featured writers are Tangea Tansley, Michele Grossman, Sarah Dowse and Raymond Evans.
If you listen until the end of Buchanan’s story, you will get to hear her having a go at singing the New Zealand national anthem in Maori. Buchanan is on sabbatical at the moment and so has enjoyed time to work on her voice, among other things.