Australia Day Ambassador: Jan 26 'about celebrating our nation's diversity'

SBS Finance Editor Ricardo Goncalves. Source: SBS

Australia Day Ambassador and SBS Finance Editor Ricardo Goncalves reflects on his Portuguese roots and the nature of multicultural Australia in his Parramatta address.

Australia Day for me is all about celebrating our nation's diversity.

For the last three years, I have been an Australia Day Ambassador, welcoming new Australian citizens at events like this.

Seeing how proud these new Aussies are to accept their certificate of citizenship is a reminder of just how lucky we are to live in Australia, and a reminder that this is one of the few places in the world, where you can celebrate your cultural heritage.

Just because you become Australian or are Australian, it doesn’t mean you have to forget about your cultural roots, in fact, you’re encouraged to celebrate them.

My family migrated from the Portuguese island of Madeira in the very late 1970s.

It’s a far place to travel from. If you were to drill a hole underneath Sydney, through the centre of the earth, you’d come out on the other side of the world between Madeira and another set of Portuguese islands called The Azores.

They settled on the New South Wales South Coast in the city of Wollongong, which is very similar to Ryde, in that they are both very multicultural communities.

Just imagine, if they, or any of the newly arrived Portuguese weren’t allowed to practise their culture, Australia would be poorer because we wouldn’t be able to enjoy Folkloric Portuguese Dancing, which I did as a kid, and devour Portuguese custard tarts, which mum taught me to make.

Soon after Mum and Dad settled, I was born, and soon after my brother. Like many other migrants, they worked long hours, often shift work, and often two jobs, to make sure my brother and I were given opportunities they could only dream of when they were children.

Despite being born here, Portuguese was my first language, because my parents were only starting to learn English.

So by the time I started school, most of the English that I had learned, was from television.

It was then, the teachers at my Primary school started calling me Richard instead of Ricardo.

I don’t really know why, and my parents didn’t question it.

So I became Richard Goncalves, (Pronounced Gon-Calves) for more than 20 years.

In high school, I knew that journalism, particularly television journalism was my passion.

While I never used my ethnicity as an excuse, I think part of me was conscious that opportunities may be limited because of my look.

Back in the 1990s, television news journalists and presenters were mostly white and Anglo-Saxon.

So maybe subconsciously I thought, being Richard, instead of Ricardo might help me get ahead in a cut throat industry.

When I left university, I had a number of jobs at organisations like Win News, Seven News, Nine News, and Sky News, always as Richard.

When I applied for a job at SBS, I was asked by management if Richard or Ricardo was my real name.

I got the job, and given I was going to work for an organisation which is all about diversity and inclusion, I decided to revert to my name, Ricardo, and the correct pronunciation of my surname, Goncalves.

I didn’t have to change my name to get the job, but I felt, that if I’m going to be a champion of diversity, then I would have to walk the talk.

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Still, looking back, I don’t feel my name, nor look had a part in my successes.

I became successful because of my hard work, passion and dedication to telling good news stories.

The reality is however, people are sometimes threatened by what is perceived as a little different, but if they see more of these differences, more often, it becomes part of everyday life.

So that unusual name of yours. Keep saying it. Say it often.

That unusual dress of yours. Keep wearing it. Wear it often.

Celebrate Australia Day the way you see fit.

If you’d rather play soccer instead of cricket, that’s ok.

If you’d rather pasta, instead of a BBQ, that’s ok.

If you’d rather go to a house of worship instead of the pub, that’s ok.

Australia gives you a home to practise who you are.

Like the citizenship pledge says, being Australian is about respecting the rights and liberties of all Australians today.

So I encourage you to celebrate your differences, show all of us what makes you unique, because ultimately it’s not where you come from that makes you Australian.

What makes you Australian, is who you are on the inside, and the way you uphold the democratic beliefs of all Australians.

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