'Being Australian means embracing our heritage while looking out for others'

'Arriving 20-01/1993 in winter clothes from China, tired from long flight,' Jamie Pi wrote on Twitter about his Day One in Australia.

Census data show that one in four Australians were born overseas. We asked migrants to tell us their experiences of arriving Australians for the first time.

"Arrived on a warm sunny morning and was amazed to see the airport workers on the tarmac wearing shorts and long white socks. After eating fish and chips on the Opera House stairs took the ferry to Manly and ate a second lot of fish n chips there, warding off the gulls. By then I'd already fallen in love with Sydney and decided I wanted to stay." - Simon travelled from the UK via Asia in 1986. 

"The canteen ladies couldn't understand me when I asked for a coke (coca cola) because of my accent so I started asking for Fanta. I haven't drunk coke in 52 years as a result." - John, 59, arrived from Scotland in 1963.

"The canteen ladies couldn't understand me when I asked for a coke because of my accent, so I started asking for Fanta. I haven't drunk coke in 52 years."

"I have born two times the first time I did not chose my country because not my choice but the second time I have choice by myself, when I arrived in Australia I was like a newborn. I have started from zero but Australia gave me everything. I am appreciate Australian Government." - Yaser.


"One of the first thing that shocked me is that I was asked if we used the same alphabet as over here and if Christmas also existed in France. At first I thought it was a bit silly to ask but, then I thought that if that personne had never left Australia, and given that there's a lot of other people from other ethnic backgrounds, writing with different alphabets and having different faiths, it wasn't such a silly question and I was very happy to share my heritage with others. Australia in 2015, is a mosaic of cultures. That's what we should all embrace and be proud of." - Guillaume, arrived from France in October 2004.

"I am grateful for Australia's great healthcare, freedom, multiculturalism, weather, safety, friendly people and a sense of acceptance."

"I remember my first day in Australia. It was so quiet compared to the vibrant atmosphere of Taiwan. The neighbourhood I first lived in had a strong sense of community. We had some beautiful Italian neighbours that our whole family soon became great friends with. I am grateful that my son will receive a world class education here. I am also grateful for Australia's great healthcare, freedom, multiculturalism, weather, safety, friendly people and a sense of acceptance. Thank you Australia and Happy Australia Day to everyone!" – Zhu from Taiwan.


"I arrived at the Riverside Lodge in Perth but there was no room. There was a mining boom on and everything was full. The cab driver, sensing my predicament, put down the flag on his meter and asked 'where to?'

"'Anywhere cheap that will take me at 4am,' I said.

"Twenty minutes later, and after many attempts, a hotel near the railway let me in.  It was no Riverside Lodge but more than welcoming. The cab driver said ‘no charge mate, enjoy your stay,’ and drove off.  Needless to say, I didn’t sleep a wink that night. My hotel bill was three pounds." - Alastair, arrived in Perth in March 1967.


"On disembarking at Circular Quay, a porter asked me,' Lady, where's your ports?' I couldn't imagine why he was asking but replied, 'Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne and now Sydney.' He heaved a great sigh and said "Where are your bloody suitcases ?" Obviously, he was a Queenslander!" - Anne, arrived in Sydney from South Africa in 1968, at the age of 21, on the SS Himalaya.


"Over time, wherever I went in Australia, I realised there were many different skin colours and faces on the streets. More diverse faces on TV gradually. Many go about their day to day lives, confident, and contributing to this society we live in. I guess being Australian means embracing our heritage while looking out for others around us and giving them a fair go. Being Australian starts with us." - Mabel, born to Chinese-Malaysian parents.

"We took the train from Sydney airport to Wollongong around 8 pm and were not aware of Australia day. The train was full with people returning from celebrations and we were surprised to see people with Australian flag stickers on their faces and all celebrating. The train security officers had a chat with us and they kept an eye on us to make sure we arrived safely as some of the train passengers clearly had too much to drink. Looking back at this it was a funny day to start our life in Oz." - Margreet, arrived on Australia Day at 2012 from the Netherlands after eight years in New Zealand. 


"I remember having tears in my eyes when we drove over the Harbour Bridge and I could see the Opera House for the first time in my life. Sydney Harbour always been in my mind as every year in Brazil we watch a bit of the midnight fireworks for NYE. It always been a dream to me to be here. I'm now a citizen. So much to be thankful for this incredible land of opportunities." - Aline, arrived in Australia on October 14, 2005.


"My 30 years in Sydney has been a journey of 'acceptance', which I continue to strive for and continues to this day. While acceptance is achieveable to a certain degree, it is easier for some than others. In my case, the way I look doesn't help. I am physically large, dark and speak with a slight foreign accent. In my opinion Australia has a long way to go." - Marc, arrived in 1985 from Singapore at age 22.


"My first 24 hours in Australia, 19/20 September 1981 started with an old Sydney train ride which had no doors!! Having arrived from West Germany I felt like I stepped back 50 years in time. Then after a night in a cheap Dulwich Hill hostel, I went to Circular Quay to marvel at the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. The spring day was so gorgeous and the view so pretty, that I cried of a mixture of happiness and sadness: knowing that I was going to stay in this country." - Dr Fares Samara.


Were you born overseas? We’d like to hear about your first impression of Australia as a new migrant. Whatever your background, tell us your story in words, pictures or tweets. Contact us on or via Twitter @SBSNews using the hashtag #Day1SBS


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