• "Political rhetoric from Donald Trump and Pauline Hanson has ignored our contribution" writes Elena Benmedjdoub. (AAP)Source: AAP
Comment: Islamic terrorism and diplomatic relations with Russia have become divisive points in all three US presidential debates. But is the racially and culturally charged rhetoric resonating on Australian soil? As a Russian woman married to a man born in Muslim-dominated Algeria, Elena Benmedjdoub doesn't think so.
Elena Benmedjdoub

8 Nov 2016 - 11:45 AM  UPDATED 9 Nov 2016 - 8:30 AM

I migrated to this sunburnt country in 1991. At the time, my native country – the USSR – was entering into unchartered waters of wild capitalism. This saw many nations within the USSR, which only recently lived under one “happy” roof of the communist country, suddenly turn on each other.

Meanwhile, Algeria – the homeland of my husband and the country we were living in – was witnessing a rise in Islamic extremism, and the birth of Al-Qaeda.

It became obvious too, that both countries were far from the safe havens we wanted our two small children to live in. So we decided to migrate to the safety of another country; we opted to move to French-speaking part of Canada, because we spoke French fluently.

On the way to the Canadian Embassy, something unexpected occurred; my husband and I got lost and drove to an unknown location that happened to be near the Australian Embassy’s residential area. We looked into each other’s eyes and said: “let's live in Australia, it is warmer there”.

To think: we had the gall of discussing residency with the ease of ordering a menu item!

After asking the first available policeman about the Australian Embassy’s location, we shot off, following his directions. Being highly technically educated people, we became Australian skilled migrants quickly and with relative ease.

On 22 September, 1991 – a bright sunny day during the ‘recession we had to have’– our family of four arrived in Sydney after a 35-hour flight from Paris.

Finding work was tough, even for people with local experience. Little knowledge about Australian culture or workplace expectations made it even tougher for us.

Regardless, we were full of optimism and commitment to build our lives here to a middle class standard of living.


I am pleased to say that we have succeeded in doing so and, as the proud skilled migrant parents of two skilled adults, we have also contributed immensely to the rich fabric of Australia.

But recent political rhetoric from Donald Trump and Pauline Hanson has ignored our contribution – and the contribution of all immigrants – to countries like Australia and the U.S.

Under Donald Trumps' reinforced Muslim ban, which proposes to halt immigration from countries linked to terrorism, we would not ever have qualified to enter ‘His America’.

And if those rules applied to Australia and Muslims were banned from entering this country, we would not have qualified to enter Our Australia.

Are liberal apologists correct in claiming hard work is not enough to rise in an Anglo-dominated society? Please give Australians more credit.

Surprisingly enough, my very first Australian job was a casual teaching position at a business college. I had a few years’ experience in university teaching, and my written English wasn’t too bad. However, I recall being afraid that my spoken English was not good enough for presenting in a classroom.

To overcome that problem, I memorised the teaching material as one would memorise a poem. By the time I had finished with this assignment, the improvement of my spoken English was amazing.

Step by step, I managed to move myself into IT jobs – the area of my trade and expertise. Then, almost every time I decided to move into a new role, I picked the best offer out of a few I had.

My husband landed a public sector job a couple of years after our arrival. Unfortunately, that meant that his PhD in physics needed to be parked. But we saw it as a fair exchange for the family future we were working very hard to build.

Time went by and our children grew up. They received a good education and established their careers; our son is working in IT, and our daughter is in media.

Everyone in our family travels the world at every opportunity that presents itself, whether it is a holiday or a business trip. Every time we come home to our beloved land Down Under, we realise how lucky we are to live here.

Despite what our own Trump, Pauline Hanson, would have you believe, I have always felt welcome in Our Australia. We feel safe and happy. And we feel it was serendipitous that we accidentally drove to the Australian Embassy residential area that day.

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