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Iranians Down Under

“A Taste of Paradise: A Celebration of Iranian Cultural Heritage” 

You’ll forgive us for this very Euro-centric view of the globe, but in some ways the exoticisation of Australia has helped ease, at least in the mind of the UK public, the once objectionable nature of the country’s national policy, which it has only recently overturned (do you remember Men At Work’s chart success in the UK, for example?)

National Sorry Day, possibly the worst titled national day of all time, was marked by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd after his motion for Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples, who were originally not classed by white migrants as human beings. A national day was created apologising for past laws, policies, and practices by white migrants that devastated Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples—in particular members of the “Stolen Generations” children who were taken from their parents and schooled or put with white families for ‘re-appropriation’. In 2008 Rudd became the first Australian Prime Minister to publicly apologize to the Stolen Generations on behalf of the Australian federal government. So, ‘Down Under’ it is, rather than ‘once-occupied territories’ or some such classification.A taste of paradise

That aside, we’ll highlight two far less-read stories from Rudd’s Australian legacy. In 2008 when Rudd relaxed immigration laws, 6000 to 8000 migrating Iranians went over in boats. Although they failed to gain refugee status, Australia had little choice but to allow the Iranians to stay. It must have been a scene reminiscent of the arrival of the fleets of Parsi (Zoarastrian) ships in Gujurat, C8th-10th AD. Scandalously they were either in detention or in community accommodation, because the Islamic Republic of Iran won’t accept involuntary returns to the country.

There are an estimated 35,000 Iranians living in Australia currently are Bahai, Jewish, Zoarastrain, Christian or are Muslims. How then, do these disparate groups ‘practise’ ancient Persian customs or modern Iranian cultural traditions together, for events such as Persian New Year, or the harvest festival of Yalda? You’d thin, in the same way they would have done in Iran, had they been able to live side by side, just as multi-cultural Britain manages Christmas each year, an increasingly cultural rather than religious festival. The University of Sydney is providing an hub for cultural exchange with a program (left) delivered this October. Perhaps Australia’s intolerent history even helps to galvanise them into coming together.

In 2013 several refugees died on boats trying to get over there.

Some of Australia’s most notable Iranians: