Issue One: Coping
My experience of being an Australian-born Chinese (ABC) could be characterised as one of ‘coping’.
Many ABC children who are still learning the nuances of the English language whilst simultaneously navigating the different languages spoken at home are tasked with duties that test the limits of their language-ability and maturity. For me, this included translating documents for my parents, as well as mediating and acting as language brokers for a variety of situations - from answering door knockers to parent-teacher interviews. To cope, many ABC children often find themselves in a position being forced to mature both emotionally and mentally at a faster pace due to this burden.
As a child and teenager, my primary and high school experience was a complex period of time where I navigated a clash of cultures and more broadly a strong identity crisis - being rejected as an Australian by Australians and Chinese by foreign Chinese. To cope, many ABC teenagers often find themselves in a position of internalising cultural rejection in order to fit in.
As a young adult, my university experience was about learning what it meant to be an ABC and our place in contemporary Australian society. For many it is about navigating the institutional discrimination they face on a daily basis including in the workplace or with job prospects, as well as navigating an ABC identity as oneself and within a community of ABCs. To cope, many young adult ABCs often find themselves in a position of unlearning the internalised cultural rejection they faced in the past.
Now, many ABCs are embracing a relatively new community of ABCs who have carved out their own unique, multi-faceted, and nuanced identity together; no longer underestimating the opportunities that are and will always be available to ‘home grown’ Australian students and young adults with expertise in Chinese language and sociological knowledge of its people and their unique cultures.