Dropping the Hyphen

When I was around five or six my parents had some friends over from out of town. I was playing on the classic cityscape carpet when the husband turned and asked me “what are you Rowan?” Enthusiastically I replied “Hungarian!” My father, born in Australia to Hungarian parents, looked at me with strange disappointment and told me I was Australian.

I come from mixed Australian and Hungarian parentage. I was born and raised in this country and have spent just two and a half months of my life in Hungary. Yet, for much of my life I have identified more strongly with my Hungarian ancestry.

I have taken a strong interest in Hungarian history, language, and culture. I have kept up with the goings on in Hungary’s politics and foreign affairs. As a young man, seeing the dissolutions of Australian culture and nationhood around me, I thought seriously of emigrating there.

Growing up in the 2000s I was enculturated by the predominant multicultural ideology. As someone of a mixed background I was encouraged to shun my Australianness in favour of whatever was different. This message was communicated to me by all the culture forming institutions of the country: school, news and entertainment media, the sporting industry, artists, and of course government and academia.

My father had a much different experience. He lived in a state of ‘Hungarianness’ more fully than I ever could. He is completely ethnic Hungarian and grew up speaking that language. He has a greater connection to Hungary than I ever could. But while I was daydreaming about leaving this country as a young man, he at the same age was serving in its military. Dad was in the ADF for over 20 years and when he joined the nation of his parents was part of the enemy bloc.

The experience we had and the mentality we adopted were completely at odds with one another. His was one of gratitude for the freedoms and opportunities of this country, which his cousins did not enjoy. Mine was one of cultural cringe and trying to find some sort of solid identity at a time when Australianness was and is disdained.

The multicultural ideology weakens Australian Nationalism by encouraging people to embrace anything other than Australia. Many people who are likeminded to the mission and values of the ANA are, like I was, not suited to membership or to Australian Nationalism. Often, they are caught up in the Nationalist sympathy of their ancestral country. This problem is particularly evident in south-eastern European ethnic communities. As Australian men we should always take the opportunity to make the point clear to these people – that their future is in this soil they will one day be buried in.

Things changed drastically for me a few years ago. I met, married, and have started a family with a wonderful woman of wholly Australian stock. Moving her, or our children of one-fourth Hungarian ancestry to the country their great-grandparents left, is absurd. For the first time in my life, I am wholly committed to this country and our future here. There is no alternative and that is the way it should be. There is no more Hungarian-Australian, I am just an Australian.

I had known about and sympathised with the ANA for a few years, but stayed away as I could not fulfill its values. I joined to promote the cause of this country as someone now fully invested in in it, even if I am a bit late to the party. As an ANA member I have been supported to engage more and more in Australia’s culture and heritage. I am part of a movement to not only retain our culture, but to continue to build it.

I will always be proud of my Hungarian ancestry. Particularly the struggle endured by my grandparents and their determination to build a better life in Australia than was possible under communism. As the generations pass, my distinctly Hungarian surname will continue to serve as a reminder of my family’s origins. My grandparents’ relatives who stayed behind to resist, refused to have their culture and identity annihilated by a hostile regime and they succeeded. I and my ANA brethren intend to do the same.

Rowan Oar

ANA Canberra