For the past few months, a Facebook ad has repeatedly popped up in my feed, in Bengali. It is a picture of a boat on the ocean, and above it, a map of Australia with a red slash across it, saying ‘No way. Australia will never ever relax its border control laws.’
I came to Australia in 2005 on a student visa, and got married here in 2009. It was a terrible marriage, and after it ended, I was financially, emotionally, and legally crippled. However, the government of Australia and many Australian people, especially my mother in law, helped me survive and get back on my feet again, for which I am deeply grateful. This experience changed the course of my life, and as a result, I plan to go back to university and work towards policy making in the area of gender-based violence, so that I can give back to the Australian community.
I’m now a permanent resident in Australia, so to see that ad on Facebook, targeted at me in my language, really cut me where it hurts. I grew up speaking both English and Bengali. And although I think in English, Bengali is what connects me to my family, my food, my culture – and my grandparents, who were refugees from Bangladesh, and primarily spoke Bengali.
To me, the ad is implying, ‘People who speak this language are not welcome here.’
On the one hand, the Australian government has proven they will help me and that they are here for me, even though I wasn’t born here – so much so that I want to work for them. But on the other hand, I’ve got this message that nobody else can see unless they speak Bengali, saying, ‘No, you’re not meant to be here.’
I’m worried about what this is teaching people about Australia and immigration. If you’re teaching me to love this country, what are you teaching those who are targeted by the ads?
(If you would like to see this ad, it is posted in the comments below.)
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