IT’S A DISCOMFORT she’s felt often, ever since moving from Mauritius to Sydney in 1967, at the tender age of twelve. She was plunged into a high school that looked like Puberty Blues — the school assemblies were a sea of golden blonde heads and sun-tanned white skin.
Mum was branded with the nickname ‘Hedge’ for her thick dark wavy hair that fell to her waist, until she scorched it into straight submission with a clothes iron.
My Mauritian family entered Australia when the White Australia Policy was still in action — a set of laws that aimed to prevent non-white immigration to Australia up until 1973. Only fifty years ago.
The first time they submitted passport photos, their application to move to Australia was rejected based on this policy. A friend told them they should retake the photos, powdering their faces first to whiten them. It worked.
My grandparents feared the family would be split by their kids leaving Mauritius for better opportunities and so were determined to keep everyone together by moving to Australia. It was a brave risk, leaving everything they knew behind and boarding the colossal ship that would carry them across the world, from their tiny, familiar island to a much larger, unknown one.
They were unsure of which city they would choose to call home, disembarking at each stop. Perth had too many flies, Melbourne was too cold. Sydney, the final stop, was just right.