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Useful And Fantastic: Immigrant Children

Val Yule suggests the stories made up and told by immigrant children can help us to understand their thought, feelings and attitudes.

When an Australian child speaks accented or little English, or reports being born overseas or that a foreign language is spoken at home, that is a working definition of 'migrant'. Australia today is 'multicultural' with a large proportion of first and second generation immigrants from almost every country of the world. And all over the world, more and more people are on the move, settling anywhere except their native land. What is it like to be a migrant child in Australia?

Migrants' feelings can be sensed in the stories they tell. About half of their stories in my collection reflect the same world around them that they now shared with Australian children, but the others told stories that showed features and themes that were relatively rare in stories by their Australian classmates.

Older teen-aged boys might draw peasant scenes of the home country they can still remember, and express their ambitions in terms of a peasant farmer's success. Greek boys, particularly, often showed the highly masculine achievement motivation which is characteristic of some Southern European ethnic groups. Space and sailing stories are popular with all boys, but migrant children were significantly more likely to tell stories of treks and wrecks. There are also stories of settlement and culture-conflict. The boys typically externalised their feelings of 'being different' in stories of space-travel and rockets, and the colonisation of new and possibly dangerous new worlds. The girls were more family-centred.

Here are two stories by immigrant children, told verbally, which have edited.

** Told by a 16-year-old boy from Italy who now lives in an industrial suburb.

'Well, thereís a little, whatís it, farm or little village, and this man tried to make some money for his own family. wheat or fruit, put some potatoes in there, and got some sheeps in it.

Got the water that come in front his place, his house, from the mountain, got some snow.

(How did the story end?) Maybe he get rich some time.

Sometime he come rich and can go and live in another good place,
Big city or big good house, car, and can be an important man sometime. Síall right.'

** A nine year old boy Jugoslav boy whose family is not settling well. Agt the time of telling this he was in trouble at home and school.

'Itís a rocket
and itís just about blasting off to the moon,
cos theyíre going to the moon
for the reason that thereís some kind of creature,
and theyíre going to catch it
and put it in a space rocket
and make a stature of it
and put it in the museum
so that other people can come along and see the creature.
And the real creature they caught
theyíll kill it and throw it away,
and take the skeleton and put it in the museum too.
Itís a monster,
and has toes, and has gits - got those sort of wires -
and got sharp ears and sharp eyes and fingernails and legs
and itís skinny and got dots all over it and got a horrible tail,
and it hasnít got a house to live in,
so they make a sort of little cave
and thatís where they sleep.'

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