If you change your backyard, you can change the world

Harriet Coates' winning the 2019 Multicultural Perspectives Years 3 and 4 speech shows how your actions at a family BBQ can impact around the world.

06 August 2020
Harriet Coates (front) at school with her friends
Image: Harriet Coates (front) at school with her friends.

It’s a beautiful summer’s day. The whole family is in your backyard. Dad’s cooked a mouth-watering BBQ and Uncle Bruce has set up backyard cricket. Everyone is laughing and joking around. Uncle Bruce always makes everyone crack up. Everyone loves Uncle Bruce.

But then something happens. From behind the wicket, Uncle Bruce makes a racist joke. You’re shocked and feel a bit yucky in the tummy.

This is your ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ moment. That bit in the story where there are two paths ahead of you. So what do you do? If you choose path number one, you could laugh along with everyone else and the game would keep going and everyone will be happy. Or you could choose path number two. Tell Uncle Bruce, in front of Nanna and Pop and Mum and Dad and all your cousins that his joke is racist, and you’d prefer he didn’t talk like that. But that would make everyone uncomfortable and hurt Uncle Bruce’s feelings.

So you choose the easiest path number one. You don’t say anything. Turn to chapter 3.

The next day, your cousin Sam is playing handball. He remembers the joke and tells it to his friends and everyone laughs. Turn to chapter 4.

One of Sam’s friends goes to soccer training that night and he tells the joke and even though the coach thinks it’s a bit out of line, they all have a chuckle. Turn to chapter 5.

Someone from soccer tells someone at the supermarket. The supermarket lady tells the petrol station attendant, the petrol station attendant tells the shift worker … and it spreads. Chapter after chapter. This joke spreads further and further until it’s far, far away from the story that began in your backyard.

But what if you chose option two? What if you did say something to Uncle Bruce? You take a deep breath and say, “Uncle Bruce, that’s a racist joke. We don’t say stuff like that in our backyard”. And then what happens?

Uncle Bruce might feel stupid. Nanna might spit out her tea. Pop might tell you to be respectful to your elders. But we don’t really know how they will react because we can’t make those choices for them. What we do know is that in your story the joke doesn’t spread. It stops in your backyard.

If you can choose your own adventure, you can change your backyard. And if you can change your backyard, you can change the world.

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