Australians should be extremely proud of singing sensation Dami Im. The former X-Factor winner has represented her country with grace and style in front of television audience of millions. By the way, I’m not talking about her recent performance at Eurovision 2016. I’m referring to her 2014 performance at the ABU Television Song Contest in Macau.
The ABU TV Song Festival is based loosely on the Eurovision format and has been running since 2012. While Australia participated in the first three competitions, represented by Havana Brown, Justice Crew, and Dami Im, respectively, there was little media interest and in 2015 we withdrew from the competition altogether.
Why are we so desperate for plaudits from random European voters but so dismissive of the opinions of our nearest and most significant regional neighbours?
The contrast between the collective yawn for Dami Im’s performance in Asia and the media hysteria over her performance in Europe raises some uneasy questions for a former British dominion. Australia is a proud multicultural nation in the Asia-Pacific but the remnants of European imperialism are ubiquitous.
Australia’s colonial mentality is revealed every time we look at our currency and remember we are still constitutionally ruled by a European monarch. Our roads, hospitals, and great buildings are still regularly named in honour of European royals. That Tony Abbott actually brought back British knighthoods to Australia speaks volumes of our stunted path to national adulthood. Mercifully, this embarrassment lasted only as long as Abbott prime ministership, but the idea that we need to be validated by Europe remains a subtle and tenacious impediment to a healthy sense of nationhood.
Yes, Eurovision is a lot of fun and fans around the world, including in Australia, should tune in and enjoy the spectacle if they choose. But Graham Norton is right to say Australia’s inclusion is “stupid”. Not only is it stupid for us to be there, I add this question; why do we even want to be there?
We are not European! There is no small irony that our two Eurovision contestants, Guy Sebastian and Dami Im have Malaysian and Korean backgrounds respectively. This is what modern Australia looks like. We should be proud of who we are: a thriving multicultural nation in Asia.
Just as our professional footballers compete in the Asian Champions League (the Socceroos are the current Champions of Asia) our national attention should be on engagement with Asia, our home.
It is a wonderful development that SBS is looking to create a new song competition based in the Asia-Pacific region. But we should collectively cross out fingers that they do not run with the awful proposed title, “Eurovision Asia”. If the creative well is completely dry, it should just be called “Asiavision” rather than patronises the entire region as some sort of Europe junior.
Especially in an election year, whether or not Australia keeps competing in Eurovision may seem quite trivial and in one sense it is. That said, cultural history is a mirror to the national soul and the disparity between our enthusiasm for Eurovision and the ABU TV Song Festival is worth exploring. For colourful dancing and songs in non-English languages, what could beat a competition where Australia goes up against Bollywood and K-Pop?
For some of us, Europe represents our past, but for all of us, Asia is our future.