As an economy teacher at a Peruvian high school I enjoyed showing the statistics for various countries, to my students. They had been taught their entire life that the United States was the greatest country in the world. They had been pushed to believe that if they wanted a great future they had to learn English so they could travel north for the business opportunities.
Australia didn’t factor into their business worldview too much, but only as a novelty. It has kangaroos (they were horrified when they learned I have eaten them). Some Peruvians might have known about the good surf. Some of the younger people knew about the famous actors (most recently Chris Hemsworth), while the older generation knew about the Bee Gees, and INXS, and Men At Work. Many didn’t know the Paul Hogan cliches, or the phrase ‘G’Day Mate’.
Australia places third in the Human Development Index, behind Norway and Switzerland. Its GDP is $1.2 Trillion. On average each person makes *$45,790 a year. It is the sixth biggest country in the world. It has a population of around 24.6 million people. People can reasonably expect to live until they are 82 years old.
These economic statistics showed me that Australia punched above average in many aspects, and I’m not quite sure how this is the case. Many Peruvians work extremely hard, and the country is full of resources, especially when it comes to minerals.
And yet Peru is 89th on the Human Development Index. People still live in extreme poverty. Internet connection and access is limited to almost half the population. The skilled workforce is lower, even if more Peruvians are working in comparison to Australians. People are more likely to be murdered in Peru than they are in Australia. Its GDP is a sixth of Australia’s ($211.4 Billion) and each person on average makes *$12,890 a year. In landmass Peru is around seven times smaller than Australian, yet has a higher population of **32 million. The population of both countries tend to flock to the urban areas of the coast.
Australia is a great place to live not because of its culture and its food, or even its climate. And it isn’t great because of the friendliness of its people. All these things are also offered in other countries, whether it’s in Peru, or in India, or Singapore.
Australia is a great place to live because of the privilege each resident has. We have choices and options to do things, besides work in our family’s corner store or farm for the rest of our lives. We have opportunities.
I was born in a family without much money, and by the time I reached my late teens I had no retail experience. My family was dysfunctional, and among many things, suffered abuse from the men that had treated acceptance to the family as a right, and not as a privilege.
And yet here I am, able to have the luxury of a working-holiday in Peru with the freedom and resources to see more in it than most of the residents. I finished a university education. If my government hadn’t allowed me to borrow money from its treasury it would not have been possible. I was able to become a journalist. And while a journalist I was able to live in a town where the average worker (the miner) could earn as much as the local mayor.
I grew into privilege. I have been given opportunity. It’s all because of the country I was born in. This is why Australia is a great place, and I do not want to take it for granted. Peru teaches me that with political instability, or bad policies, or even with corruption, it could be taken away overnight.
That’s not to say that Peru is a bad country. I’m making it sound like it is. Its economy and stability improves all the time, as does its fights against corruption. And soon it may be a country that can compete against Australia, because quite frankly, it has a hard working mentality used to earning far less, and is geographically less isolated. It showed nothing but compassion for the Venezuelans that sought a better life from the instability of their own country, and has already elected a head-of-state from Indigenous origin. Although it has not elected a woman, its current leader of its most powerful political party in the Congress is a woman (although is under house arrest for corruption charges. As for the Indigenous head-of-state, he also was charged with corruption).
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to make fruit punch, pavlova, and beetroot on burgers for my international friends. Then I’m going to listen to Triple J’s Hottest 100 with my girlfriend.
If you’d like to learn more about Australia from an American’s perspective, there’s a pretty good video on Youtube that kind of covers it all.
*Currency values are not represented by the Australian dollar. They are represented by the PPP (Purchasing Power Parity), which basically assumes each currency is worth the same when comparing to other countries.
**I am uncertain that with the population count, we can include the numerous Venezuelans who have in recent years escaped their country to seek refugee status.