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What does it mean to belong in Australia?

Young Kumi smiles in black and white photo
Kumi had a semi-rural upbringing in Australia, enriched with the culture of her father's homeland, Japan.

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Picture a farmhouse on a semi-rural property, surrounded by gum trees.

There are horses, chooks, ducks and a brown snake or two in the summer.

Gumboots sit by the back door, which you have to check for spiders before you put them on. In winter, a pot belly roars in the kitchen.

In that kitchen, an Australian mother cooks up a Japanese feast: gyoza and karaage, piles of steamed rice and bowls of pickled ginger.

The food is served on flat, rectangular plates and there is not a knife or fork in sight.

On some nights, dinner is eaten around a low table in the sitting room, kneeling down on big square cushions, or zabuton. There are fabric noren hanging in the doorways.

That's a snapshot of my childhood, as mixed as my blood.

I am Australian. That is what my passport tells me and Australia is where I was born and raised and studied and where I pay my taxes.

My father was Japanese but I do not hold dual citizenship. I could put my hand up for a spot in Parliament and have no worries about Section 44.

Kumi Taguchi eat Japanese food
Kumi Taguchi's says Japan is her other home.

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But does that mean I hold no loyalty to anywhere else?

In my case, no way.

Part of my heart will always lie in Japan because it is my other home.

I spent my holidays there as a child, sitting in my grandparent's apartment, my legs underneath their kotatsu.

I ate senbei and drank green tea. I adored travelling on the shinkansen. I still love looking up at the vast map of Tokyo's subway and buying the right ticket.

Some days, I really miss Japan and it's not just an idle thought. It's a deep ache for a place I feel like I belong.

And given the ethnic make-up of Australia, I suspect I am not alone in loving more than one country.

According to the last census, barely half of our population was born in Australia to Australian-born parents.

There are as many first- or second-generation migrants as people who are at least third-generation Australians.

Fifty years ago, the overseas-born population was 18 per cent. Now, it's 28 per cent, and that figure will continue to grow.

Right now, the eligibility of at least five federal politicians to sit in Parliament is uncertain, including that of our Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.

Whether they will continue to belong lies in the hands of the High Court.

Kumi's Japanese father hold a cigarette in a photo portrait
Kumi Taguchi's dad worked for the ABC's Radio Australia, broadcasting in Japanese to audiences across Asia.

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At the same time, the Government is considering changes to citizenship laws, including tougher English language requirements and a revised test on Australian values.

Who gets to belong to this country — or who doesn't — is up for review. Compass explored this in a recent episode, Team Australia.

I have wondered how my Dad would fare.

Dad was 41 when he arrived in Melbourne, a year after the final dismantling of the White Australia Policy.

A funny, short and healthy man (apart from the smoking), he worked for the ABC's Radio Australia, broadcasting in Japanese to audiences across Asia.

He loved his job and would give us Radio Australia stickers and T-shirts.

He made friends and played golf. He went to the local markets and cooked sausages in his retirement village.

He was so incredibly Japanese but then, at the same time, too Australian to fit back into Japanese society.

He saw Australia as a place he could be free. His English was pretty good but people struggled to understand him.

It was the same story for Josipa Pusswold.

She arrived in Australia from Croatia as a child and knew only three English words.

Her family was part of the Snowy Scheme where more than 100,000 migrant workers came to from more than 30 countries.

She's raised her kids and grandkids here. She says she loves both homes.

"Because in Croatia I was born and in Australia I live, and this will be my resting place one day as well," Ms Pusswold said.

In his will, my father insisted his ashes be spread on Australian soil and never returned to Japan.

Is that what it means to belong? Where we finally rest? I suspect it is more complex than that and there are infinite shades of grey in each of our unique stories.

There is one thing in common though: the courage it takes to start over. There is power in that, and there is a power in being able to say, "I belong".

Kumi Taguchi looks at the waves of migration into Australia and changing attitudes towards our newest citizens in part one of Compass' Power to the People this Saturday, September 9 at 6:00pm on ABC TV.