During my childhood I swung off Hills Hoists, burnt myself repeatedly on slippery dips, and talked countless Americans into eating Vegemite. I was blessed, in other words, to have a fair-dinkum Australian childhood. Australia is my birthplace and I'm about as true-blue as a Bin Tang singlet drenched in VB, so I was unsure how to respond when a stranger told me to go back to where I came from while I was shopping at Sturt Mall last week. The man had a few choice words to say about my ancestry, none of which are publishable. My first reaction was that of surprise rather than anger, because up until that point I had never, ever experienced any kind of racism while living in Australia. Throughout my life I have always been warmly accepted into the fold as a dinky-di Aussie who can down a Weet-bix in seconds flat. Admittedly I had some apprehension moving to regional Australia, believing it would be filled with people who were hostile to those of Asian persuasion. But I quickly discovered that regional Aussies were some of the sweetest, kindest people I'd ever met, and it dawned on me that it was I who had stereotyped them. As it turns out, it was I who was the bigot all along. I now firmly believe that regional Aussies are some of the friendliest people you'll ever meet, but with all the fear of coronavirus in the air I've seen attitudes change. Other Asians I've spoken to have also copped racial abuse in recent times, and I've seen more racial hatred on social media in the last month than I have for the last 10 years. In Wagga we've had a certain councillor advocate severing ties with the people of Kunming because they live in China, and are therefore culpable for every sin of the Chinese government. But I would humbly suggest that we are morally responsible for the choices we make as individuals, not as a national collective. Nation-states are merely imaginary lines drawn on maps, but the actions we take and the values we hold are real and tangible. The Australian values of mateship and individuality have been abandoned by some people who have allowed fear of coronavirus to cloud their judgement. But I believe that kindness is more contagious than any virus, and I remain convinced that we will pull through this together as Aussies.