The front security door clicks open. I walk to the counter and the constable lifts his head.
“I’m here to report a lost item,” I say.
“A box with my identity on it has disappeared.”
The constable looks at me. He tells me to spell my name and then to sit down.
He calls in a detective who specialises in lost resources.
Sen-Det Census comes out from the side door.
“This is most unusual,” Sen-Det Census says.
“When did you last see this box? What does it look like?”
I tell him I last saw the box five years ago, in August 2016.
The box was black around the sides, but blank in the middle: The inscription next to it was the word “Greek”. I tell him a person who would tick this box has an ancestry rich in history, dating back thousands of years. I tell him a Greek comes from Greece, the cradle of western civilisation and the birthplace of democracy and modern medicine. I tell him Greece is where I was born, my parents were born and their parents before them.
READ MORE: “Come to your Census”, say Effie Coustas and Fr Gerasimos, and invite Greek Australians to stand up and be counted
“This is not good at all,” Sen-Det Census says.
“How did you lose such a precious thing?”
I tell him question 22 lost the box.
I tell him, in my own words, everything I remember about what happened on the night, of Tuesday 10 August, around 8pm.
I tell him I was sitting down to fill in the Australian Bureau of Statistics(ABS) 2021 Census form, when I discovered a multiple choice box for the question, “What is the person’s ancestry?” missing.
“All I remember seeing were boxes for people of Italian, German, Indian and Chinese ancestry, but not mine,” I say.
“Then I passed out.”
Sen-Det Census consoles me. He says if I remember anything else, no matter how small, in the coming days or weeks, to write it down and contact him.
I sign the police statement and he gives me helpline numbers to call.
The counsellor tells me she gets these sorts of calls every four years, in August.
READ MORE: Here’s what to do if you want Greek to continue being a separately listed option on Census forms
She says some ring to grieve that they never had a box to tick. She says some people, like me, ring to grieve that their box is now gone and they have to take comfort in the company of “Others”.
She says the land of “Other” is a good place and I will be happy there.
She says it is bustling with multiculturalism and filled with hundreds of races who are “boxless”. The numbers with this ancestry grows every five years, she says.
She praises the people from the land of “Other” as self-sufficient for they don’t need interpreters, government media and information services, language schools and ethno-specific aged care.
She says I should see this year’s census as a great opportunity to tick the “Other” box and write the word “Greek” next to it. She says I should “grow from grief”.
But, I grow depressed instead. I decide to find my own answers.
READ MORE: Greeks ditched from the Census: The Greek omission
I book a flight and wait for 80 per cent of Australians aged more than 16 years old to be fully vaccinated. Then I drive to Melbourne International Airport, check-in and proceed to gate 22. I board the plane headed for the country of my ancestors, now also known as “Other”.