Australia is a great place where one can meet people from all backgrounds, cultures and religions. They can enjoy food from diverse backgrounds-Indian, Chinese, Italian, Sri Lankan, Thai and many more, including, of course, Australian.
People can and do enjoy festivals from diverse backgrounds. I myself have participated in events and festivals from Chinese, Philippines, Pakistani, Arabic and of course Indian backgrounds. I enjoyed Chinese Opera and a performance by Shen Yun cultural group immensely. I remember the “Nagar Kirtan” by Sikh community with fondness and enjoyed walking with the crowd from Circular Quay to Martin Place in Sydney. I also remember with fondness my participation in various Hindu religious festivals in either various temples and even in Darling Harbour. These events were organised without any disturbance or incidents.
Increasing number of people from diverse backgrounds take part in national activities. Only yesterday [4th March, 2012], I took part in “Clean Up Australia Day” activities with my friends from Basava and Tamil backgrounds, led by Basava Samithi [an Indian group] and Australian Tamil Association [another Indian group] respectively.
People can see movies and functions from various cultural backgrounds in the national TV. SBS TV helps us share diverse cultures and celebrations in so many ways.
It is such a fun living in Australia. Australia is a success story of multiculturalism.
I am therefore a strong proponent of multiculturalism in Australia. It benefits not only people from diverse backgrounds, but also Australia as a nation.
Australia is truly a multicultural nation. One in four Australian was born overseas and 44% of 22 million [9.68 million] Australians were either born overseas or one of their parents was born overseas. We speak 260 languages and identify with 270 ancestries. This is an amazing statistics!
With well more than 100000 people coming to Australia through migration programme every year, this will continue to benefit Australia for a long time. With growing numbers of aging population, migration programme is crucial for Australian economy as it provides skilled people which Australia needs for its economy and service sector
Multiculturalism has been in the news lately, specially after the certain events were reported from France and Europe generally. German Chancellor, Angela Merkel’s statement that multiculturalism has failed in Germany has been widely reported.
Despite this, I believe that multiculturalism in Australia is unique and is the right policy. European examples are not applicable to Australia.
Its importance can be judged by this little example. Previously, Dept of Immigration used to be called Department of Immigration and Multicultural affairs [DIMA] which later became Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous affairs [DIMIA]. It was later changed to Department of Immigration and Citizenship [DIAC] a few years ago and “Multicultural Affairs” was dropped. While Chris Bowen is still the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, I am pretty happy to note that the word “Multicultural Affairs” has been restored in so as Kate Lundy has the portfolio of Minister for Multicultural Affairs.
What does Multiculturalism mean?
It basically means;
1. Recognition and respect for cultural diversity of Australian people, within the overall framework of general Australian values.
2. Non-discriminatory Immigration policy which encourages people with the right mix of skills to migrate and then acquire citizenship with the pledge of loyalty to Australia and its people, uphold its laws and democracy and respect for our rights and liberties.
3. Non-discriminatory opportunities for everyone to achieve the best for themselves irrespective of race, gender, religion or other criterion.
It must be understood that Australian values will always be superior if there is any clash between the cultural practices, values and ideas and Australian values. Australian values of democracy, justice, equality, rule of law and tolerance will always remain supreme.
English will always be the national language with encouragement to learn it. Other languages including the languages which people identify as a part of their heritage will be encouraged but they will not be a substitute for English.
It is generally accepted that a full sense of belonging to any society or nation is achieved only if people are encouraged to participate, without any hindrance or discrimination. People who are encouraged to migrate can’t be treated as “guest workers”, with obstacle in their ways to prevent them from availing opportunities and participating meaningfully.
Despite some commentary in the media that some migrants want to change Australia, instead of adapting to the Australian values, I believe that it is generally an exaggerated account and and not true. An overwhelming majority of people, if not all, who come to Australia come here only because Australia is a better nation with better opportunities, and not to change Australia to suit their values or ideas.
Multiculturalism encourages participation which in turn promotes a sense of belonging. That, in turn, promotes a better citizenship, better society and of course, a better Nation, where “Take and Give” is accepted as a better and a noble notion, instead of “Take and Take”.
Everyone needs to contribute to the nation building to make Australia a better nation than it already is. That of course is only possible if their culture and heritage is valued, within the overall frame of Australian values, if opportunities are available without any discrimination, and if people are encouraged to achieve their best without any hindrance in doing so. Only then they will be able to contribute to the nation meaningfully.
Recognizing this, Australian Govt has constituted Australian Multicultural Council [AMC] with the mandate to advise the Govt for these matters, which, indeed, is a good step at the federal level.
At the state levels too, multiple steps have been taken to implement the policies in regards to multiculturalism. In NSW, Minister Victor Dominello [Minister for Citizenship, Communities and Aboriginal Affairs] and Community Relations Commission [Chairman and CEO, Stepan Kerkyasharian] have the overall responsibilities for policies in these matters. By constituting Ministerial Consultative Committees [MCC] for various multicultural communities to advise NSW Govt, Premier Barry O’Farrell and Minister Victor Dominello have done a commendable job in this direction.
There is a role for everyone, not just political leaders and People of Australia Ambassadors [appointed by federal Govt under AMC], to make Australia a better place than it already is. Community leaders and religious leaders have a big role in helping new migrants settle-in in the new society and integrate well within the broader Australian value system.
We all are stake holders in promoting the narrative of not only “successful Australia” but also “successful multicultural Australia”!
Yadu Singh/Sydney/5th March, 2012