Do you think multiculturalism is a success in Australia? Is it an ideal we should be pursuing? Is cultural diversity the casualty to being accepted within society?
Simply – Yes, Yes, No.
Julia Gillard during her term as prime minister is recalled as remarking that, multiculturalism was not just the ability to maintain diverse backgrounds and cultures but that:
It is the meeting place of rights and responsibilities where the right to maintain one’s customs, language and religion is balanced by an equal responsibility to learn English, find work, respect our culture and heritage, and accept women as full equals. … Where there is non-negotiable respect for our foundational values of democracy and the rule of law, and any differences we hold are expressed peacefully. …Where old hatreds are left behind, and we find shared identity on the common ground of mateship and the Aussie spirit of a fair go.
[The face of] True multiculturalism [can be seen as] a new migrant studying hard in an English language class, working two jobs to put their kids through school or lining up to vote for the very first time. True multiculturalism includes, not divides, it adds more than it takes. In the end, multiculturalism amounts to a civic virtue since it provides us with a way to share the public space, a common ground of inclusion and belonging for all who are willing to toil with hearts and hands … And because it always summons us toward a better future, multiculturalism is an expression of progressive patriotism in which all Australians, old and new, can find meaning. (Gillard, 2012; also Cited Ozdowski 2012)
Despite the relatively short history of Australia being steeped in racism, ethnocentrism and religious intolerance, Australia, as new eras of globalization have emerged over the last 25 years, has observed the increasing development of a globalizing cosmopolitan culture, which in drawing on numerous influences has become increasingly multicultural. Immigration policies in Australia have changed over time, and there remains little doubt that these will continue to change. What is equally important to recognize though is that the outlook of the Australian people and a broader consideration of Australia’s place has similarly changed in the years following federation. Australia has become a modern, self-conscious, cosmopolitan and independent political and economic power in the Asia Pacific which embraces the diversity which surrounds her. It is equally possible to argue that Australia always has to some extent been a nation of multi-cultures but that only recently has become a multicultural nation.
In 2011, The Australian Multicultural Council was officially launched by the Prime Minister on the 22nd August at Parliament House, Canberra and the most current version of Australia’s Multicultural Policy could be found at in ‘The People of Australia – Australia’s Multicultural Policy’.
Australia’s modern multicultural policy, is purported to exist as a non-discriminatory global immigration intake based on skills. Existent policies, for the most part, has excelled at the provision of “special” assistance to migrants from non-English speaking backgrounds and facilitating their general integration into mainstream life. I say for the most part here because there is always a segment of the population who are unwilling to integrate with society for fear of losing ties to their own cultural heritage. This being said we can also argue that the modern policy has also helped to enrich and diversify the Australian mainstream, making Australia less of a British colonial clone. Australia’s approach to multicultural policy embraces our shared values and cultural traditions and recognizes that Australia’s multicultural character gives us a competitive edge in an increasingly globalized world (Department of Social Services 2014). It is the response to continued changing, national policies on immigration and the support for immigrant groups, combined with a deeper commitment toward pluralism and cosmopolitanism. Until recently.
Ozdowski (2012) specifically noted that it is only possible in “societies where citizens are free and equal in opportunities can have a common sense of belonging … [to] remain cohesive and engaged in nation building projects”. There is no disputing that during Australia’s short history this has consistently remained the case. In an effort of furthering what has already been commenced though it becomes important to acknowledge that human rights education is a key mechanism assisting with the advancement of equality and liberty within the limits of modern liberal democracy, one which Australia, in order to further develop, needs to incorporate into its educational systems.
Deakin University Newsroom, 2011 (October). Multiculturalism in Australia is a successful story says United Nation’s High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations. From http://www.deakin.edu.au/news/2011/10102011UNIHigh.php
Department of Social Services, 2014, The People of Australia – Australia’s Multicultural Policy. From http://www.dss.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/12_2013/people-of-australia-multicultural-policy-booklet.pdf
Gillard 2012 (19 September) AMC Lecture – Address by the Hon Julia Gillard MP, then Prime Minister of Australia: Introductory Remarks by then Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon Julia Gillard MP, Australian Multicultural Council. From http://www.amc.gov.au/speech/amc-lecture-2/; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRpjGiz5XkE
Ozdowski, S. 2012. Australian Multiculturalism: the roots of its success, Third International Conference on Human Rights Education: Promoting Change in Times of Transition and Crisis. The Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, 6-10 December 2012.