On 20 March 2017 the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Senator the Hon Zed Seselja released the Australian Government’s new multicultural statement Multicultural Australia: United, Strong, Successful. The statement reaffirms the Government’s commitment to a culturally diverse and harmonious society.
Australia’s previous multicultural policy, The People of Australia – Australia’s Multicultural Policy, was launched in 2011 by the Gillard Government. It reaffirmed the importance of Australians’ shared values and cultural traditions and recognised that Australia’s multicultural character gives the country a comprehensive edge in an increased globalised world.
The new statement outlines the strategic direction and priorities for multicultural policy in Australia. It sets out the Australian Government’s vision for embracing diversity while emphasising the country’s “unique national identity and the importance of being an integrated and united people.”
The statement acknowledges that “the mix of different cultures makes Australia more interesting and stronger.” Sharing a country’s cultural heritage “is part of celebrating what it means to be Australian, and helps everyone feel included.” The statement upholds the centrality of Australia’s “democratic institutions and the rule of law, it highlights the importance of citizenship in [the country’s] national identity, and it makes clear the responsibility … all have to respect [their] fellow Australians.”
This is in a nutshell the presentation by the Australian Government.
The statement opens with a foreword by the Prime Minister:
“Australia is the most successful multicultural society in the world.
We are as old as our First Australians, the oldest continuing human culture on earth, who have cared for this country for more than 50,000 years.
And we are as young as the baby in the arms of her migrant mother who could have come from any nation, any faith, any race in the world.
Australia is an immigration nation. Almost half of our current population was either born overseas or has at least one parent born overseas.
And we come from every culture, every race, every faith, every nation.
We are defined not by race, religion or culture, but by shared values of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and equality of opportunity – a “fair go”.
The glue that holds us together is mutual respect – a deep recognition that each of us is entitled to the same respect, the same dignity, the same opportunities.
And national security – a resolute determination to defend our nation, our people and our values – is the foundation on which our freedoms have been built and maintained.
At a time of growing global tensions and rising uncertainty, Australia remains a steadfast example of a harmonious, egalitarian and enterprising nation, embracing its diversity.
Multicultural Australia: United, Strong, Successful renews and reaffirms the Government’s commitment to a multicultural Australia, in which racism and discrimination have no place.”
Some comments seem appropriate.
The very first sentence is incorrect. Once the definition of multiculturalism is reached, and by whatever conventional measure, Australia is not “the most successful multicultural society in the world.”
Canada understands by multiculturalism the sense of an equal celebration of racial, religious and cultural backgrounds. The multiculturalism policy was officially adopted by Pierre Trudeau’s government during the 1970s and further developed in the 1980s. The Canadian federal government has been described as the instigator of multiculturalism as an ideology because of its public emphasis on the social importance of immigration. The 1960s Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism is often referred to as the origin of modern political awareness of multiculturalism.
Canadians have used the term “multiculturalism” both descriptively (as a sociological fact) and prescriptively (as a political ideology). In the first sense “multiculturalism” is a description of the many different religious traditions and cultural influences which in their unity and coexistence in Canada make up Canadian culture. The nation consists of people from a multitude of racial, religious and cultural backgrounds and is open to cultural pluralism. … By the early twenty-first century, people from outside British and French heritage composed the majority of the population, with an increasing percentage of individuals who identify themselves as “visible minorities”.
Multiculturalism is reflected in the law through the Canadian Multiculturalism Act of 1988 and section 27 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and is administered by the Department of Canadian Heritage.
Incidentally, no similar Act or Charter appears on Australian statute books. By the shysterish lucubrations of some prime ministers and their ‘first law officers’ Australia remains the sole Anglospheric country immune from such contagion.
Putting it at the very favourable to the Prime Ministerial statement, Australia was estimated in a serious study of 2010, admittedly seven years ago, to be the ‘second most multicultural country.’ This is the result of a study by Dr. Riyana Miranti of the Canberra University. Her report, commissioned by the A.M.P., documented that Australia was then one of the most multicultural countries in the world, but lamented that the skills of many migrants were being wasted.
The report noted how skilled migrants accounted, then, for 62 per cent of arrivals. It went on to observe that, even as the second most multicultural nation in the world, Australia tied with Switzerland behind table-leader Luxembourg.
The author of the report said that migrants made up a quarter of Australia’s population. She added: “Compared to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average, which is only 11 per cent, and in comparison to other countries, this is almost double that of the United States and more than twice that of the United Kingdom.” Only 8 per cent of migrants were refugees admitted under Australia’s humanitarian programme. Refugees made up only 10 in 10,000 people living in Australia. “Other countries – Dr. Miranti noted – take more refugees … for example, Sweden takes 87 refugees per 10,000 head of population.” And that was then.
According to the report most migrants were highly educated, with their qualifications tending to match or exceed those born in Australia. But, Dr. Miranti said, 38 per cent of university graduates from non-English speaking countries were working in low-skilled or medium-skilled occupations. “The most common reasons that they identify is their lack of Australian experience and reference, language difficulties, lack of local contacts and networks and then having skills and qualifications not recognised.”
Dr. Miranti said that the majority of migrants [felt] satisfied that they [were] part of the local community. Presumably, they had no choice but be grateful for their condition.
Comparing Toronto – the most populous city in Canada and the fourth most populous city in North America after Mexico City, New York City, and Los Angeles – with a population of 2.8 million, with Melbourne – with a population rounded at 4.5 million – some interesting observations come to help. Three years ago, when the Toronto population was just over 2,5 million, almost 46 per cent was made up of foreign-born residents. No similar percentage would be reached by Melbourne.
There is more. Comparing now the area of Greater Toronto (population @ 5,600,000) with that of Greater Melbourne (population @ 4,600,000) one could verify that the Toronto population is made up of @ 3,000,000 whites, @ 400,000 blacks and @ 2,200,000 ‘others’ – mainly Asiatic Indians @ 270,000, Chinese @ 225,000, Filipinos @ 175,000 and other ‘others’ @ 1,900,000. Again, Melbourne could not compare.
The second sentence of the Prime Ministerial foreword glosses over the past and present condition of the First Australians, certainly a gratuitous identification of the peoples the British invaders of 1778 very early abused and continued to do so until that questionable activity was taken up by derivative Australians. This is not the place to retrace the history of that abuse, superbly documented by Prof. Henry Reynolds, the eminent Australian historian whose primary work has focused on the frontier conflict between the invaders and the subsequent Australians, on one side, and the Indigenous Australians, on the other.
That second Prime Ministerial sentence is no more than a rhetorical and self-glorifying camouflage of the continuous indifference to the condition of the Indigenous Peoples.
Most of the substantial recommendations contained in the Indigenous Deaths in Custody, 1989 to 1996, a Report prepared by the Office of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, and published in 1997, remain un-implemented to date. Four words sum up the present condition: the Don Dale children.
Continued Tomorrow … Multicultural Australia: but still we debate