Cultural mosaic in Australia
Australia is fully committed to multiculturalism, the doctrine that several different cultures, rather than one national culture, can coexist peacefully and equitably in a single country.
I have just been selected as one of the 40 persons from each state and territory of Australia to serve as People of Australia Ambassador.
The Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Kate Lundy, considers the ambassadors to be an integral part of her community consultation strategy and will provide her, the government and the Australian Multicultural Council with important grassroots information.
Australia is and will remain a multicultural society. These facts speak for themselves:
Since 1945, seven million people have migrated to Australia. The total population is only 20 million. Today, over 44 per cent of all Australians were either born overseas or had at least one overseas-born parent.
People here speak over 260 languages, including indigenous ones, and identify with more than 270 ancestries.
The Australian government did not “hand pick” the 40 ambassadors. A national campaign encouraged anyone in Australia who contributes to the social cohesion and harmony of their community to nominate themselves or someone else as an ambassador.
Senator Lundy appreciated the recommended short list submitted by the Australian Multicultural Council, which was derived from some 358 applications provided by the public.
In short, the ambassadors, who serve in a voluntary capacity, will during their term meet their local communities to articulate these benefits:
Multiculturalism is our shared future and is central to our national interest.
Australia’s multicultural composition is at the heart of our national identity and is intrinsic to our history and character.
Immigration adds much needed skills and labour and our multicultural workforce gives Australia a distinct competitive edge in an increasingly globalised world.
Australia’s successful multicultural society and democracy are built around shared rights and responsibilities, fundamental to living in Australia and enshrined in our citizenship pledge.
Australians of all backgrounds have the right to celebrate, practise and maintain their cultural heritage, traditions and language within the law and free from discrimination.
Building social cohesion and understanding within our communities enriches our social fabric, strengthens our nation and ensures that we will continue to be an ever evolving and diversifying population.
Australia has moved away from the “melting pot” concept and is now firmly committed to assimilation, lightly described as the salad bowl or cultural mosaic method.
Multiculturalism had its share of critics. Geoffrey Blainey writes that such a policy, with its emphasis on what is different and on the rights of the new minority rather than the old majority, was unnecessarily creating division and threatened national cohesion. He says that we should think very carefully about the perils of converting Australia into a giant multicultural laboratory for the assumed benefit of the peoples of the world
Historian John Hirst is another intellectual critic of multiculturalism. He argued that while multiculturalism might serve the needs of ethnic politics and the demands of certain ethnic groups for government money to be used solely for the promotion of their separate ethnic identity, it is a perilous concept on which to found policy.
While the debate continues it is very clear that there is general consensus by the major political parties on multiculturalism as the nation celebrates and values the benefits of cultural diversity for all Australians, within the broader aims of national unity, community harmony and maintenance of our democratic values.
Diverse cultural expression enriches all Australians and makes our multicultural nation more vibrant and creative. An enduring theme of Australia’s multicultural policy is that everyone belongs. We celebrate diversity and recognise that expressions of diversity sit within Australia’s national legal framework.
Australians from all backgrounds will be given every opportunity to participate in and contribute to Australia and its social, economic and cultural life. Australians from all backgrounds are also entitled to receive equitable access to government services.
The government will strengthen its access and equity policies to ensure that government programmes and services are responsive to the needs of Australia’s culturally and linguistically diverse communities.
The Australian government welcomes the economic, trade and investment benefits that arise from our successful multicultural nation. Immigration brings much needed skills and labour. It has also given us energy, ingenuity and enterprise. Immigration and cultural diversity have created economic renewal and prosperity in our communities. Our trade relations have been strengthened, our business horizons broadened and we have become more open to the world.
Our diversity of cultures and our multilingual workforce give Australia a distinct competitive advantage in the global economy.
I am indeed proud to be one of Australia’s people ambassadors for such a dynamic nation that opened its shores to so many thousands of my fellow Maltese.