In today’s Sun-Herald there is a piece by Kerry-Anne Walsh called “Multiculturalism isn’t the enemy.” Unfortunately, given it is an excellent piece, it is not online. It should be. So here most of it is:
…Twenty years ago, a folk festival in Australia was a homage to all things Celtic. It’s a sign of Australia’s extraordinary growth and maturity that the four-day [Canberra Folk] festival now attracts the cream of domestic and international acts and honours the music, dance, arts and cultural life of an extraordinary number of nationalities in the Australian family.
This year, as the poisonous war in Iraq and the turmoil in Afghanistan continue, the music of the Middle East was deliberately honoured.
As his Government readies to whistle up so-called cultural values as an election issue, Howard, if he’d attended, would have witnessed a microcosm of the miracle that is our new multicultural society.
Kevin Andrews, the staunchly Catholic Immigration Minister whose added title of Multicultural Affairs was ditched in January as the government moves to ditch multiculturalism altogether, might also have received divine enlightenment.
Traditional Aussie bush poets performed alongside a wide variety of Middle Eastern music and dance groups. Irish fiddlers jigged and reeled; Aussie bands played bouzoukis alongside didgeridoos. A Sunday morning ecumenical Easter service was themed in the celebration of diversity, with prayers for the narrow-minded, the war-torn, and the bigoted.
The broader political backdrop, in this election year, is an ideological battle over the future of multiculturalism with the government ramping up its “integration” rhetoric as the poll date nears.
Howard explained that dumping “multicultural affairs” from the ministry name and adding “citizenship” expressed “the desire and aspiration that immigrants become Australians”.
Does that mean that the 7 million people from 200 countries who have successfully made Australia home while retaining their own proud heritage haven’t wanted to become Australians?
Why not applaud the successes of our melting-pot society… instead of finding fault and political opportunities?
Multiculturalism didn’t create the Cronulla riots. White and black Australia led the way long before the term “multiculturalism” was coined in the 1970s. And white blokes sitting in radio studios are a bigger threat to racial harmony than a word.
The word “multiculturalism” is now loaded by some politicians and detractors to send the erroneous message that multiple cultures threaten the Anglo one.
They should get out more.
I despair at the anticorrectness correctness that infects the Howard government. They are tossing many a healthy baby out with the bathwater, I feel.
See also Shan Jayaweera, “Sharing two cultures shouldn’t be a test of allegiance.”
WHEN you are the child or grandchild of an immigrant, you live in a state of cultural limbo. Your culture is part of who you are, but the pressure is on to “integrate” into the “mainstream”. It is bad enough that this pressure to conform comes every day at school, at work and in the media.
But when you have politicians and commentators wanting to remove multiculturalism from the vocabulary, it is time to take a stand…
A beautiful illustration of what may happen for the good and for integration and community harmony at their best — that is when we simultaneously accept and celebrate diversity — may be found, according to the Encounter on ABC Radio National this morning, in Dandenong Hospital in Victoria. “The City of Greater Dandenong is one of Australia’s two most diversely populated municipalities and its local hospital has substituted a multi-faith ‘sacred space’ in the place of its old chapel.”
…Max Oldmeadow: Max Oldmeadow, and I guess I am here because I am old and I have been associated with the Christian Church. But I was born in Dandenong so of course when I was born there wasn’t a hospital. It was in the forties, early forties that it was opened and it was a locally run show right from the beginning.
Margaret Coffey: Creating a Sacred Space, on Encounter, – people of Dandenong telling a story of transformation in their community. I’m Margaret Coffey – and Max Oldmeadow is old enough to remember the groundwork, and the young men who cleared and drained the swampy rubbishy land in their own time, to make sure Dandenong would get a hospital.
Max Oldmeadow: I mean it was a broad group in the community that felt the need, both the medical practitioners, and there weren’t a lot of them in Dandenong in the forties. It was you know a fairly small country town, a market town at that stage,
Carmen Powell: Very much a country town, very safe. You could wander as a child for miles around and get tadpoles – I mean it seemed miles – now it is only a few streets. But no streets were formed, it was very much country. I would go to bed of a night to the sound of the town hall clock chiming. Very comforting feeling. Monday nights to the sound of the cattle being penned ready for market the following day. A blink of an eye. Mm…
Max Oldmeadow: Well my background is the Methodist Church which then became the Uniting Church. I’ve been closely associated with that I guess all my life. I was a lay preacher I have to say for fifty plus years and you know I do remember the Churches played a very big part at the beginning. They were determined there should be a chapel. I’m doing a history at the moment of the 150th anniversary of Methodist and Presbyterian Churches in Dandenong – I’m doing the Methodist bit – and reading minutes I read where the appropriate committee of the Methodist Church saying we’ve just got to support the ministers fraternal in getting a chapel. And of course it was appropriate it should be a Christian chapel at that stage because the population of the city was almost entirely Anglophile (sic). There were virtually no people even from Europe pre Second World War
Carmen Powell: My first contact with another culture was the beautiful Steve Manias.
Max Oldmeadow: There was just one famous fish shop belonging to Steve and this was quite unique. And he was a Greek and this was quite unique.
Carmen Powell: If you went past their house and they were talking all this, as I thought then, yabber, that was really scary stuff. So you sort of got onto the other side of the road. There was just none around…
Carmen Powell: Being a timid person – I’ve always been pretty scared of anybody that was a different colour than me. But a couple of years back I did a New Year’s resolution that I was going to get to know some of these other cultures and through the Historical Society I’ve become involved in a work for the dole program and I work with these people two days a week, from as black as pitch through to all grades of colour. Fabulous. Muslims, Sudanese, Chinese, Vietnamese. It has just been so good because they are just ordinary. Yes, I am surprised, myself. I haven’t spoken it out before.
Norma Dickson: We see an awful lot of different cultures coming through here now. You accept them. That’s what they are. And I think on the whole everyone at Dandenong gets on really well – we’re a very happy hospital. The little lady who was dishing out the cappuccinos this morning, said Oh I just get sent to here and she said but I have just found everyone so friendly here, she said, it is just no nice to be here, and that’s what Dandenong Hospital always has been since I’ve been here.
Max Oldmeadow: You know this sacred space, I just love it. I just think it is a beautiful spot and just so important in our community…
That sounds like success to me.
I have mirrored this post on the English and ESL site.