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More on multiculturalism etc

25 Jul

Consider the following information from Year Book Australia, 2005

There has been a significant change in the source countries of permanent arrivals, with settlers arriving from more diverse regions of the world since the mid-1990s compared with the early-1980s (table 5.32). In 1982-83, 28% of settler arrivals to Australia were born in the United Kingdom, 9% were born in Vietnam and 7% were born in New Zealand. In 2002-03 the United Kingdom and New Zealand both contributed 13% of all settler arrivals, although in 2001-02 New Zealand-born settler arrivals contributed 18% of all settler arrivals in that year whereas settler arrivals born in the United Kingdom only contributed 10%. Settler arrivals born in China (7%), India (6%) and South Africa (5%) each contributed 5% or more of all settlers in 2002-03 compared with only 1%, 2% and 3% respectively in 1982-83 (table 5.32).

5.32 COUNTRY OF BIRTH OF SETTLER ARRIVALS – Selected years(a)


no.
%


1982-83


China (excl. SARs & Taiwan Prov.)
1,167
1.3
India
1,673
1.8
New Zealand
6,867
7.4
South Africa
2,758
3.0
United Kingdom
26,444
28.4
Vietnam
8,690
9.3
All settler arrivals
93,011
100.0


1992-93


China (excl. SARs & Taiwan Prov.)
3,046
4.0
India
3,553
4.7
New Zealand
6,694
8.8
South Africa
1,021
1.3
United Kingdom
9,484
12.4
Vietnam
5,651
7.4
All settler arrivals
76,330
100.0


2001-02


China (excl. SARs & Taiwan Prov.)
6,708
7.5
India
5,091
5.7
New Zealand
15,663
17.6
South Africa
5,714
6.4
United Kingdom
8,749
9.8
Vietnam
1,919
2.2
All settler arrivals
88,900
100.0


2002-03


China (excl. SARs & Taiwan Prov.)
6,664
7.1
India
5,783
6.2
New Zealand
12,368
13.2
South Africa
4,603
4.9
United Kingdom
12,508
13.3
Vietnam
2,568
2.7
All settler arrivals
93,914
100.0


(a) Information in this table is based on stated traveller intention at arrival or departure; it has not been adjusted for change in traveller intention or multiple movement.

Source: Migration, Australia (3412.0).

Much of the increase in the figures for China probably reflects family reunion migration following the large numbers who arrived in 1989-1990 (M among them) and stayed on. Mind you, quite a few of those (I know this anecdotally) have returned to China too, finding they had better prospects back there.

The figures for the UK are of interest as well.

We should of course remember that while place of birth probably reflects ethnicity, it may not.  South Africa, the UK, and even New Zealand are cases in point. I have encountered quite a few Chinese students whose place of birth is New Zealand, for example.

Multiculturalism, assimilation, integration, acculturation

Jim Belshaw in his comments on my first entry on this topic questioned the official version of migration policy that I presented there, and he is right to do so. It was not quite as that schematic view suggests. James Jupp (ed) The Australian People (Sydney A&R 1988) has several chapters in its 1000 or so very large pages that clarify much in that regard. By the 1960s the words assimilation and integration were often used almost interchangeably, while the phrase cultural pluralism seems to have predated the first use in the 1970s of the word multicultural (borrowed from Canada) and has since often been used as a close synonym.

You will note I have a fourth word in that list. This is a word much used in the ESL literature. Briefly, I find it preferable to assimilation which, despite some usage to the contrary, does suggest a one-way process. Acculturation is:

  1. the process by which the culture of an isolated society changes on contact with a different one
  2. the process by which a person acquires the culture of the society that he/she inhabits.

Such adaptation does not necessarily involve total absorption. I find Martin Krygier’s 1997 Boyer Lectures of much interest for this, and much else. (It appears, by the way, that I may have played a small part in restoring those lectures to the ABC archive.)

I oppose the ideas of multiculturalism and cultural pluralism to the ideas of monoculturalism and assimilation in part on pragmatic grounds — in fact Australia is a culturally plural society — and partly on ideological grounds, just as, in the second instance, much opposition to the idea of multiculturalism is patently ideological. However, I am what might be called by some a “soft” multiculturalist. I think, for example, that Ghassan Hage and similar students of the issue adopt too extreme a position. (See “Our shared, core values are but a myth underpinning this new racism” in my Big Archive.) However, just how much must be shared to allay real concern about our social harmony? A core issue is obviously acceptance of our laws. But even there you will find issues to ponder. What about cases of conflict between religious belief and the law of the land? One might think, for example, of Jehovah’s Witnesses or, having seen Witness recently, the Amish in the USA, or any other group that on some matters stands outside on things like participation in war. Generally we seem to find a way around such conflicts.

I do think, however, that the current obsession with “Australian values” (and the baggage that seems to be coming with it) is veering dangerously close to an unreflective monoculturalism, and that I find both unjust and dangerous*. To take just one contentious issue, I see no reason why a woman cannot wear a head scarf while being thoroughly acculturated to Australian life, or as much so as needs concern anyone. But I have been here before!

Here are some sites of related interest:

* For an extreme example see this archive entry.

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One response to “More on multiculturalism etc

  1. Jim Belshaw

    July 25, 2007 at 11:55 am

    My congratulations on your work, Neil. This has really become a very valuable series indeed. I will try to say more tonight.

     
 
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