Being Australian 30b: inclusive multiculturalism Aussie style 16 — fair, reasonable, and far from radical — 2

See Being Australian 30a: inclusive multiculturalism Aussie style 16 — fair, reasonable, and far from radical — 1.

Reprise

Multiculturalism is a policy based on rights and responsibilities which has been endorsed by Australian governments for managing a unified nation which is culturally diverse. The policy of multiculturalism replaced the previous policy of assimilation.

There are important overriding principles of multiculturalism which can be summarised in the following way:

· LOYALTY TO AUSTRALIA: all Australians should have an overriding and unifying commitment to Australia’s interests and future first and foremost;

· ACCEPTANCE OF THE AUSTRALIAN SYSTEM: all Australians are required to accept the basic structures and principles of Australian society—the Constitution, Australian laws, tolerance, equality, democracy, freedom of speech and religion, English as the national language and equality of the sexes; and

· MUTUAL RESPECT: all Australians have the right to express their culture and beliefs and this involves a reciprocal responsibility to accept the right of others to express their beliefs and values.

Multiculturalism is about inclusion and recognition within the principles enshrined above. It recognises the right of all Australians to enjoy their cultural heritage (including language and religion), and the right to equal treatment and opportunities for everyone regardless of their backgrounds. Multiculturalism also aims to ensure maximum use of the skills and talents of all Australians to assist economic efficiency.

Now honestly: what’s not to like about that formulation? Even Philip Ruddock, Howard’s Immigration Minister, seems to be conceding the point about language – scrapped by his government – when interviewed on the occasion of SBS’s birthday. Again, see the video on the previous post.

CIMG5374

Waiting for the Wollongong train, Central Station yesterday

I deliberately quoted there the “most radical” formulation of our policy of inclusive multiculturalism, the version John Howard saw fit to alter:

What is multiculturalism? (John Howard version)

Australia is made up of people from diverse cultures and backgrounds. Multiculturalism celebrates this diversity and recognises the challenges and opportunities that come with it. The main principles of Australia’s policy of multiculturalism are:

  • Responsibilities of all – all Australians have a civic duty to support those basic structures and principles of Australian society which guarantee us our freedom and equality and enable diversity in our society to flourish.
  • Respect for each person – subject to the law, all Australians have the right to express their own culture and beliefs and have a reciprocal obligation to respect the right of others to do the same.
  • Fairness for each person – all Australians are entitled to equality of treatment and opportunity. Social equity allows us all to contribute to the social, political and economic life of Australia, free from discrimination, including on the grounds of race, culture, religion, language, location, gender or place of birth*.
  • Benefits for all – all Australians benefit from productive diversity, that is, the significant cultural, social and economic dividends arising from the diversity of our population. Diversity works for all Australians.

And yet, as you see, it is essentially the same.

In neither case is inclusive multiculturalism a blank cheque.

Your culture favours cannibalism, infanticide, clitoral excision, blowing people up? Sorry, not on.

There are important overriding principles of multiculturalism which can be summarised in the following way:

· LOYALTY TO AUSTRALIA: all Australians should have an overriding and unifying commitment to Australia’s interests and future first and foremost;

· ACCEPTANCE OF THE AUSTRALIAN SYSTEM: all Australians are required to accept the basic structures and principles of Australian society—the Constitution, Australian laws, tolerance, equality, democracy, freedom of speech and religion, English as the national language and equality of the sexes; and

· MUTUAL RESPECT: all Australians have the right to express their culture and beliefs and this involves a reciprocal responsibility to accept the right of others to express their beliefs and values.

But what the migrant is told is that, aside from anything likely to disrupt the way of life and values we all subscribe to when we take our oath of citizenship, what you bring to us is valued and respected. Yes, you can be a Muslim. Yes, you can speak Swahili with your friends at home or on the bus. Yes, you can wear “funny” clothes. Yes, you can practise whatever customs of your culture that give you comfort and are part of your identity. Yes, we even may delight in sharing these with you.

Radical? Divisive?

I don’t think so.

The divisive ones are the ones who try to force what are for the most part outmoded ideas of being Australian on their fellow citizens, who fill the media and the blogosphere with erroneous information and hate speech.

They are the ones who spread disharmony. They are the ones so unpatriotic as not to rejoice in something our country has done very well, in the main.

Inclusive multiculturalism is simply the extension into the 21st century of those values of the fair go and mateship we pride ourselves on.

Don’t knock it. Understand it. Embrace it. Enjoy it.

Thanks Jim Belshaw

Neil Whitfield has continued his discussion on multicultural Australia. I find that my hackles rise quickly on this one. Just mention Paul Keating and multiculturalism in one breath and past resentments arise. I cannot help it.

The extent to which Mr Keating and his policies, especially the way he expressed those policies, contributed to the rise of One Nation and a popular resentment that actually seemed to threaten a multi-ethnic Australia should now be left to the historians. Neil’s broader point, current Australia is at it is, is more important.

James O’Brien’s pleasant and gentle post on Australia Day, More Than Thongs, was a helpful reminder to a natural pontificator like me. He wrote:

Unfortunately, one of the great dilemmas of Australia Day is the way in which people on the fringe have appropriated the day in the media and in a very public way.

Most of us aren’t on the extremes. We are comfortable in our notion of national identity. I’m pleased that, as a nation, we’ve gone down the path of quiet national pride compared with the more outspoken elements of American nationalism, for example. Most of us simply enjoy the holiday, enjoy catching up with friends and family and do something vaguely nationalistic which generally amounts to little more than wishing someone else “Happy Australia Day”. And that’s how I spent Australia Day: a walk around the portrait gallery, a trip back from Canberra to Sydney on the bus, and a catch-up with friends at a pub on New Canterbury Road.

I think that’s pretty right.

Among younger Australians, my daughters and her friends are the group I know best. Before Helen left for Copenhagen, one big issue was just what strange and fictitious elements of Australia might be put on show to the hopeful confusion of fellow residents at the Copenhagen Business School. Drop bears were one candidate, although Helen kind of destroyed this one in Copenhagen by breaking into laughter at the wrong moment!

Now this is no different from Brother David and I when we went to Asia for the first time all those years ago. Drop bears, of course, didn’t exist then. After all, they are in fact mainly an advertising created concept. Yet the principle was the same.

Just so long as Australians don’t take themselves too seriously, the country will get by.  

And that seems a good enough way to end this series!    

PS

Another factoid we learned along the way.

Only 1% of the total immigration intake since 1976 is from boat people.

And here is another:

The Humanitarian Program for 2010–11 is set at 13 750 places and comprises:

  • refugees from overseas – 6000 places
  • other humanitarian – 7750 places (this includes places for the offshore SHP and onshore needs).

Number without boat people: 13,750

Number including boat people: 13,750

National Library

Just to remind you that this blog is archived in the National Library of Australia’s Pandora Project. I hope somebody who finds it there will enjoy this January 2011 series.