I want to look more closely at my statement that multiculturalism doesn’t work. I said this during the recent so-called ‘riots’ in England. I think maybe I neglected to be more searching in information before I posted that. England certainly has immigrant problems but that could also be due to the habit the English have of sweeping potential problems under the carpet and pretending they don’t exist until there is a flare up like the ‘riots’. So yes, there is a problem in that overcrowded country. And it is partly the fruits of Empire that need to be dealt with openly.
I have spent a week in Sydney and checked out Auburn where the local community includes a lot of Middle Eastern immigrants both first, second and beyond generations.
Wonderful shopping precinct BTW, just my cup of tea.
The local community in Cabramatta is mainly Asian with a predominance of Vietnamese immigrants again of first and second generation.
Again, there was gorgeous food and a terrific shopping precinct.
The first place I went to, though, was like the United Nations.
The Flemington Markets comprises acres of covered food markets and flower markets
with stalls manned by as many nationalities as can be imagined. I bought a briefcase from a Russian woman with an enormous range of goods available and three woollies from a Chinese stall holder on the positive advice from a New Zealander who was checking out the clothes on an enormous table. An Italian man answered queries about the furniture that was offered for sale.
The flea market was mind boggling. Second hand goods were everywhere, in bins, on trestle tables and piled high, on the ground and on hangers. How the stall holders kept track of their own particular wares and who was sifting through is anyone’s guess. It was all packed to the gunnels.
I was with a friend of mine who pointed out that Australia had adopted positive multicultural legislation and that immigrants and authorities, native Australians and others were, in fact, forming communities where there was a sense of all belonging to the same country. Certainly there was no feeling of unease or strangeness anywhere.
We had an Italian breakfast at the Flemington Markets, hunted around for Turkish Delight and Iranian nougat in Auburn and had lunch at a Vietnamese cafe in Cabramatta. This particular Saturday was the day for the annual African Women’s Dinner Dance held in the Cabra-Vale Diggers Club.
There was a magnificent Nigerian woman, larger than life, who was the community liaison with the police and the Deputy Superintendent of Police addressed the gathering about closer relationships between community and police. The night itself was a vibrant splash of colours, dressing up and dancing. It was the colours and high spirits that grabbed me. Excellent fun and pleasure.
What a day – I felt as though I had been on a whirlwind world trip.
What it did do was make me think about
multicultural communities and how we perceive immigration. Australia’s horrendous White Australia Policy was gradually dismantled after the Second World War and by 1972 official policies of multiculturalism were in place. (Wikipedia)
The top ten religions in Australia account for less than 63% of the population.
According to the (2008) census more than one fifth of the population were born overseas. Furthermore, almost 50% of the population were either:
- born overseas; or
- had one or both parents born overseas.
The meaning of multiculturalism has changed enormously since its formal introduction to Australia. Originally it was understood by the mainstream population as a need for acceptance that many members of the Australian community originally came from different cultures and still had ties to it. However, it came to mean the rights of migrants within mainstream Australia to express their cultural identity. It is now often used to refer to the fact that very many people in Australia have, and recognize, multiple cultural or ethnic backgrounds. The Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs in Australia estimated that, in 2005, 25% of the Australian workforce was born outside of Australia and 40% had at least one parent born outside of Australia.
Following the initial moves of the Whitlam Labor government in 1973, further official national multicultural policies were implemented by Malcom Fraser‘s Liberal Government in 1978. The Labor Government of Bob Hawke continued with these policies during the 1980s and early 1990s, and were further supported by Paul Keating up to his electoral defeat 1996. CALD (or Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) policies continue to be implemented at all levels of government and public service, such as medical support systems which cater specifically to non-English speaking residents.
While multiculturalism in Australia is not without its critics and bigots, One Nation under Pauline Hanson being a major disruption and Howard within his conservative government’s term also criticised multiculturalism, the governmental policies already in place and tolerance seem to have held sway and inter cultural problems appear to be diminishing.
This is encouraging despite some hiccups regarding illegal immigration to Australia (the so-called ‘boat people – refugees constitute 5% of illegals).
The problem of illegal immigration in the UK stood in 2006 at about (nobody really knows these things) 1 million.
Amnesties are granted in every country and there are illegal immigrants in every country. Most are refugees and all are attempting to find a better life for themselves and their families. There are abuses and these are always highlighted in the popular press. But positive government policy rather than platitudes from politicians would be a better way of addressing immigration in the UK. Immigrant ghettoes are virtually non-existent in Australia. They are rife in some of England’s cities and this is exacerbating problems of not assimilation but integration.
I think that what changed Australia’s attitude was this understanding that integration was preferable to an unworkable assimilation policy and that migrant rights were paramount. Something similar is needed if the UK is to seriously address its immigrant population. Its own indigenous community needs training to accept diversity and not marginalise it thus compounding the problems.