By Aldric Chuah:
Australia being a multicultural nation, it is not surprising to know that many people speak languages other than English. There are of course differing opinions about the virtues of some communities and their inability to ”integrate” into mainstream Australian society. Pauline Hanson famously stated in her maiden speech that “we are in danger of being swamped by Asians”. She has since somewhat changed her views.
The road to multicultural Australia has never been smooth and in more recent times it has again been challenged. As a robust parliamentary democracy, we accept the fact that people will have wildly different views, so long as it does not lead to violence. Unfortunately, violence did occur in the 2005 Cronulla riots. This atrocious behaviour was condemned by all corners of Australian society.
Everyone has a right to feel safe and free from harm in Australia. Late last year the Abbott government scrapped plans to alter section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. It was dumped because people mounted great resistance and opposition to what they saw as an affront to the cultural tradition of Australia: A fair go.
Without much fanfare, several organisations have established their cultural presence in society through the presence of print media. The Indonesian community is blessed to have the publications of Indo Post, Indo Media and Bulletin. The Indian community is bestowed with the Indian Link and Indian Sun which are published in English. Until recently, members of the Japanese community had Jenta, but this has since ceased publication. VrThai is for Thai expats and I’m certain there are more which I have failed to mention.
It cannot go without mention that there are many cultural festivals held throughout the year. Every year, around October, Parramatta hosts the “Parramsala” festival to showcase Indian culture. There is also the Polish Christmas Festival held around December in Sydney’s Tumbalong Park. Given the scale and ubiquity of it, I won’t mention the Lunar New Year Celebrations which occur every year throughout Sydney ! (guess I just did).
An inquisitive and skeptical mind might enquire as to the rationale behind all of these celebrations and publications. Although it is enshrined in law that discrimination on the basis of race is illegal in all it’s forms, this will not per se prevent people from doing so. What needs to exist is a strong community base on which people from a non-Anglo Saxon background are facilitated into Australian society by having publications/media in their language.
As for the publications printed in English, they serve a slightly different purpose. They have the intention of shining a light on the traditions, rituals, food and music of the respective cultures. By reading these publications we discover more about the region around us and are better informed about the many cultures which comprise modern Australian society. Certainly modern Britain,US and Canada can share similar experiences; Australia has one of the highest rates of inter marriage in the world and Melbourne is home to the world’s largest population of Greeks outside of Greece – that’s a fact of which we should be proud.
Judeo Christian/Anglo Saxon Australians built the legal, educational, cultural institutions of modern Australia as well as fighting for our country through various conflicts. We must acknowledge their contribution and sacrifice. The Australian society our soldiers fought for is hugely different to what it was 50 years ago. There are still many issues to discuss but we here at WSU acknowledge that injection of non-British migrants has been highly beneficial for our society, culture and country.
IMAGE: Pohela Boishakh, Bengali New Year