SECOND GENERATION MIGRANTS IN AUSTRALIA
First published in Chung Wah News, Western Australia, December 1997
For the first time in the history of Australia, many of our youth are growing up as first or second generation migrants in a multi-cultural country. Until twenty years ago Chinese Australians lived in fear (of expulsion) and uncertainty under the infamous White Australian Policy.
The age of first generation youths landing in Australia range from babies to adults, while the second generation are Australian born and bred. They have converged in this land where political stability and freedom prevails, where social and economic stability is sustained by a sound welfare system, where racial discrimination is minimal and where freedom and independence of thought is encouraged. This is the environment where the personalities and potential of our youth are to be developed to the full.
It is heartening to note that an overwhelming majority of our youth has little difficulty in rapidly adapting to Australian society. Whether they come from a non-English speaking country such as China or one of the South East Asian countries where English is often spoken at home, they acquire the language skills in school like any other Australians. Mastery of the language enables them to compete effectively with others through the educational system.
By and large they blend in well with their peers in sports as well as general social and communal activities. This is a Two Way process whereby they contribute to influence each other's personality, social etiquette and behaviour. In the process many assimilate certain contemporary Australian values, idiosyncrasy and social ethics distinct from their country of origin, where these ideas could be frowned upon or even outlawed, either legally or by social pressures. A case in point is the general attitude towards drugs.
Like migrants from Europe, our first generation migrant parents treasure certain cultural norms and personal values that they have been immersed in half their life. There is inevitably a certain degree of nostalgia of the homeland, be it Italy or China. Memories of relative poverty, oppression or lack of opportunities linger in some, while others treasure their days of relative influence or affluence at home. These sentiments are relatively unimportant or vague to the next generation.
As parent we owe them a duty and responsibility to bring them up to the best of our abilities within our means. The sacrifices of Chinese parents, particularly in the area of career and personality development of their children are remarkable. The focus of "the children" in family life is well understood.
Nevertheless the issue of "Generation Gap" takes on an additional dimension. In addition to differences in experience and perception due to time factor such as internet. differences in cultural, ethical and moral values are superimposed. In this respect each of us manage the issues in our own ways. While some find it difficult to provide the same degree of support to school work due to language, academic or time constraints, other resorts to a combination of common sense and compromise from all parties to minimise the issue. Practicality needs to be balanced with dogmatism.
Those who will call Australia home one day need to act, think and feel as other Australians do. Our youth are well grounded in the history and social studies of Australia. They have every right to expect and demand in their rights as citizens and residents as any others. Indeed the more they are use to the Australian way of life, the more they need to "re-acclimatise" should they visit or return to their country of origin!
We have every confidence that our youth is resilient and resourceful. The ability to collectively contribute to the development of this land with other Australians is unquestionable. 0nly myopic and selectively blind politicians and opportunists fail to realise this.
In the final analysis the ability to reason or rationalise is of utmost importance. As long as our youth are properly coached at home and at schools, they certainly have the inherent intellectual and emotional faculties, maturity and ability to decide what is best for them under Australian conditions. After all how else could we expect them to be assertive of their rights, to confidently thrive in a world where value judgment is uniquely Australian?
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