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PERSPECTIVE: MULTICULTURAL AUSTRALIA

First published in Chung Wah News, Western Australia, September 1996

Only three countries in the world rely on massive immigration in their nation building process. The United States, Canada and Australia each developed their immigration policies, dictated by internal as well as International circumstances. (Israel, the other country with massive immigration for national building, is confined to one race only).

The U.S. adopts a "melting pot" policy, where succeeding generations gradually "melt" or "merge" into an American identity, acquiring more and more American values and culture. However events such as recent burning of Black churches indicate that the dreams of Martin Luther King still have a very, very long gestation period. The Blacks and Hispanics do not seem to "melt" into the overall American "pot"

Canada, due to its historical circumstances, has a bilingual and bi-cultural situation. Recent narrow election in Quebec highlights the delicate equilibrium of this situation. Since then, the Canadian Natives have also staked their claims, challenging the rights of the English or French to dictate the country's history.

Australia has adopted a multicultural approach, rather than assimilation or integration. Though problems still abound, in particular with Aboriginal reconciliation.

A series of policies such as "equal opportunities", "anti-discrimination", etc., have ensured freedom of expression, religion, language and cultural practice. While certain countries outlaw or discourage anything other than the official language, the use and development of languages in Australia are actively encouraged. Our Chinese and other ethnic schools receive grants from both the Commonwealth and State governments. Languages other than English are taught at Government Schools. Vernacular newspapers and magazines are limited only by their readerships. SBS broadcast news in several languages. In this respect we salute the early statesmen who nurtured this spirit of tolerance and respect for others in our society. A harmonious culture identity can not be coerced. History bears witness to this truth. The climate of acceptance is much better here than that found in other countries.

Australia' s multi-cultural society is reflected by the presence of migrants from virtually every region in the world. Successive waves of immigrations, including refugees have contributed to transform a predominantly Anglo Saxon culture into something Australian.

Multiculturalism is bearing fruit. As time goes by, company directors and mangers realise that cultural diversity could have beneficial human resources contributions valuable for local and International trade. This is particular true when the countries of origin emerge as important markets for Australian products and services. Export managers appreciate those who discern cultural sensitivities, whether they deal with food, education, tourism, or services. In this respect the role played by many Chung Wah members in promoting trade to Asia cannot be under-estimated.

As we all know, Australia's multiculturalism helped to secure the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Julie Shaw in her book 'Cultural Diversity at Work - utilising a unique Australian resource, (1995)' described the role as follows:

Sydney's Multicultural diversity, highlighted by Mrs. Anita Keating' s last minute appeal to International Olympic committee delegates in three languages, was a key factor i the successful Olympic Games bid... Beijing was Sydney's major rival for the Year 2000 Olympic Games, but Sydney' s Chinese community showed its support for its home town bid. A Sydney Chinese support committee for the Sydney Olympics 2000 was established by the Deputy Lord Mayor Henry Tsang. As part of its activities, it hosted a major day of entertainment in Chinatown to support its bid. The day drew thousands of Sydneysiders, many of them Chinese, to watch many Olympic representatives and hopefuls, some with Chinese backgrounds.

More than 3000 Australian Muslims also greeted the Libyan IOC Director, while a similar number prayed at a Sydney mosque with the Tunisian and Algerian delegates. "The Arabs were completely overwhelmed by the number of people who came out" Mr Rod McGeoch, the Sydney bid's chief executive, said.

The benefits of multiculturalism is obvious. The opportunities are there for those who care to exploit it. Younger Chinese Australians should be reminded that those who are proficient in a second language, (whether European or Asian), could certainly look forward to a better perspective, choice and future!

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