Multiculturalism: it’s on the agenda

In January 2007 the then Prime Minister, John Howard officially scrapped multiculturalism.  In 2012 there are those that would endeavour to embrace a multicultural Australia and those who continue, viciously, to oppose it as Howard intended.  Today, I have seen both.  I will talk first about the efforts of those to embrace an multicultural Australia.

The recently established Joint Standing Committee on Migration has commenced an inquiry into multiculturalism in Australia.  Some of the key issues to be addressed will be: the role of multiculturalism in the Government’s social inclusion agenda; the effectiveness of settlement programs for new migrants, including refugees; how Australia can better utilise the skills of migrants; and incentives to encourage small business development.

The Joint Standing Committee on Migration shall inquire into the economic, social and cultural impacts of migration in Australia and make recommendations to maximise the positive effects of migration. The inquiry shall examine and report on:

Multiculturalism, social inclusion and globalisation

  1. The role of multiculturalism in the Federal Government’s social inclusion agenda; and
  2. The contribution of diaspora communities to Australia’s relationships with Europe, the UK, Middle East and the immediate Asia-Pacific Region.

Settlement and participation

  1. Innovative ideas for settlement programs for new migrants, including refugees, that support their full participation and integration into the broader Australian society; and
  2. Incentives to promote long term settlement patterns that achieve greater social and economic benefits for Australian society as a whole.

National productive capacity

  1. The role migration has played and contributes to building Australia’s long term productive capacity;
  2. The profile of skilled migration to Australia and the extent to which Australia is fully utilising the skills of all migrants; and
  3. Potential government initiatives to better assist migrant communities establish business enterprises.

With over 6 million immigrants since the end of WWII, Australia is one of the most successful culturally diverse societies in the world.  The Inquiry into Multiculturalism in Australia provides a framework for strengthening community harmony and promoting the economic, cultural and social benefits of Australia’s cultural diversity for all Australians.  Australian multiculturalism embraces the heritage of Indigenous Australians, early European settlement, our home-grown customs and traditions and the experiences of new migrants coming to this country, and promotes mutual respect and equality, aiming to enhance social cohesion.

Our multicultural policies also affirm that all Australians have the opportunity to be active and equal participants in society, and are free to maintain their religious and cultural traditions within Australian law.  There are other benefits of multiculturalism for Australia – we are not only considerably richer in experiences, but we enjoy much closer economic and social links with other nations as a direct result of our diverse multicultural population.

However, some people do not recognise the richness of a diverse Australia and it is perhaps no coincidence that they have raised their voices at the time the government announces an inquiry into multiculturalism.  They long for a return to Howard’s way and support their argument with hand-picked data that conforms with their opinions.

. . . we pretend culture doesn’t count.  And we import refugees who always would struggle to fit in.

First it was the under-educated Lebanese Muslim refugees we took in from the Lebanese civil war.  Then it was the often parentless Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees, many rejected by other countries.

Later still it was refugees from poor Muslim nations – and Muslims and Christians fleeing Somalia and Sudan.

Consider now the consequences of our willful blindness to the culture of those we brought in.

Look at the high crime rate among those born in Lebanon and Vietnam. At the 20 Muslims jailed on terrorism-related charges. At an unemployment rate among Muslims that’s between two and four times higher than our average.

Consider now the brawls in the Sudanese community, or the young Somalis returning “home” for jihad.

The Howard government’s last immigration minister, Kevin Andrews, did warn in 2007 of the violence among African refugees, only to be howled down by the usual screams of “racist!”.


So has our fervent desire to seem nice – and not racist – again overwhelmed our responsibility to be wise? How smart was it to give 20,000 such people a home in Australia, so remote in so many ways?  How fair to them, and to us?

No, Andrew, it is only unfair on them if we don’t provide a country that promotes multiculturalism in the Government’s social inclusion agenda, such as the effectiveness of settlement programs and how Australia can better utilise the skills of migrants and to provide incentives for them.  The latter, of course, has gone unannounced in the media.

Multiculturalism is certainly on the agenda; those for it, and those against it.  And those against it are making the most noise.

35 comments on “Multiculturalism: it’s on the agenda

  1. I can think of two people of Lebanese background. One is not a bad bloke :smile:, and the other one handed in a very dodgy set of figures without the benefit of any check by the Federal Treasury.
    Kevin bloody Andrews again. Where did he go to school I wonder? Didn’t he mix with any migrant children?
    My classmates in primary school included two Lebanese brothers, one of whom married a girl who was half Italian and half of Irish extraction, and I don’t recall ever even thinking about the different nationalities.
    Their children are Australians.
    Over time there’s been “they’re very nice, [meaning almost nice] but they’re Chinese, Catholic, Protestant, English, German, Italian, Greek, Vietnamese…..
    Now it’s the turn apparently, of the Muslims, wherever they’re from.
    Mr. Andrews should be forced to learn more about our short history and he should take Cory Bernardi with him. Wih a name like Bernardi, you’d think he may know something about being the “other’.
    There were Muslims, in S.A. at least, very early in the white settlement of the state and their descendants are scattered the length of the country, and nothing has happened. Take note Mr. Andrews.

  2. Sorry Miglo, I couldn’t finish Bolt’s column. He should get out a bit, then he might be able to write something positive about our communities, but that’s not what he’s on about.

  3. Tony Abbott backs use of force on asylum seekers

    ASYLUM seekers protesting on detention centre roofs should be forcibly removed, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has said.

    As vigils by several asylum seekers continue at Villawood and on Christmas Island, Mr Abbott called for the Government to act.

    But Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said it would not be appropriate for him to order authorities to kick protesters off a roof because it could endanger lives.

    Mr Abbott told 2GB radio that it was not good enough for the Government to try to ignore protests in detention centres.

    “You can’t have a situation … where people are acting in consistent defiance of legitimate authority and these protests have to be ended,” Mr Abbott said.

    “It just has to be sorted out and I think that the problem is that the Government is just not strong enough to do it.”

    The truth is that Abbott isn’t interested in whether the refugees are on the roof or not.
    It’s all about him being more capable of handling the situation.
    They would be driven mad regardless of which Party is in government after being locked up like criminals.

  4. Kevin Andrews gets a mention again.

    Africans having to fight against “history of failure on blackness”

    AUSTRALIA’S inability to accept ”blackness” is working against the settlement of African refugees, according to an eminent community leader.

    Dr Berhan Ahmed, head of the African Think Tank and the 2009 Victorian Australian of the Year, also said Australia’s humanitarian assistance was ”stopping at the airport”, and failed to provide African migrants with the skills to find jobs and engage in society.

  5. Excellent article Migs.

    I believe that some of the problems relate to the fact that Australia in the past has had no policy relating to newly arrived migrants and where they live.

    It is a natural human instinct to seek safety and reassurance of people of one’s own kind – where your neighbors can speak your language, where you can buy food that you are familiar with. With no government incentive to do otherwise this has lead to ethnic groups taking over substantial portions of particular suburbs and in some cases this has lead to resentment by those who find themselves surrounded by people who do not follow their customs and do not speak their language.

    When Julia Gillard first brought forward the ideas contained in the Joint Standing Committee’s terms of reference the media did zero scrutiny of her ideas, but instead chose to push these ideas foward as Julia versus Kevin.

    Here is what Julia originally said:

    She said the new policy was not intended to open an immigration debate. “This is not about bringing down the shutters in immigration,” she said.

    “It is a debate about planning affected by many factors – water supply, open space, infrastructure, ensuring the appropriate tax base to support our ageing population, the need for skills and the need to preserve a good quality life.

    “Parts of Australia are desperate for workers, but other parts are desperate for jobs; having a smart and sustainable population strategy coupled with the right skills strategy will help improve this balance.”

    In spite of how the media might call it, Gillard saw a problem, that being how immigration might be dealt with more effectively and she is getting the job done.

  6. On having a re-read of the Bolt piece one thing that came to mind is: Bolt had better be careful or else he will find himself with yet another anti-discrimination case…and the reason is (this is just from memory but I think that my memory serves me well on this one),

    A number of years ago an Anti-Discrimination case was conducted, the plaintiff’s argument being that it was discriminatory for the police to lodge descriptions in the media such as “of Asian/Middle Eastern appearance”. The case failed on the grounds that this was a description aimed at assisting police with their enquiries and therefore lacked the required element of “intent”, that is intent to incite racial animosity towards a group or a member of a group.

    Although Bolt’s article is mostly description he in my opinion contravenes The Act by this single statement how ill-suited many Sudanese refugees are to life here.

  7. Oh dear is a ripper indeed. Life was beautiful when Australia was white. Quite right, Australia’s original inhabitants are clearly of Scandinavian origins!

  8. Pip, that’s precisely it. The ‘intent’ of the police is not racist as it is a descriptor no different than saying 6 foot tall, however Bolt’s ‘intent’ is to vilify a group of people and therefore contravenes The Act.

    What Bolt is basically saying is that ALL PEOPLE of Sudanese origins are unsuitable to migrate to Australia due to the fact of their ethnic origins alone. Clearly ‘some’ people of Sudanese origins are having difficulties adjusting to life in Australia, but this is completely different from saying ‘all’.

  9. Miglo, an editor with integrity would not have let those comments through. That’s ltd. news, just like Fox News, “fair and balanced”.

  10. This is the other side of bolt’s bulsh:
    Africans having to fight against “history of failure on blackness”.

    AUSTRALIA’S inability to accept ”blackness” is working against the settlement of African refugees, according to an eminent community leader.

    Dr Berhan Ahmed, head of the African Think Tank and the 2009 Victorian Australian of the Year, also said Australia’s humanitarian assistance was ”stopping at the airport”, and failed to provide African migrants with the skills to find jobs and engage in society.
    Dr Ahmed said African refugees were encountering racism when trying to find work. ”People are changing their names to apply for a job. They are putting a different name to be called for an interview. And when they see their face, they tell them, ‘Oh sorry, we’ll call you again’.”

  11. Dr Ahmed makes some very valid points in his article such as the fact that non-English speaking immigrants find it difficult to find employment, whereas once in the past they could have found almost immediate employment in factories.

    However, Australia’s inability to accept people who are different is not just about “blackness” as all non-Anglo groups have been subjected to the exact same sort of treatment as Africans – the Chinese, the Italians, Greeks, Vietnamese, Middle Eastern people and now the Africans.

  12. “First it was the under-educated Lebanese Muslim refugees we took in from the Lebanese civil war. Then it was the often parentless Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees, many rejected by other countries.”
    That’s our good fortune.

    There have been under-educated immigrants from the time of the first white settlers and they haven’t done so badly.

    As for the “often parentless Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees, many rejected by other countries”, many of them have produced highly educated children who are valuable contributors to our society.
    Fancy taking in parentless refugees. What next.

  13. Something that I would be interested in is, given that Howard scrapped the term multiculturalism plus knowing Howard’s record on demonisation of ethnic groups, did this translate into the way that government did business. It’s tempting to conclude that by putting Andrews in charge that Howard had wanted the issue of multiculturalism to die a natural death.

  14. Bolt’s type would prefer we all drink beer, eat lamb chops with 3 vegies each night, whistle Waltzing Matilda while we work, wear stubbies and a blue singlet on weekends, drive Holdens and above all, be white skinned.

  15. The section of the Bolt article that I find most repulsive is:

    If you think this defeatist, here’s the Department of Immigration itself describing how ill-suited many Sudanese refugees are to life here.

    Bolt then goes on to list the things that these people have been subjected to including: There is frequent violence … Regular clashes occur among residents, many of them armed … Sexual assault is common … Some children may be unfamiliar with formal schooling.

    This to Bolt is the ‘proof’ of how unsuitable the Sudanese are to come to Australia. Yes Blot we Aussies only want nice, pretty, educated and no doubt white refugees to grace our fair shores.

  16. To all those shock jocks and email senders who claim that refugees receive a pension or income support equal or greater to Australian citizens, here are some facts:

    Migrant Eligibility for Income Support

    The Australian income support system differs from those of most other developed countries, in that it is funded from general revenue, rather than from direct contributions by individuals and employers. Instead of reflecting the level and duration of contributions into a social insurance fund, Australian income support is based on residence and need.

    In general, a person must be an “Australian resident”, as defined in the Social Security Act 1991, to qualify for Australian social security payments. An Australian resident is a person who resides in Australia and has permission to remain permanently—either because they are: an Australian citizen; the holder of a permanent visa; or a protected Special Category visa holder. In deciding whether a person is residing in Australia, factors such as the person’s domestic, financial and family ties to Australia are taken into account, as well as the frequency and duration of any absences from Australia and the reasons for such absences.

    In addition to the requirement to be an Australian resident at the time of claiming, some social security payments (generally, the “pension” type payments which are intended as long-term support) require that a person has been an Australian resident for a certain period of time. For example, to qualify for Age Pension generally a person must have ten years residence in Australia. This residence requirement is called a “qualifying residence requirement” for social security purposes. These ten years can be made up of periods of residence at any time in a person’s life, as long as at least one period is more than five continuous years. Other payments with prior residence requirements include Disability Support Pension (ten years), Parenting Payment (two years) and Widow Allowance (two years). The purpose of the long residence requirements for Age and Disability Support Pensions is to ensure that these payments for the long-term contingencies of life are only granted to people who have a genuine, long-term connection with Australia. This is necessary to protect Australian Government funds, which come from general revenue.

    Some payments (generally, the “allowance” type payments which are intended as shorter-term income support) do not have prior residence requirements, but instead have a “newly arrived resident’s waiting period”. Technically, this means that a person may meet all the qualification criteria for the payment, but it may not be “payable” to them because of the waiting period. In practice, from the claimant’s point of view, the effect of the prior two year residence requirements and of the newly arrived resident’s waiting period requirement is effectively the same.

    Newly Arrived Residents Waiting Period (NARWP)

    A NARWP applies to people who have not been Australian residents and in Australia for a period of, or periods totalling, 104 weeks (ie two years). Periods spent in Australia, as an Australian permanent resident, at any time in a person’s life can be counted towards the waiting period.

    Payments with a newly arrived resident’s waiting period include Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance, Austudy Payment, Sickness Allowance, Carer Payment and Special Benefit. The waiting period also applies to the Health Care Card, the Commonwealth Seniors Health Care Card and Mobility Allowance.

    There is no waiting period for family payments. These payments are available to all Australian residents (and holders of special category visas and prescribed temporary visas, as described above), with children in their care who meet relevant income tests.

  17. Migs, sadly factual information will rarely be sufficient – not when you’re dealing with people who only believe what they want to believe.

    I was thinking that added to the “they’re getting more than me, me, me” argument is the “they go straight onto…” argument. Well yes they do, if what you mean by going straight onto doesn’t include years in refugee camps or Australian detention facilities. The alternative being throwing them all straight onto the streets penniless, but wait a moment..the shock jock fans would probably approve of that too.

  18. Data from the Australian Labour Market Update at February 2011 dispels the myths about immigrants and unemployment in Australia.

    The unemployment rate for those people born in Australia is 5.7%.

    There are 83,000 people living in Australia who were born in Lebanon. Only 1,700 of those are unemployed.

    There are 189,200 people living in Australia who were born in Vietnam. Only 6,100 of those are unemployed.

    There are 204,600 people living in Australia who were born in North Africa or the Middle East (excluding Lebanon). Only 7,100 of those are unemployed.

    Do the sums. 😛

  19. Amazing Migs…those “often parentless Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees, many rejected by other countries” that the Blot mentions have done well for themselves.

  20. You can’t win Migs, if they aren’t bludging off the dole, they are stealing our jobs.

    It’s a win/win – lose/lose situation 😉

  21. Nah Migs, didn’t even bother with em, there were hundreds of shrimp for the taking to use as bait, and plenty of yabbies for the pot.

    The only thing that was normal, was there were no bloody fish 🙂

  22. Now what was that you said Blot??

    REFUGEES from Africa are the most likely to find work after settling in Australia, according to a landmark report examining how humanitarian migrants fare after their arrival.


    Despite many arrivals lacking English skills, the profile of the humanitarian entrant group is comparable with the Australian population as a whole – 35 per cent have a trade or a university qualification either before or after their arrival, compared with 39 per cent of the Australian population.

    Nearly all of the respondents to the survey** indicated they were either Australian citizens already, or they intended to become citizens. More than half can speak reasonable English four years after their arrival.

    **The study for the Immigration Department, obtained by The Age, is the first of its kind undertaken here or internationally. It compares outcomes for humanitarian migrants, including boat arrivals, with skilled and family migrants.

    Will this study, factual information shut Bolt up..I shouldn’t imagine so.

  23. Oh dear is a ripper indeed. Life was beautiful when Australia was white. Quite right, Australia’s original inhabitants are clearly of Scandinavian origins!

    No, Min. You’ve got it all wrong. There weren’t any people here when the first settlers arrived, but if there were any people here, they would naturally have had the right complexion.

    Of course, Dolt also skims over the fact that the first settlers weren’t exactly of good character and that this country was a dumping ground for Merrie England’s poor, criminal and politically undesirable classes.

    He also conveniently overlooks the fact that right from the start, there was a hodge podge of people from all corners of the globe chancing their arm in a new country, including Africans, Chinese, Afghans, Indians, the Middle East and Europe.

    There were enough Muslims in SA to build the first mosque in the country.

    Min, @12.17pm, those stats are fantastic! I’m deeply impressed at how quickly they’re becoming proficient at English. I’m bloody sure that if the situation was reversed I wouldn’t do as well. Hats off to them!

    Some immigrants will become criminals and that will reflect the usual stats for any population. That they are settling so well considering the dreadful circumstances which drove the majority from their countries speaks eloquently of their resilience and determination.

    Unfortunately, the Dolts of this world are only interested in sensationalising the relatively few negatives and willfully ignore the overwhelmingly positive outcomes.

    And in many respects, I think this is true of the Aboriginal population in this country.

    Certainly there are still enormous hurdles to be overcome, but seeing people like Marcia Langton and other Aboriginal academics, business and professional people successfully taking on white society and winning is a small light at the end of a long tunnel.

    We tend to dwell on the negatives of Aboriginal lives; there should be more emphasis given to the positive and successful aspects of Aboriginal people living in an often hostile society, taking it on and winning.

    There isn’t enough recognition given to these successful, by any measure, people. I think if more people, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, were made aware of the success stories, it would be an empowering experience for us all.

    Everyone needs to hear and see positive things about themselves; Aboriginal people are long overdue for that experience.

  24. The Bolt article was clearly pre-empting the “expected violence” at a Miss Sudan beauty pageant. The result, that although there were some incidents that it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary:

    But Superintendent Hendrickson told ABC Local Radio alcohol-fuelled violence among young people is by no means a race problem.

    “This obviously focuses on the Sudanese because they’re celebrations around a specific event, but we see this right across metropolitan Melbourne on a fairly frequent basis and it’s certainly not race-based,” he said.

    And so there you have it, the whole Bolt article was nothing more than yet another excuse by the Blot to throw some of his prejudices around.

  25. Jane, I agree with you that success stories from our Aboriginal people, or any oppressed minority for that matter, are important, but how about focussing on the ghastliness of Bolt & Co , who, when migrating here, have brought with them the awful and rejected values of an old and defeated Europe. They did not come here to escape the tyranny of now defeated fascism, rather they fled to feel safe in what seemed to them a predominantly white and conservative society.

    Things have changed sinced then, but they cling to their past which is not ours.

  26. Mr. Bolt also had a Aboriginal Reserve on the North Coast NSW in his sights last week, alleging that he was restricted from mentioning them by name. We all probably know who he means but the alleviations were the same standard as the Sudanese allegations.

    He does have trouble with dark skin. We all know that anyone with fair skin would never behave in such a manner.

    What type of man gets pleasure from stirring up such hate.

  27. patriciawa @4.51pm, I think the best thing that could happen to Dolt and his fellow travellers would be to deprive them of the oxygen of relevance.

    However, as that is unlikely to happen, they should be mocked, ridiculed and reviled at every opportunity for the liars and racists they are. Sadly, only a scandal of monumental proportions will topple them, I fear.

  28. Jane, the problem with Bolt is that he threatens litigation on everyone who speaks out about him. It’s his way of silencing dissent. It has proved effective.

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