In today’s Sun-Herald there is a piece by Kerry-Anne Walsh called “Multiculturalism isn’t the enemy.” Unfortunately, given it is an excellent piece, it is not online. It should be. So here most of it is:
…Twenty years ago, a folk festival in Australia was a homage to all things Celtic. It’s a sign of Australia’s extraordinary growth and maturity that the four-day [Canberra Folk] festival now attracts the cream of domestic and international acts and honours the music, dance, arts and cultural life of an extraordinary number of nationalities in the Australian family.
This year, as the poisonous war in Iraq and the turmoil in Afghanistan continue, the music of the Middle East was deliberately honoured.
As his Government readies to whistle up so-called cultural values as an election issue, Howard, if he’d attended, would have witnessed a microcosm of the miracle that is our new multicultural society.
Kevin Andrews, the staunchly Catholic Immigration Minister whose added title of Multicultural Affairs was ditched in January as the government moves to ditch multiculturalism altogether, might also have received divine enlightenment.
Traditional Aussie bush poets performed alongside a wide variety of Middle Eastern music and dance groups. Irish fiddlers jigged and reeled; Aussie bands played bouzoukis alongside didgeridoos. A Sunday morning ecumenical Easter service was themed in the celebration of diversity, with prayers for the narrow-minded, the war-torn, and the bigoted.
The broader political backdrop, in this election year, is an ideological battle over the future of multiculturalism with the government ramping up its “integration” rhetoric as the poll date nears.
Howard explained that dumping “multicultural affairs” from the ministry name and adding “citizenship” expressed “the desire and aspiration that immigrants become Australians”.
Does that mean that the 7 million people from 200 countries who have successfully made Australia home while retaining their own proud heritage haven’t wanted to become Australians?
Why not applaud the successes of our melting-pot society… instead of finding fault and political opportunities?
Multiculturalism didn’t create the Cronulla riots. White and black Australia led the way long before the term “multiculturalism” was coined in the 1970s. And white blokes sitting in radio studios are a bigger threat to racial harmony than a word.
The word “muticulturalism” is now loaded by some politicians and detractors to send the erroneous message that multiple cultures threaten the Anglo one.
They should get out more.
I despair at the anticorrectness correctness that infects the Howard government. They are tossing many a healthy baby out with the bathwater, I feel.
See also Shan Jayaweera, “Sharing two cultures shouldn’t be a test of allegiance.” Read the rest of this entry »