A multicultural Australia Day message

January 25, 2016 by  
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It is interesting to note that the buzz this year on Australia Day has been about diversity…writes Concetta Fierravanti-Wells.

At a time when many countries around the world are facing challenges, increasingly Australia is being seen as a very good example where diversity is a plus rather than a minus.

Senator Concetta

Senator Concetta

Today, Australia is one of the most culturally diverse, yet socially cohesive nations on earth. Since 1945, we have welcomed 7.5 million people to Australia, including 825,000 under our humanitarian programme. 47% of us were either born overseas or have at least one parent who was. We speak about 300 different languages, including indigenous languages.

Notwithstanding all of this, Australia enjoys a degree of stability and harmony that is the envy of the world. As Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs, I am frequently asked why this is so.

Firstly, Australia is a country of migration. It is a feature of our past, our present and our future. According to a recent OECD report, Australia has one of the highest up takes of citizenship with about 80% of eligible migrants choosing to become Australian citizens. Indeed many Australia Day celebrations across the country today will include a citizenship ceremony.

This is why we must have an ordered migration process with stringent checks and balances. We need to know who comes into Australia because in a relatively short period of time, that person is likely to become a citizen.

Secondly, Australians, by birth or acquisition, adhere to a sense of nationalism based on our Australian values and founded on rights and responsibilities, including: freedom and dignity of the individual, freedom of religion, commitment to the rule of law, Parliamentary democracy, equality of men and women and a spirit of egalitarianism that embraces mutual respect, tolerance, fair play and compassion for those in need and pursuit of the public good.

These great Australian values are encapsulated in the oath of citizenship, which millions of migrants have sworn or affirmed their allegiance to Australia. Through this, we have developed a uniquely “Australian multiculturalism”.

Not surprisingly, the 2015 Scanlon-Monash Index of Social Cohesion report shows there has seen a steady increase in support for multiculturalism to 85% according to the latest survey released; and that 92% of respondents have a strong sense of belonging in Australia and take pride in the Australian way of life and culture.

Thirdly, migrants have contributed to our productive diversity. Like my parents, the overwhelming number of our migrants left their home countries to travel to a land far away to build a better life for themselves and their families. Australia abounds with success stories.

This has been the land of opportunity for so many, and will continue to be so. 30% of small businesses are started by migrants. Migrant workers and their children, often, who are bilingual, offer diversity in the workplace. Our migrants are at the core of the people to people links between Australia and their country of origin, and are often at the core of the trading relationships that this country has with the rest of the world.

Fourthly, our diversity has meant that most of the world’s religions are practised in Australia. Our freedom of religion is underpinned by section 116 of the constitution and by a strong interfaith framework.

Fifthly, there is a strong sense that our positive migration legacy should not be tainted by the actions of a few. At a time when Australia, like the rest of the world, is facing challenges to national security from terrorism, our social cohesion is that vitally important social glue that binds us together.

Contemporary Australia is diverse and vibrant. Today, diversity is mainstream. It is little wonder that this Australia Day, the buzz is all about diversity.

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells is the Assistant Federal Minister for Multicultural Affairs


3 Responses to “A multicultural Australia Day message”
  1. harry rich says:

    My parents and myself were migrants and have adopted Australian values
    and have lived accordingly . The majority of immigrants to this country have
    done and are doing the same.

    However,there is a small minority, many born in this country,who seem tohave
    no interest in adopting Australian customs and values and who are intent on
    disruption, negation and undermining the social equilibrium, often to a dangerous level. This has happened in other countries where immigration is
    a strong phenomenon to the point that in Germany Angela Merkel, who has now invited all and sundry, said years ago :” Multikulti ist tot.

    I was lucky enough to attend Sydney University both as a student and a
    teacher. In those years neither academics nor students exhibited any contempt or indeed dangerous attitudes towards particular religious groups.
    Today the situation is very different. As a Jewish student it is better to keep your head down and not display specific political opinions.

    I may be doing just that, namely stick my neck out when I say that Australia
    is home to many cultures but the one over-arching culture is Judaeo-Christian and I hope that will remain so despite the onslaught of certain social and religious groups . Unfortunately terrorism is raising its ugly and dangerous head world-wide and Australia,despite its multiplicity of
    different social and religious groups, is not immune and can be seriously affected by a relatively small minority unwilling to live in peace and in fact is intent on changing the general culture of this country.

    • Eleonora Mostert says:

      Spot on… and there is no help from The Anti-Discrimination Board as they discriminate against anyone who is not Muslim.

  2. Henry Herzog says:

    The only way we can celibrate invastion day, rather than Australia day, is if we recognize the Aboriginal people and Terros Strait Islanders as the first inhabitants of this land and move the date to federation day.

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