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Are you multicultural or are you Australian?

Community Member

I’ve been pondering for a while about the whole ‘multicultural’ notion.

We often hear ‘multicultural people’ or ‘multicultural experiences’ etc but what exactly does that mean?

I am from a culturally and linguistically diverse background, (was born and raised in a non-English speaking country), like the 46% of our population. However, I never think of my self as ‘diverse’ or ‘multicultural’. This is a term other people have created to describe me and my experiences. I am me. A human being like everyone else.

The term ‘multicultural’ often implies ‘different’ or ‘diverse’, but different from what or whom? Well, clearly, from the white-Anglo Australians.

So, my experience has been that in Australia today we have the dominant or mainstream White-Anglo culture and the ‘multicultural’ culture - anything and anyone who doesn’t fit in the white-Anglo category.

The reality of course is that the white-Anglo segment of the population is also part of the whole ‘multicultural’ society, even if it’s the dominant one.

This is never viewed in my opinion, its proper light, perhaps for political reasons and the hidden racism that still lurks in the background of today’s mainstream culture.

Interestingly enough, even non white-Anglo Australians have come to accept this white propaganda and every time I hear them refer to ‘Australians’ they connote ‘anglo’. They usually say I’m Greek or Turkish or Maltese etc. - and any reference to ‘Australians’ seems to indicate ‘the others’, ‘the whites’.

This of course has created an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality which stems from the remnants of the ‘white australia’ policy and the ‘melting pot’ days.

So, who is really an Australian? What makes you true blue Aussie? Is the woman covered in burqa from head to toe who’s been naturalized three decades ago an Australian? And if so, equal like the fifth or sixth generation white-Anglo neighbors of hers?

Often, you’ll find that this is not the case. I propose that it’s time to scrap the labels, erase the terms and start treating all people of Australia with equity despite their looks, skin color, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion etc

How does that sound?

114 Replies 114

Thank you White Knight,

I believe this represents a big number of people. Of course a 5th or 6th generation Anglo-Australian is also the descendant of migrants like everybody else. Being here longer doesn't necessarily make one more 'Australian'. All, apart from the Aboriginals are migrants. All Australians originate elsewhere. The fact that one group is bigger in numbers or has been here longer doesn't exempt them from the whole 'multicultural' society. English is one part of the many (200+ ethnicities and more than 135 religions - All Australian).

Many soldiers from diverse backgrounds have fought in the various wars and defended Australia. Our army, like our police force and our doctors, politicians, judges, teachers etc is made up of many diverse people from various backgrounds - ethnic and religious.

When you say 'Regardless, we still on the whole welcome migrants', who do you mean? Who is 'We'? Your ancestors also choose Australia for their new home fleeing persecution from England, so I don't really see much difference here. For the Aboriginals the English are the 'boat people'.

Did the English assimilate when they arrived in this continent or did they bring their own customs, lifestyle, gods and traditions etc with them? Did they respect the hundreds of existing nations in this continent?

Lions, Rotary, Scouts and Bunnings sausage sizzles are great community groups and provide social connectedness for many, however, I know of numerous anglo-Australians who have never participated in these. This can also be a generational thing. Also, a Greek coffee shop, a mosque, a tai chi or soccer game etc are equally Australian; as equally as the Lions, Rotary, Scouts and Bunnings sausage sizzles.

When I cook pasta, I don't think that I am eating 'foreign' food...

You talk about 'the traditional way of life here'. The only traditional way of life would be the aboriginal way of life. Anything else is an add on...no matter when exactly it became 'part' of Australian society.

All I'm trying to pin point here is the ridiculousness of this 'Us' and 'Them' notion. No one is doing a favour to anybody else by accepting them in this country.People work very hard and make their own living, like thousands upon thousands of others, no matter what background they're from, simultaneously offering lots as well.

Not sure how people prove their allegiance to this continent. I'm sure though that if we ask an Aboriginal, the story we will hear will be very different.

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi Donte

Very interesting discussion.

I would like more involvement if migrants into our anglo based society. Its been ok the last 60 years but could be better.

Similar I'd like greater acceptance by anglo based sectors in encouraging migrants into our lives.

Tony WK

Yes White Knight,

I agree.

There's lot of potential for integration and interculturalism. It takes time. It's a process. And not everyone will love footie etc. tastes vary and involvement in community life is dependent on many variables. Hopefully, forums like this one help to get the ball rolling...

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

I was born in Australia so I am an Australian legal-wise.

However, I feel like a multicultural person because of some racist remarks since growing up here.

My partner is a white Australian and he has never experienced racist remarks like I have. No one has ever told him to "go back to your country!"

I have also been mistaken as an international student several times.

Personally, I prefer the word "ethnicity" compared to "race".

With "race", I feel alienated. What race am I? I'm human, just like you.

I hope that one day, I can celebrate Australia day feeling like an Australian.

Wow what a debate.

Don't worry Blueskye. I don't celebrate Australia Day like everyone else either. Because the whole idea of flags and fireworks and debate over whether it is disrespect to Aboriginal People makes me feel like it has lost it's meaning altogether.

I am who knows how many generations Australian (probably came here on a convict boat I suspect). And yet I don't see how getting drunk and wearing the flag is celebrating our country.

On Australia Day we take the kids out to the bush. Or for a family picnic. To celebrate the fact that as Australians we have that luxury. We are safe and lucky compared to a lot of the world.

I think Tony's worries are common to white anglo Aussies because many don't want Australia to change. It is FEAR. Fear of change. Fear of the unknown.

My view is a lot of this fear exists because we are losing the sense of community. How many of us don't know our neighbours?

When you take the time to meet and talk to people in your community you begin to see they aren't so different at all. Everyone just wants to be safe and free and to give their kids a good life.

My neighbours have probably been told to "go back home" many times. And they are so incredibly hard working! The husband works non-stop to give his kids better than he had. At Christmas their house is the highlight of our street. Best of all is seeing the kids set up tents in the front yard to camp out. Or walking the dog and beong asked how the house sale is going. This family are a benefit to our community regardless of how anyone judges them.

One day Blueskye. One day I hope you realise you belong here too.

Community Member

Hi Blueskye,

Indeed! There is only ONE race. The human race. And of course we are ALL Australian in this continent. And we are ALL multicultural. ALL of us: white-Anglo people who have been here for generations, European people, Asian people, African people, Indian people, Aboriginal people etc etc...

The 200+ ethnicities who call Australian home, (including the white-Anglo people who are not excluded from the rest), together with the hundreds of Aboriginal nations make up the PEOPLE of Australia: the Australians.

Interestingly enough, for the Aboriginals, we are all ‘foreigners’ and migrants. We are all ‘boat people’. So any sense of entitlement of course is not based on reality.

For Political reasons of course, the notion that the white-Anglo children of migrants are different to the rest of the migrants has been perpetuated for decades to maintain that sense of white superiority and emphasize the dominant culture. Nevertheless, the fact remains: white-Anglo Australian are part of the whole multicultural fabric that makes up the Australian society today. Even if they are a Big part, the biggest part; they’re still A PART.

I emphasize this because the notion that the ‘multicultural people’ are different to the white-Anglo people is a very damaging and destructive one and leads to discrimination, marginalization, racism and disadvantage. It is an undercurrent of racism that stillpetmeates every level of our society in Australia.

Until the local mosque, the synagogue, the Hindu temple, the Aboriginal sacred site, the Orthodox Church etc is seen equally as the city Catholic orAnglican cathedral and an integral part of our culture, there will be this ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ mentality.

We have been so brainwashed for years that even culturally and linguistically diverse Australians have come to believe that they’re not as equally Australian as the white-Anglo counterparts.

I believe it’s time for multiculturalism to move towards interculturalism - where each cultural group (including the white) learns and shares and integrates with each other and towards each other. I’m talking about ‘glueing’ the puzzle pieces together until they become ONE picture. It will take a few more centuries I know, but it will happen for sure.

Like eating pasta today is not considered ‘un-Australian’, I’m liking forward to the day when a woman prime-minister in burqa, who’s also a lesbian or transgender with a disability will be considered a normal Australian person. 🙂

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi all,

Donte, you said "I’m liking forward to the day when a woman prime-minister in burqa"

I'm sorry, I cant agree with this. Am I racist? I don't feel so. Fear isnt racism its fear only. But I have expressed in the recent past that there is an imbalance in our multicultural society in that there is clear intention of many cultures that arrive here to congregate among themselves and not assimilate.

Can we imagine what would happen if I, a 5th-6th generation white anglo aussie arrived in any Arab country and ran for prime minister? How many meals would I sell from my café in Tehran...my Aussie food café? How easy would it be for a bunch of Aussie's to arrive in Athens and declare a new housing estate is for Australian Christians only? Would it not appear that a part of Greece has become a mini Australian country within Greece? Back in Oz where we are now seeing "Islamic" housing estates popping up complete with mosque in the centre how at home will I feel if I built a house there? Are we building a Yugoslavia that with Croatians and Serbian neighbours that never ever worked?

Why aren't muslims assimilating? There is some good news. Many of us unfairly condemned Vietnamese "boat people" in the 1980's for not assimilating. Yet they have!! and none of my friends now look at Asian appearance as unAustralian, not at all. In fact we are intrigued as to their contribution towards this country by way of food, education and appreciation.

So, hopefully muslims will eventually assimilate and I assume they will. My concern is the radical element within that religion.

I understand the idealistic drive to be so wholly multicultural to marvel at a Islamic prime minister just as USA did with their first black president. But an Islamic prime minister is different to an aborigine prime minister or Prime minister of Asian extraction or Kiwi. I think my fears are justified due to the situation of conflict and tension in the Middle East. There, it has never fixed itself. The greatest mediators in the world haven't found peace. I think its optimistic to suggest a few centuries before a muslim prime minister comes along here. I don't think it will happen ever and if it does it will be a sad day for this country unless...hopefully... Aussie muslims have developed a far more integrating and appreciation for multiculture than their home country residents.

Until then I live with my fear...of the radicals, not the non radicals.

Tony WK

Community Member

Hello Blueskye,

I arrived in Australia at 18. I’m now almost 50. Had most of my life here. Have all my career here. My home. Fell in love here. Grew old here. Got married here. Had my daughter here. This is home for me and I love it. I have only been back to my country of origin twice in those 30+ years and very briefly. And I am not homesick or ever wanting to return.

I feel Australian. I am Australian. Only I get called Wog and ‘what’s with the accent?’ and reminded by others that I’m different; but different from whom? Different from what? Who’s the ideal Australian benchmark? Surely not the white Anglo-Australians.

To me this is important topic because it impacts on identity and contributes to mental health issues as a result of discrimination and marginalization. Exclusivity and superiority has no base in reality and is as harmful and damaging as ethnocentricity and nationalism or religious fanaticism.

Personally, I often laugh when I hear some remarks people make about me. But it hurts sometimes, after all these decades, and reminds me of the hostility that still exists in a society made up of 200+ ethnic groups and more than 135 religions.

If some people feel superior or more authentic Australians because they are not migrants themselves, but rather, offsprings of migrants, and if the length of time and number of generations makes you truer or better Australian, then no one beats the Aboriginals. They are the ones who have been here for thousands of years.

Hello WhiteKnight,

Fear is a terrible thing. Not a good way to live and definitely doesn’t contribute positive to our wellbeing. Many people are afraid. Afraid of change. Afraid of something different than them.

When the first white people started arriving in Australia, there must have been a lot of fear that the Aboriginals felt.

Indeed, the white invasion, and the genocide that followed altered their lives, their culture, their land permanently.

Since then, people have never stopped arriving. Lots of different people. And many people who have arrived before them now feel threatened and are afraid of the unknown cultures and groups.

There’s nothing new about this. Just different times, different groups, same fears.

The natural thing to do when one goes to a new place (even for a holiday or temporarily) is to find others who speak the same language and have similar belief systems; not out of lack of interest to integrate or stubbornness, but rather as a comforting, natural thing which makes them feel not so alone and vulnerable.

Muslims make 0.02% of Australia's polulation, hardly the dominant culture. In Greece, where I come from, there are two whole states in the northern region where the population is Muslim and speaks Turkish. Only, they are Greek citizens. We also have mosques built in various parts of the country.

Christianity, Judaism and Islam are quiet frankly the three religions with the exact same root! - Abraham.

Christianity took over the world with holy wars and crusades etc in order to establish itself as a dominant religion and that wasn’t any different to Islam or Judaism.

Bottom line, change is inevitable. No religion is better than another. No ethnic group is better than another. Even if it is the dominant. Even if it invaded this continent much earlier.

Muslims may not ‘assimilate’ - integrate is a better word - simply because they haven’t been here long enough.

Why don’t we all learn aboriginal and make it our national language? Change our flag? Become a republic? Etc etc the questions and the reasons are endless.

Did the white-Anglo Australians ‘assimilate’ to the aboriginal culture or did they try to exterminate it? No difference.

As for the ‘radical element’ of Islam, I don’t think it’s very different to fundamental Christianity and let’s say KKK. But we don’t blame the grandma down the street who goes to mass for radicalization.

We indeed have a long way to go. Only I don’t choose to live in fear until we get there.