Multiculturalism in Australia
Modern History - Orals
The lives of ordinary Australians have changed greatly since 1945. In this present day of 2007 we see many different cultures coming together to call Australia home. Before this though, there were many issues regarding a multicultural society in Australia; and who should and shouldn’t enter into this country. During this presentation today, I will be presenting you with the changes that Australia has had to face in a bid to make our society multicultural and appealing to all different backgrounds. The lives of ordinary Australians has changed as it means that they can now interact with those from different walks of life, this is not to say however that all cultures have embraced the Australian way of life.
Firstly, multiculturalism refers to several different cultures which can be brought together to live peacefully and equally as one. This was a major issue in Australia during the 1945’s due to the Governments strong point of view for keeping Australia in ‘white hands’ only. Attempts were made before 1945 to make Australia a multicultural country but failed as racism occurred within the social and working environments. Chinese gold diggers who came into Australia to work on the mining fields were treated unfairly because there was a fear of them due to tension of competition. The Chinese were described by many fellow Australians to be ‘untiring workers’. Many Australian gold diggers wanted the Chinese out of the gold fields, and to be deported back to their original counties; and were astonished to learn that 3.3% of Australia’s population was made up of the Chinese workers. This was the first time that an Asian country had contributed towards the Australian population. This was the first step in Australian history to make Australia a multicultural society, but failed miserably. (http://www.cultureandrecreation.gov.au/articles/goldrush/)
Before World War two, Australia was a country with a homogenous European population and remained in this manner for some time. The unofficial title of the ‘White Australia Policy’ ensured that those who were not of European descent were not permitted to live in ‘White Australia.’ Immigration laws strictly administrated these policies and were supported by the governments who were all committed to keeping a ‘White Australia.’ Issues that Australia faced during the 1945’s included racism towards other backgrounds that were also of European descent, equality as not everyone was treated equally; especially the aboriginals, who were the original owners of the land. Many other nations brought up concerns about Australia’s ‘White Policy’ but were dismissed by the Australian Government. Australia also had many unfair immigration laws which were inconsistent and could not be met by those who were not of European descent.
During 1929 Australia saw the Great Depression and the commencement of World War two in 1939, these burdens saw the global economics fall and immigration from British countries was vastly low. During World War two, former Australian Prime Minister John Curtis stated the following message: "This country shall remain forever the home of the descendants of those people who came here in peace in order to establish in the South Seas an outpost of the British race.”
John Curtis’s dream of keeping Australia in the hands of its white European descendants did not last; as the end of World War two saw Australia as a vulnerable target to those more dominating nations such as Japan. At this point the Government released a warning to Australians saying, ‘Populate or Perish’. During the war however, Australia became home to many non-European refugees, especially to Asian countries. Malaysian’s, Filipino’s and Indonesian’s settled down in Australia but were sought over and were even considered to be sent back home. Harold Holt's verdict in 1949 to permit approximately 800 non-European refugees to stay; and the Japanese war brides to be admitted, was the first step for Australia to become a multicultural society. (http://www.immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/08abolition.htm#WW2)
The ‘Snowy Mountains Scheme’ saw Australia turn into a multicultural haven. There were workers from over thirty different nations who were not necessarily of European descent. Seventy percent of the workers who were part of the scheme were migrants who saw potential in coming to Australia. These migrants came to the Snowy Mountain’s in a bid to work and make enough money; and later arrange to meet up with their families when they could afford it. During this period in time, the Australian Government received many letters from men who were interested in helping out with the scheme. These men saw this as an opportunity to get into Australia and have freedom. The camps were filled with many men from different countries. This was a big step for Australia, as it was the first time that both the political government and the Australian people agreed on letting different cultures mix around together.
An ex-worker who worked on the ‘Snowy Mountain’s Scheme’ remembers what it was like for him when first arriving into Australia. ‘For the first few days I was worried ... but you could see almost straight away there was nothing to worry about. Everyone just seemed to be glad to be here. Czech and Polish workers helped the Germans learn English. At nights we played cards and shared our experiences. Everyone had plenty to talk about -- how we had come to Australia, our plans to start a new life and how much we were looking forward to being reunited with our families. The main goal was to work hard to be able to bring out our families as soon as possible.’ This summarizes on how Australia reacted to a multicultural society not just as a nation, but also as an individuals.
More than Six million migrants have called Australia home since 1945 and have also have helped boost Australia’s population to 20 million. Today, approximately 43% of Australia’s population were born overseas, in countries such as Greece, Italy, Saudi Arabia or Vietnam. Today, Australia is one of the world’s most multicultural countries with migrants from around 200 nations. The influence of this diverse population can be seen in many aspects of everyday life; for example, what we eat in restaurants, the clothes we wear, the music we listen to and even the movies we watch. It may have sounded impossible in 1945 to have Australia as a multicultural society, but today this is a reality. Different cultures and religions have shaped our country to how we know it today, without these nations; we would still be a white Australian country which would be dominated by those of a European background. (http://www.doctorconnect.gov.au/internet/otd/publishing.nsf/Content/work-Multicultural+Australia)
Although Australia has changed greatly since 1945, from not allowing a single non European migrant to enter into this country, to being one of the worlds most multicultural countries, not everyone has appreciated this way of life. This can be seen through the Cronulla Riots which occurred in Sydney, about two years ago. Not only were these riots unnecessary, but they also changed Australia’s image of well civilised multicultural society. Australia still has tension between many different racial groups which include those who are of Islamic backgrounds. Approximately 5000 people had gathered to protest to incidents of assaults and obscene behaviour by groups of citizens who were identified as being of Middle Eastern backgrounds. In the video you are about to watch, a Lebanese man, was jailed for burning an Australian flag that he stole from an RSL club on December the 11th 2005. <<Show Video>> (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoYWdIZhFBA) Australia is a nation of free speech, but the burning of the Australian Flag is not tolerated. This is because Australia has been though a lot in a bid to make it what it is today.
The importance of migration into Australia is still recognised as the benefits of the skills and expertise that are bought here. Not only does Australia as a nation relay on these migrants for expertise and but also to help us populate. Australia today is proud of its multicultural society, even though the tensions between many racial groups make our society look less appealing to other nations; they are a minority group and not all Australian migrants behave in this manner. With the help of the Eureka Stockade, World War Two, The Great Depression and the Snowy Mountains Scheme Australia has been able to build up its multicultural nation, not only is this a benefit for the present day, but also for the future of Australia’s population.
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