What multiculturalism means

Saturday, 6 September 2014 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

I tasted a bit of Australian multiculturalism at a recent Multicultural Fair at a Girls’ High School in a Sydney suburb. It was a fine experience where activities throughout the day brought out the spirit of different cultures and nationalities. The common thread was that they were all Australians – citizens or permanent residents – having migrated from other countries. Yet the identities were visible by way of language and culture. The food fair took precedence over the other activities. It was the only activity which raised funds for the school. The parents cooperated to run stalls, each offering a wide range of food items. There was no competition among them each stall having its own type of food and delicacies. The Australians, on the whole have got used to a variety of dishes. The stalls provided them with a wide choice to try out. Chinese, European, French, Indian, Indonesian, Korean, Malaysian, Sri Lankan and Thai dishes were available in the different stalls. Apart from the name boards, the identity of each was maintained through posters, banners, menu lists and other publicity material. Tea trays were available at the English Tea Shoppe, where the customers were able to take a pot of tea to the dining area where tables were laid out, and enjoy the brew. They invariably tasted cupcakes or another variety from the adjoining European cake stall. The Asian stalls offered a big choice of well-packed lunches in addition to short eats and other snacks. Fried rice and string-hoppers were the favourites at the Sri Lanka stall. Apart from the food fair, the Rotary Book Fair attracted the reading types, where books which had been donated towards the fundraising campaign of the school were available at giveaway prices. So were CDs and DVDs, gift items and other sundry items. Student performances of different types of dance and music items attracted parents and well-wishers who turned up in large numbers to participate in a worthy cause. Bollywood Hardcore, classical and semi-classical dances, pop dances, hip hop, Korean fan dances and aerobics were among the many items that drew large applause. Australia is generally accepted as one of the most multicultural countries in the world. In fact, it is considered the second most multicultural nation in the world and had tied with Switzerland behind table-leader Luxembourg, according to a recent survey. Canberra University’s Dr. Riyana Miranti says migrants make up a quarter of Australia’s population. Skilled migrants account for 62% of arrivals. According to her report released in 2010, the skills of many migrants are being wasted. Most of Australia’s migrants come from the United Kingdom, New Zealand and China, the report says. “Compared to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) average, which is only 11%, and in comparison to other countries, this is almost double that of the United States and more than twice that of the United Kingdom,” Dr. Miranti says. According to her, only 8% of migrants are refugees admitted under Australia’s humanitarian program. She says refugees make up only 10 in 10,000 people living in Australia.”Other countries take more refugees... for example, Sweden takes 87 refugees per 10,000 head of population,” she says. The report says most migrants are highly educated, with their qualifications tending to match or exceed those born in Australia. But, Dr. Miranti says, 38% of university graduates from non-English speaking countries are working in low- or medium-skilled occupations. “The most common reasons that they identify is their lack of Australian experience and reference, language difficulties, lack of local contacts and networks and then having skills and qualifications not recognised.”