If Australia, as the Prime Minister claims, is the most successful multicultural country on the planet then we need to embrace that multiculturalism when accepting new citizens.
Immigrants to Australia have made immense contributions to our country and many did so without ever being able to speak English to native standards. Look at the many very successful Chinese, Vietnamese, Italians and Croats. Go to Chinatown and experience that some of those who serve you in restaurants barely speak English, and there are quite a few old Italians walking around Freo who have lived here for sixty plus years whose English language skills would not be good enough to get Australian citizenship today.
Fact is that holding on to one’s language, culture, food, traditions and religion when one migrates gives a sense of belonging, safety and security in a foreign country, even more so for those who were forced to leave their countries.
But it does not matter because the actual integration starts with the children and grandchildren of the original immigrants, and see how they too are successful with many immigrant children being the top students at high schools and in universities, to the benefit of Australia because they will become our future leaders.
By introducing questions about domestic violence to obtain citizenship the government emphasises difference in culture when it should realise that people change when migrating and most of them will accept the rules and laws of their new country, because most have been brought up to be law-abiding people no matter where they live.
Christians don’t break the law and kill people because the Bible preaches and eye for an eye, so why would Muslim men break Australian laws and beat their wife because the Koran says they can?
Domestic violence is rampant in Australia where drunken men beat up their female partners. Muslims don’t drink alcohol so it is more likely that there is less domestic violence in their culture because of that.
We need to have a bit of a reality check in our country. Politicians always talk about values when often they set the standards very low themselves, and many Australians still believe the urban myth of fair go and that we are the best country in the world.
As someone who was born in the Netherlands, where I lived for 19 years, and who lived in Germany for 13 years, before migrating to Australia 35 years ago, I have often been staggered by the racism, ignorance and lack of tolerance of many Australians. There is no doubt in my mind that Australia is more racist than those two countries.
The difference between the countries is that many Australians only tolerate foreigners and different cultures while the two European countries I lived in actually accept and respect migrants for what they are. That is a big difference we in Australia still need to work on.
The cute thing about it all is that all these bogans who get drunk on Friday night and eat kebabs, curries and fish&chips don’t realise they are eating Hahal food often prepared by Muslims.
Migrants from all over the world generously contribute to Australia. They volunteer in community groups, schools, mosques, churches, sporting clubs, etc. and their respect for their new country and involvement with their community makes up for their lack of English language skills.
My own personal experience travelling the world has been that most people are good, caring, compassionate, hospitable and law-abiding, but that there are morons and criminals in every culture and religion.
Accepting and respecting difference should be one of Australia’s core values because it enriches all of us and we should welcome those who want to commit themselves to become new Australians.
Today is my personal Australia Day! Thirty-five years ago today on March 13, 1982 I landed in Australia with my then partner Brigitte to start our new life on the other side of the world, and what a journey it has been.
The decision to migrate to Australia was seen by many friends and colleagues in Germany as foolhardy and naïve, but how wrong they were.
There is no doubt that my Australian years have been the most challenging and often very difficult years of my life. I went through all the highs and all the lows, from a highly successful photography business to a financial disaster triggered by severe depressions, from beautiful houses to awful granny flats, and from great love affairs to a badly broken heart, but as the French say c’est la vie. Shit happens.
But overall it has been a wonderful adventure where I learned so much about myself and life, and at the end I came through it wiser, tougher, more considerate and more tolerant, so these are good gains and lessons.
Moving from Sydney to Perth in September 1985 was stroke of genius, and moving to Fremantle in the early 1990s was pure brilliance as I love living in our beautiful little port city.
Fremantle taught me so much about community engagement and passion and yesterday’s huge Labor election win shows that the enormous Roe 8 people power movement made a big difference and that politicians who ignore the people will be punished. There is an important message for the elected members of the City of Fremantle in that as well.
The good thing about integration in a new culture is that it does not come at the cost of losing one’s identity and culture and while I became an Australian citizen in 1985 much of me will always remain Dutch as the education I received and the values instilled in me in the Netherlands will be with me forever.
Respecting people and being compassionate was something my parents showed me daily, and that being generous and honest and standing up for people less fortunate are good things. They are beautiful values to have.
I love people and the Fremantle community is my family. They are the people I want to look after and support and while I have failed dismally on a few occasions I have always tried my best.
Fremantle has given me a deep sense of belonging and a purpose that is much more than just surviving and earning money. It has taught me that looking after the community one lives in and supporting positive change can make a real difference and that doing that is very rewarding.
I don’t have all that many years left in life but as long as I can do it I will try to help make Fremantle and even better place to live and love in.
Thank you to everyone who has been part of my Aussie life so far. It has been a mind-blowing journey!