Recently, there has been a lot of publicity and excitement involving the refugee swap deal between Australia and Malaysia. Amidst the brouhaha, another issue has been overlooked. It is concerning migrants in Australia and their effects of integration into the nation. Migrants and refugees might appear similar at a glance, but they are two distinct terms used to describe fundamentally different groups of people. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a refugee is “someone owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.” Migrants, on the other hand, are people who choose to move (voluntarily) to improve the future prospects of themselves and their families. While the term ‘migrant’ does not seem as pressing as the word ‘refugee’, the impact of migrants on a nation, in this case, Australia, should not be taken lightly.
Australia has become a destination for those who are seeking a better future. Being an economically developed nation, Australia attracts millions of skilled and unskilled individuals, who bring along with them, their culture. One’s own culture can be likened to an individual’s skin. We bring our cultural traditions with us everywhere we go. Basically, culture forms an extremely important part of life. Therefore, migrants should be able to preserve their cultural traditions as it forms their identity and encourages diversity in Australia, albeit at the risk of cultural clashes.
Migrants in Australia should be given the chance to practise and promote their cultural practices as culture forms an important part of one’s identity. The notion of culture being one’s identity is not an alien one. Very frequently, people refer to themselves as being ‘Whites’ or ‘Asians’ and other ethnic groups. Therefore, removing the rights of migrants to practise their culture is akin to tearing out their vital organs. Without culture, migrants will be lost in a new land with nothing to turn to for solace. Celebrating cultural festivals or eating their local delicacies gives assurance to migrants in addition to giving them something to take pride in. Moreover, by keeping their cultural practices alive, migrants can prevent their culture from dying out and in due time, pass these traditions down to their children and grandchildren. Culture provides meaning in life for migrants, who are in a state of transition into an alien culture. It embodies the migrants and therefore, they should be encouraged to promote and keep their own cultural traditions as their identity.
Next, migrants in Australia can contribute directly to the cultural diversity of the whole nation. In the past, Australia was infamous for their ‘racist’ policies that glorified European culture while stifling the culture of indigenous Australians. However, Australia has learned from its past and now pursues a ‘Multicultural Australia” policy where the citizens are united in diversity. When these migrants move to Australia, they should be encouraged to practise their traditions so that Australia may be transformed into a culturally rich nation. Being culturally diverse, Australia will be able to present a new face to the world; an Australia that appreciates the diversity of its citizens. This can prove to be an attraction to international tourists, especially those from Europe and Western nations. With migrants actively contributing to the cultural landscape of the nation, Australia will no longer be known as ‘just another British colony’. On the contrary, Australia will be famed for being a ‘melting-pot’ of cultures. With the encouragement of assimilation of migrant cultures into existing culture, Australians will be able to create a whole new identity for themselves; one that is distinct, rich and unique.
However, the cultural practices of migrants may lead to untoward circumstances. A clash of cultures will be imminent. The way these clashes are dealt with is of paramount importance to ensure the internal security of the nation. If not properly managed, these cultural clashes will ultimately lead to conflicts, which will be damaging to society. Certain quarters of the existing population may be intolerant to migrants’ cultures. For example, former Member of Parliament and leader of One Nation party, Pauline Hanson was avidly against multiculturalism in Australia. Similarly, some people may deem the migrants to be invasive. Racism is a very common problem faced by migrants in Australia. A few years back, the ethnic Indian community there suffered a backlash and attacks on them increased significantly. These examples of internal conflicts can be very damaging to the nation as a whole. Violent behaviour and physical conflicts may threaten investor confidence in Australian companies. Tourism would also be affected adversely. Thus, the migrant community should be subtle and thoughtful when practising their cultural traditions, in order to not offend other segments of society. Based on this, it is clear that the encouragement of migrants to practise their culture will pose some risks to society. Nevertheless, migrants’ safety should be heavily emphasized when they come to Australia.
It is evident that the action of migrants practising and promoting their cultural traditions provides some benefits to the nation. However, care must be taken when dealing with the issue of migrants as it is deemed to be sensitive by some and may pose a risk to internal security. Having said that, if the issue of migrants in Australia is managed properly, the nation stands a good chance to thrive and prosper more than ever before.
Nicholas Keevan is an Australian Matriculation student at Sunway College. He is enthralled by random sparks of insanity and is now on a quest to find solace in silence. The die-hard fan of Harry Potter is now awaiting the final instalment of the film series to hit our shores.
Image taken from here.