Here is what Pritha Gurung had to say:
Good afternoon Respected judges and members of the audience, the built up of immigration from every continent to the growing settlement of refugees, today multiculturalism is embedded in Australia’s national identity. To answer the question simply, there are many practical ways to build a better community, however, the build up of a “stronger” one in a diverse society requires strengthening of the basic foundations of the multicultural policy. This includes genuine RESPECT of one’s cultural identity through the engagement and negotiation of ethnic differences, the strive to create better EDUCATION towards promoting wide recognition and teachings of the diverse cultures, and the implementation of the power of INDIVIDUALISM towards achieving a dynamic inner structure of a community. The application of these principles will help towards improving existing issues surrounding cultural barriers, social injustice and the struggle in establishing a clear definition of Australian national identity.
Australia, In today’s diverse society still endures the struggle to resolve cultural barriers existent in social hierarchy system. An example of such issue is commonly found in workplace communications which has created misunderstandings and conflicts due to differences in non-verbal behavior, personal space, religion and personal appearance. In order to lessen the barrier, RESPECT in learning to understand the relationship between the sexes and the role assigned in various cultures will provide an insight into how staff from particular cultural groups might respond in an Australian work context. And more to a practical approach, the more the organization offers diverse employees to whom the community can relate in terms of language and identity, and the more we look like the community we serve, the less the distance and fewer the barriers to engage them- as we continue to break down the concept of “us and them”. However, there is still public uncertainty about what Australians hold in common as it hasn’t been long since the transformation of Australian national identity from Anglo-Celtic to multicultural. So there is a lingering suspicion that multiculturalism would lead to socially harmful division and it nearly came true in the recent events of Cronulla riots in 2005 – a protest in response to number of incidents of assaults by groups of young men who were identified as ‘outsiders’ or ‘non-locals’. In order to avoid such disharmony, a strong social cohesion must be established through RESPECT, from both end of the cultures. I believe that the local government should play a more active role in driving the policies of community strengthening and community engagement through the acceptance of cultural diversity by providing the newcomers the right to honor their heritage and religion so that they can feel a sense of belonging, but also carrying with them an obligation to adhere to the values and standards of the national civic compact including commitment to Australian system of government, rule of law, equality under law and participation in civic life, irrespective of diversity. Therefore, the utmost respect of one’s cultural identity creates the foremost step towards building a stronger community within a multicultural environment.
Another major foundation is the limitless power of education and its system. It is through education in home, school or university that one gains knowledge and the development of certain attitude. The disciplinary of teachings should be extended to the learning of different cultures and recognizing the sensitive values and beliefs associated with it as to raise awareness within the school community. In the contemporary society, many migrant students from Non-English background are struggling, like I did at first, particularly in the difficulty in communication competence and cultural attitude. Therefore, at the policy making level, I recommend that government should place more emphasis on schools or any other educational institutions to serve as a community for social, cultural and intellectual interactions. I also suggest that school should be the nucleus of a community center, joint planning of schools by educational, health, welfare and cultural agencies could provide additional facilities for school and allowing the community to access its resources, in this way, a link could be forged between school, family, peer group, and the community at large. This creates an engaging society with the support system, specifically for the migrant children. However, education should also be extended beyond classrooms and also focus on the media coverage of cultural events and current issues such as the controversy of refugees, in order to raise debate and generate possible solutions. This brings me to the topic of the existence of social injustice to the refugees in which today, it is the center of debate about Australia’s future.
The settlements of refugees evoke emotion and controversy in the context of nationalism, identity, power and politics. And some perceive refugee settlement as threatening social cohesion and posing a national security risk in the post September 11 climate. However, during my recent visit with the two refugee sisters from Somalia, they talked me through about their Muslim Girls Kollective South Australia (MGKSA) group to raise awareness and connect other young women to fun activities, events and workshops and also to give the chance to create their own great experiences. Despite living in a multicultural society, the sisters Ramla and Luckie explained their feeling of isolation and lack of support by the community. My perception had completely changed as I realized that the girls have made a significant impact on the community, not only empowering other young people, but also breaking down stereotypes and social barriers, and developing a true sense of community.
According to Oscar Wilde, society exists only as a mental concept; in the real world there are only individual, and I couldn’t agree more! Individuals are what makes a community, but to strengthen the community, certain attitudes need to be adopted. And this comes from my own experience, in my social group, I have got friends of all different races; Polish, Indian, Australian, Spanish, Egyptian, Filipino, you name it! And despite our differences in culture, tradition, appearance and colour, we work together harmoniously with respect and unity because we are young independent free-thinking individuals with great respect for political freedom and civil rights.
However, in the present-day of our modern nation, ethnic diversity still remains a key and pressing issue, and despite the shift from assimilation to multiculturalism in the last quarter of the 20th century, there is still a little active tradition of racism and xenophobia. I believe that individuals need to take on a diplomatic approach to let go of the conservative attitude and embrace the multicultural future, as Australia’s national identity is “constantly changing, potentially exclusive and divisive”.
Multiculturalism has completely altered the fundamental fabric of Australian society. It is through respect, education and individualism that Australia can truly achieve a stronger community. And that is what holds us all together, united and as to the Australian song “we are one, but we are many. And from all the lands on earth we come, We share a dream and sing with one voice, I am, you are, we are Australian”.
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