Multiculturalism and “Team Australia”
Dr Tim Soutphommasane
Race Discrimination Commissioner
Speech to Community Relations Commission for a Multicultural NSW Symposium
20 August 2014
The Hon. Victor Dominello MP, Minister for Citizenship and Communities
Mr Hakan Harman, CEO, Community Relations Commission
Thirty years ago, we were warned that Australia was fracturing into a nation of tribes. We were warned that multiculturalism and immigration were undermining the Australian national identity.
The warning came in a speech delivered by the historian Geoffrey Blainey. It was a significant intervention. Professor Blainey was – and remains – one of Australia’s eminent historians. His speech would spark a national debate. It would be the first major public challenge to Australian multiculturalism.[i]
Since then, there have been few periods when there hasn’t been debate about multiculturalism. Diversity’s critics have been perennially noisy. But for the most part Australians have come to accept and embrace cultural diversity. It is something that is a part of our daily lives. Far from controversial, it is a natural presence – there in our homes, schools and neighbourhoods; there in our shops, offices and workplaces.
Back in 1984, faced with dire predictions of national discord, not everyone would have been confident that multicultural Australia would succeed. Yet there is no better way to describe our reality. Modern Australia is a success story of multiculturalism.
I am delighted, then, to be here as the Community Relations Commission relaunches as Multicultural NSW. This relaunch is an emphatic statement of our cultural diversity.
Gone are the days when people felt awkward about the word multicultural. Few these days are splitting hairs about the difference between a multiethnic Australia and a multicultural Australia. We have grown more comfortable in our own skin, whatever that colour may be. And more relaxed about there being more than one way that you can be Australian. We have, if you like, become rather relaxed and comfortable about Australian multiculturalism.
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