Cultural And Linguistically Diverse Backgrounds In Australia

Migration and Diversity in Australia

  1. History of diversity in cultural and linguistic background in Australia

Continuous migration which began after the first world war and peaked in the second world war has shaped the Australian population to a large extent.  This migration has led to the characteristic cultural and linguistic diversity experienced in Australia (Nicola & Kurzak, 2013). Altogether, policies and historical events have heavily influenced the cultural and language diversity in Australia.

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During world war two, there was an invasion into Darwin by the Japanese. This invasion convinced most people that Australia was incapable of protecting itself due to its small population which was seven million people at the time. Consequently, there was a call for immigration as a means of boosting the population leading to a policy called ‘populate or perish’.

Due to the immigration of new people, the Australian population has steadily increased since the 1940s. In the beginning, the migrants came from North west European countries including Germany and the United Kingdom. More migrants followed from Eastern and Southern parts of Europe in countries such as Yugoslavia, Greece, and Italy. Initially, the Australian government only allowed white immigrants in a policy called white Australian policy. This is whereby it only allowed immigrants who were of British and Irish descent (Jupp, 2002).

However, in 1977, it adopted a non-discriminatory intake of immigrants which looks at the people’s skill levels. More migrants arrived in Australia in the late 1970s mainly from countries in South East Asia. These countries include; Cambodia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.  Recently, migrants are predominantly from Southern and North-East Asian countries like India and China (Australia, 2017).

Australia was initially inhibited by the Aboriginal people. This changed with the arrival of the English settlers (Birch, 2008). The British came in to colonize the Aboriginal people and brought prisoners from its overcrowding jails. There was a clash in the beginning between these two groups of people that was hateful and cruel. This was mainly because the British invaded the land and acted as if the land was uninhabited- terra nullius. The aboriginal resistance against the settlers persisted fighting for more than a century leaving more than twenty thousand people dead.

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There were other conflicts that later developed along the lines of religion and ethnicity. The religious conflict was between the protestant English and the catholic Irish. Another conflict existed between the Victorian Gold Fields and miners from China (Dewhirst, 2008). The main conflict here was because the Chinese worked very hard and were accused of unfair labor competition.

Impact of Historical and Policy Factors on Cultural and Language Diversity

Traditionally, Australia was an egalitarian society. Divisions due to class were limited and there was social justice (Sheppard Jill & Biddle Nicholas, 2015). This has been one of the foundations under which present day multiculturalism is founded. The outlook of many Australian people has also changed from an ethno-centric, insecure nation to a cosmopolitan, self-conscious economic and political power. Nevertheless, there are Australians who have not enjoyed social justice in the country due to their cultural and linguistic backgrounds (Queensland Government, 2010). These are mainly people from non-English speaking countries.

  1. Political, Economic, and Social Issues Impacting People from Cultural and Linguistically Diverse Backgrounds

In the presence of high diversity in Australia, there is need to maintain and respect the cultural diversity in the country. The government must ensure that there is social justice in the country for all people (Gay, 2013). The government has the responsibility treat all the people equally regardless of their background. Additionally, there should be an equal distribution of cultural and material resources (Koleth, 2010).

One of the primary objectives of the government should be a reduction of poverty. This can be achieved by the providing different forms of employment opportunities. Moreover, the government can strive to enhance social integration to achieve economic growth that is sustainable. Due to multiculturalism, there should be a genuine recognition of diversity in cultures (Gay, 2013).

From past data, there is evidence of unequal economic growth for different people. There has been uneven distribution of income among the various families in Australia. For instance, the unemployment level for people born in Australia was ten percent, while that of people born outside Australia is much higher. For example; forty to fifty percent of families where one spouse is from a non-English speaking country, have both spouses being unemployed (Queensland Government, 2010).

Due to a history of a deficient access to resources; be they political, social, or economic, there are people who have not been able to benefit from employment, services or income. Some of the communities in Australia are in dire need of access to amenities and services provided by the government (Bezern, 2015). The government must create policies which will distribute resources such as; education, training, employment and a secure income for the people. This will bring about complete community participation as well as raise the people’s determination. 

  1. Theories on Different Cultural and Linguistic Backgrounds

There are unlimited theories that can explain how societies with people of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds behave individually or interact with other people. How a person is brought up has a significant impact on how they view the world and how they understand information. People in China and Japan, for instance, have a holistic view to the world and look at how different aspects relate to each other. On the other hand, Americans see the world in separate classes where things are defined under given rules. The various views that various people have also affected their performance in school or at work. Three theories that can be used to explain these differences.

Challenges Faced by Different Communities in Australia

The cultural difference theory says that people raised in diverse cultural environments will exhibit different manners in which they approach various activities. Individuals who interact with these people need to comprehend the difference between their home atmosphere and their working or learning environment (Lynch, 2011). All people should have attitudes that respect other people’s cultures without discrimination.

Expectation theory explains that certain people expect less from people of certain cultural and racial groups. In this regard, they don’t even give them a chance to show their strengths but treat them in a manner that aligns them with their low expectations (Lynch, 2011).

Finally, the cultural deficit theory asserts that certain people perform poorly because their cultural, social, and linguistic environments do not give them proper preparation for their future lives. For instance, some people may come from homes where they are not able to read or properly articulate words due to lack of vocabulary training. This may, in turn, opress their ability to get ahead in life because of poor communication skills. Additionally, if someone only knows their native language, this may hinder communication in places of work thus making people lose their jobs.

  1. Current Policies Regarding People with Diverse Cultural and Linguistic Backgrounds

In Australia, there are some organizations, resources, and services presented to people from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. For instance, there are interpretation services which translate information for the migrants who are not familiar with the local language. Additionally, there is a directory that contains information on listings of about one thousand five hundred major organizations focused on individual ethnic communities. These types of services are very vital to departmental officers whenever they need information concerning matters such as child protection (Cass, 2017).

There are also settlement services provided to people who have recently migrated to the country. There is an agreement funded by Commonwealth that aids humanitarian immigrants as well as refugees. It provides health assessment, information, accommodation, and orientation for the eligible migrants (Department of Health Behavioral Health, 2012).  There is also an access and equity policy that enables all Australians to access government services regardless of religion, race or gender. Finally, there are days that have been set aside for the celebration of the diversity that exists in Australia. Incidentally, the harmony day is celebrated on 21st March to promote peace in diversity.

  1. The Strengths and Weaknesses of Policies with Regards to Diversity

The Australian government is working to promote the principle where cultural diversity is valued. This includes; respecting the work of carers who come from different cultural backgrounds, valuing the manner in which parents bring up their children, and encouraging and respecting diversity in places of work. Four principles have been provided regarding children. These include; valuing of children’s views, development and survival of children must be ensured as well as their right to life, consideration of the child’s best interest, and non-discrimination of children (Bezern, 2015).

Government’s Responsibility towards Social Justice and Resource Distribution

Multiculturalism is a policy that has been challenge since it was introduced in 1970 in Australia. It has maintained some central principles but has evolved due to varying priorities by the Australian government. It aims at valuing diversity, social justice pursuit, immigrant integration, the building of the nation, and social cohesion. Various concerns have affected the debates on multiculturalism. The main issue has been ethnocultural diversity which has brought about the threat of terrorism (Koleth, 2010). Additionally, there have been challenges faced in a bid to bring about social cohesion in these diverse communities. Australian authorities, therefore, need to continue using their policy frameworks in managing their multicultural society and also be innovative while dealing with the complicated situation of diversity.

Multiculturalism has innumerable of strengths. It has ensured that there is integration which has brought about better coexistence between different people in the society. It has also made sure that there is social harmony in Australia while still bringing an acceptance to the social and cultural diversity that exists (National Multicultural Advisory Council, 1999). Additionally, multiculturalism is aware that migrants may choose to keep a majority of their traditions which may even be adopted by fellow Australians. However, it has some weaknesses. Some people have lost their employment due to the integration of new immigrants, and other people feel that their values, which identify them as Australians are being eroded (Cass, 2017).

These are some of the concerns felt by various people as a result of multiculturalism. This has therefore led to increased criticism on the matter. Moreover, there are political parties that are emerging which are exploiting these concerns by lobbying for policies intended to bring division and bigotry among the people. Therefore, it is the role of the government to ensure that harmony is maintained despite the cultural and linguistic diversity that exists in Australia. 


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