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Multiculturalism in, racism out

With all the to-ing and fro-ing by the Immigration Minister and the Opposition about a nine year boy orphaned on Christmas Island being shuttled to Sydney for an emotional funeral, then back to Christmas Island and now with the boy returning to relatives on the mainland, the recent announcement by the Minister, Chris Bowen about a new policy direction in multiculturalism, may not have had the prominence it deserved. The new policy is titled The People of Australia – Australia’s Multicultural Policy.

This may be the start of a cultural change to end racism and embrace those from other cultures. SaveOurSBS.org welcomes such. At the heart of the Policy is a new advisory body to be called the Australian Multicultural Council (AMC). It will operate from 2012 and will succeed the current Australian Multicultural Advisory Council (AMAC).

The Immigration Minister said “The new body will act as a champion for multiculturalism in the community; will advise the government on multicultural affairs; and will help to ensure Australian Government services respond to the needs of migrant and refugee communities”.

The government will seek to “to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination” through a National Anti‑Racism Partnership. The task is to “deliver an anti-racism strategy”, Chris Bowen said.

The implementation of the multicultural policy will be assigned to Senator Kate Lundy. She will now be the Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs.

In a media release, the Chair of FECCA, the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia, Mr Pino Migliorino said, “We congratulate the government on telling the world that Australian multiculturalism is unique, successful and vital in creating a peaceful and harmonious society. We commend the Minister for his eloquent exposition of the genius of multiculturalism and acknowledge the passion of thousands of Australians who supported our advocacy. The world will watch while we celebrate Australian multiculturalism; this is only the beginning.”

The Policy has four main points which are:-

  • celebrating and valuing diversity
  • maintaining social cohesion
  • communicating the benefits of Australia’s diversity
  • responding to intolerance and discrimination

These are all excellent values.

So where does our multicultural broadcaster, SBS, fit within all this?

Mr Bowen said the Policy was “built on a whole-of-government approach”. That being said, SaveOurSBS.org expects that when the next triennial funding is announced for SBS in 2012, this “whole-of-government approach” might also include increased funding for SBS so it may execute its role more effectively. SBS’s role in nurturing diversity and celebrating multiculturalism via the communication of radio, TV and the internet, is like most other things, dependant on having sufficient funds.

While nothing was specifically mentioned in the Policy in relation to our multicultural broadcaster, nor was specific reference essential, it would appear not to be outside the scope of the “whole-of-government approach” of the Policy for government to now be able to justify an increase in public funding for SBS. Time will tell if government will do this or abdicate its responsibilities for SBS; leave it to struggle through reliance on the commercial sector.

The Policy was developed as an expression of support for Australia’s multiculturalism and an endorsement of the Australian Multicultural Advisory Council (AMAC) statement which was presented to government for consideration last year. The Policy was also formed in response to the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia’s “Different but Equal – National Multicultural Agenda”, also in 2010.

The entire 16 pages of The People of Australia – Australia’s Multicultural Policy can be read in full at http://www.immi.gov.au/media/publications/multicultural/pdf_doc/people-of-australia-multicultural-policy-booklet.pdf and in languages other than English (LOTE) here http://www.immi.gov.au/living-in-australia/a-diverse-australia/multicultural-policy

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