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Why do we think multiculturalism has failed?

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Recently the team I work for decided to have a multicultural lunch. This wasn’t some corporate edict from head-office. We decided to do this because we wanted to. Our office is a microcosm of multicultural Australia. There are people from all over world; China, Japan, Algeria, France, Vietnam, Crete, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Spain, The Philippines, Canada, The United States, England, South Africa … there are even some Australian born people of Anglo-Celtic descent, like me.

The lunch was great. People brought in food from all different cultures. And the desserts were amazing too … I have to admit, I just had dessert for lunch that day. Many kinds. As I sat there having my second helping of cake, I looked around the office and saw all these people from all over the world smiling, laughing and having a great time. This, I thought to myself, is why multiculturalism works. People just getting along with each other despite our cultural differences. More to the point, people celebrating their cultural differences. Why then, I asked myself, do people always rush to judge Australians as being racist?

Don’t get me wrong. I know racism exists in Australia. Evil, nasty, deplorable racism. But these people only represent a minority of Australians. I firmly believe that the vast majority of people in Australia are like the people I work with. Accepting and curious about people from different cultures. So why don’t we celebrate this more in Australia?

Sometimes I think Australians are Australia’s worst enemy. We rush to make judgement on ourselves even when the facts don’t back up the case against ourselves. We continually look for signs of bigotry and greed and evil in the national character. Less often do we celebrate the good things in our national character. Maybe that’s why the rest of the world only views Australians as cartoon-exaggerations of who we really are. Maybe that’s why we are perceived as being beer-swilling, loud-mouthed, sport-obsessed racists instead of as the sophisticated, culture-loving, tolerant people we really are.

We should celebrate the overall success of multiculturalism in Australia and stop looking for racism in places where it doesn’t exist. Just think about it. We live in one of the most multi-cultural nations on Earth, and yet we are also one of the most peaceful and socially well-adjusted nations on Earth. So, what does that say about us as a people? I think it says good things, and that’s what I saw at our multicultural lunch.

So, what stories of successful multiculturalism do you have? How do you celebrate the wonderful variety of cultures in our great land? Should we have a public holiday to celebrate multicultural Australia?

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