My chief hit me with the question, “What are the policy imperatives of grant funding?” Well, I thought the policy was clear. But there were no operational guidelines for prioritisation and so the squeaky wheels got the grease. So I set to work and thereby upset the policy chief in Canberra (whom I later accused of being my first public service racist). With accepted guidelines, the flexibility available to deal with squeaks was reduced, was it not? Favours would not be so readily available.
I then moved into project funding … Our many-hatted friend had a pet project. Obtaining funding for it would enhance his reputation with the other ethnic workers and shakers. The Minister accepted my recommendation … (after due process was followed, of course), and now we had a true friend.
Then the Minister asked me to look into some adverse publicity being skilfully generated by a mainstream community organisation, which was collectively beating at its breast with apparent anxiety over the plight of some Vietnamese in the district. The Vietnamese were being very well looked after, I pointed out. But these people really cared for the poor Viets and went to the press again. And the mainstream press did not seem to care a damn for truth, only headlines. So the Minister bought off this lot too (after due process was again followed, of course).
While the mainstream press paid no attention to our new policy, the ethnic press was helpful. One editor really wanted to help his people by having the department refer to him all immigration sponsorships by members of his community. Apart from the fact that he ran a travel agency, it was difficult to see how he could do better than departmental officers, who had all the language skills necessary.
The ethnic newspapers were well supported by their communities, I was told. The department employed journalists not only to spread the word to mainstream media (in case they cared) but also to ethnic newspapers (who did care). The latter watched the department like vultures watching a somnolescent rabbit. Following my belief that, in time, ethnic communities must be encouraged to be more aware of other ethnic communities, I spoke to the editors of the three major newspapers.
I explained that I had grown up in a country where the ethnic communities coexisted initially and each had limited communication with the others. I had noticed a similar pattern in Australia. Whilst the ethnic media informed their readers about matters affecting their lives in the country, what would they know about the rest of Australia, especially if their knowledge of English was limited?
Since successful settlement was of major concern to everyone, was there scope for some cover to be provided to the settlement successes of other ethnic communities? Two of the three editors said that the idea was fraught with difficulties, e.g. space, time, and cost had to be considered. No, they were not interested. The third editor was different. “Okay,” he said. “What can you do for me? Can you also provide the material and meet any extra costs?” This was my kind of man. Then our head office said that the idea was fraught with difficulties, e.g. time, cost, and capacity had to be considered. No, the proposal was fraught with difficulties and one would have to move with caution, if at all.
So, that was that. I had a feeling that, back at head office, nothing excited them. I drafted some guidelines for ethnic affairs officers (that was us); it took me a whole weekend. My draft was accepted by my regional chief and a year later, head office produced a little leaflet just when the thrust of the policy had been allowed to fade away.
In the meantime, my team researched funding sources available at three levels of government; the funds received by each ethnic community in the past; and set these against our assessment of needs. The Minister loved it all, whilst head office yawned. It was amazing how much of the taxpayers’ money was being directed to ethnic communities. What had this achieved?
(These extracts from ‘Destiny Will Out’ will confirm that our governments – and thereby the taxpayer – were spending a lot of money enhancing access by the newly-arrived immigrant to services, mainly from the public sector. However, a new pot of honey will have predictable results. And politics is not easily separated from policies.
Mainstream media, and thereby the public at large, could have had little idea about all this. But, the ethnic media and ethnic community leaders were busy in what I (the outsider) considered to be ethnic empowerment of a kind.
More importantly, I felt that immigrants, no matter their origin, might desirably become more aware of the life and backgrounds of immigrants of other ethnicities, thus enhancing everyone’s integration into the nation. That is why I wrote ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity,’ which also examined the shared search by one and all for God, the Universal Creator; and which also highlighted the co-creation of mankind, viz. the Family of Man.)