What was settlement assistance through ethnic communities all about?

I brought together in the office the Melbourne-based members of the Minister’s appointed ethnic affairs advisers, believing that a little cross-fertilisation would be mutually beneficial. It was, as they were in contact with the higher echelons of the various ethnic communities, whilst we (worker bees) were close to the lower levels.

I also brought together some of the ethnic community leaders, especially of the newer and smaller communities, so that they might benefit from the experience and knowledge of the older ones. And some of the longer established community groups did assist, in a material way, the newer arrivals. For example, the Jewish community set out to guiding those of the other communities who wanted to obtain registration to practice medicine.

And one never knew what subject could surface at some of these meetings. At one resource centre, one welfare worker asked how I had won my job over her. … When the subject of illegal immigrants was raised at a community leaders’ meeting, my chief looked as if he was going to faint. In any event, when an amnesty was later declared by the Minister, included in the illegal immigrants fronting up were ninety Sikhs.

… … And it was clear that, just as the Jewish people had a strong influence on politicians, so the Vietnamese had a very effective influence with the welfare deliverers. These workers said how grateful the Viets were. … But one Vietnamese attending a course said to a friend of mine conducting the course: “You Aussies are f***ing stupid. You always give something for nothing.” How insightful and realistic.

… … this might lead one to the conclusion that ethnic affairs policies, while initiated with indubitably good intentions, ranged from inept to inefficient … in practice. Support for such a conclusion came in the mid-Nineties from two eminent ethnic leaders who had been prominent in earlier years. Their published criticisms were that any affirmative action was meant to be short term; that there is now no need to waste scarce funds on duplicate service structures; that chasing the ethnic vote was not only undesirable but that there is no such thing as the ethnic vote.

This becomes interesting. If these eminent advisers had held these views in their term of office, who decided to perpetuate such a policy? Why did not bureaucratic advisers counsel against policies in perpetuity? My experience suggests that their own career structures, apart from some limitations of an intellectual and moral nature, would have minimised any chances of changing these policies. The squeaky wheel solution would have applied.

Over the years, I had carriage of each settlement policy, except for English language classes, and those of us who tried to introduce any efficiencies were generally steam-rollered out of the way. When an Aussie senior bureaucrat (always Anglo-Celt) burbles about protecting a sensitive policy, one knows that a burial service is being conducted, and that his backside is safe.

(These extracts from ‘Destiny Will Out’ reflect the 2 key management questions which I believe rule the private sector. When scarce taxpayer money is spent, I aver that these 2 questions need to be applied rigorously. The questions are: Is this what we ought to be doing? If so, how well are we doing it? We who pay the taxes are entitled to know how well our money is spent. The welfare ‘industry’ may not want to know that.

In the 1970s, surprisingly, officialdom was claimed to be deficient in the way it delivered its services to newly-arrived immigrants. Instead of remedying the deficit, a parallel service structure costing millions per year was sought successfully by some ethnic community leaders. Instead of finding their own way to needed services as usual, intrepid new arrivals were now to be taken to these services.

When I arrived on the scene in the early 1980s, I was told by the 2 senior ethnic leaders that such a service would not be needed for more than a decade. How so? It seemed to me that they had been over-run by younger leaders. Was ethnic empowerment an objective? Since this thrust overlapped the arrival of the highly challengeable multicultural policy, I assume so. Was ethnic vote hunting by politicians part of the push?

After ‘Destiny Will Out’ had been published, Emeritus Professor George Zubrzycki wrote to me saying that he agreed with everything in my book except on voluntary euthanasia.)

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