Modern Australia is collecting immigrants with a shopkeeper mentality. It is as if the world is running out of people. We also collect deserving refugees, and accept reluctantly economic migrants who claim asylum, and who cannot be sent home because of an out-dated UN Convention. We have enough taxpayer money to give to uneconomic unviable entrants for years at a time so that the shopkeepers remain viable. But we are kept afloat as a nation only because of foreign capital inflow, which increases foreign ownership of Australia.
Against this economic policy, we expect new entrants to integrate into the nation. But there can be cultural barriers to this hope. The hither-to successful combination of habituation, public education, and community acceptance may now become eroded by official tolerance of efforts by new entrants to adhere to cultural values more in tune with practices in countries of origin, under the guise of an ephemeral ‘multiculturalism’ policy.
A viable immigration policy requires new entrants to adapt to the institutional structures and societal mores of the nation they chose to enter. Other adaptation may be advisable in order to access the equal opportunities available in Australia, underpinned by its traditional ‘fair-go’ ethos.
The following extracts from the Preface to ‘The Karma of Culture’ highlight the issues in immigrant adaptation.
“One’s culture provides the template for dealing with life. Its base is laid in childhood, through the values imposed by family and community. The cultural practices of one’s tribe reinforce these values and associated perceptions. The impacts of nurture (experience) upon nature (inheritance), as one passes through life, are filtered through this network of cultural values.”
“In the migrant-receiving countries of the Western world, the core issue of a conflict between a sustained attempt by immigrants to retain their cultures and the osmotic force of equal opportunity offering an earlier and smoother integration into the values and mores of the host people bobs up and down in the seas of social policy.”
“The need for an immigrant to reconcile inherited cultural values and associated practices with the predominant values and practices of an adopted nation-state can create stresses on both cultures. The issues which arise from this cross-cultural impact are those of : equal opportunity; whether a unified people can arise from widely divergent tribes; whether the individual or the family unit has priority in terms of rights and responsibilities; the definition of family, and its role in society; cultural and political sovereignty in a globalising nation-state; the place of the Creator in modern life; and whether Australia’s “fair-go” ethos needs an infusion of Asian values.”
The following extracts from the final chapter have relevance for the future.
“ Yet, that Anglo-Celt ethos prevails; as do the political and other structural institutions inherited from Britain. These are accepted without challenge by that army of post war immigrants, not all of whom had much prior exposure to these valuable mechanisms. Just as the diverse tribes from the British Isles formed themselves into the modern Aussie, without significant erosion of core cultural traditions and values, so we immigrants are re-shaping the nation-state and the national identity, to produce a palimpsest. Core characteristics of the Anglo-Celt Aussie inheritance will therefore not be swamped.
This outcome is being achieved only by goodwill, by both hosts and new settlers. We settlers recognise and value that which has been made available to us. Many of us understand the anxieties generated in the host people by the relatively sudden huge influx of a very great variety of outsiders. In turn, many of our hosts realise that, while nothing can remain the same, the changes triggered by us will prove to be beneficial in the long term.”
“At least, some of us have improved the colour of the nation! Through the positive impacts of ethnic and cultural diversity, we are also better equipped to relate to the coloured nations to our north. And we do need to relate to them with mutual respect. And to intrude less into their socio-political structures, and their cultural institutions. Hopefully, we will become less apprehensive about their religious beliefs, as we become better educated.”
The following is an extract from the professional appraisal of the book.
“This book provides a thoughtful and fearless approach to some important and highly topical questions. What constitutes Australia’s nationhood? What is her role in Asia and in the world? How can, and should, the burgeoning economies of Asia contribute to the development of Australia, not just as foreign investors and trading partners, but in terms of cultural and spiritual values? What is the nature of democracy, and how can democratic ideals be realized in Australia and in its Asian neighbours? What is the meaning of multiculturalism in the Australian context?”
(Comment: The issues of immigrant integration in a nation at the edge of Asia are quite profound. Regrettably, Australian politicians are known more for their politics of survival – while adhering to their cultural values – than for their ability to implement sound policies for the long-term betterment of the nation. The needs of electorates are submerged by party politics or by personal idiosyncrasies. However, Asia will change Australia for the better.)