I Wish the Government Realised…
By Rhea Chopra
Australia has always had a reputation as a multicultural nation. But lately, many of us have begun to question the truth behind that idea. Much of the rhetoric surrounding immigrants lately has been quite negative, and some governmental actions have carried this rhetoric further.
Most of us just wish the government realised that they can help shape a future for Australia that remains full of vibrant multiculturalism, rather than one that is full of division and marginalisation.
For the most part, Australia is an accepting, and culturally diverse country. But let’s face it - moving to Australia is still hard. I moved here from India when I was 7, and although I didn’t realise it at the time, some of my experiences had a great negative impact on my self-esteem and identity.
These experiences resulted in me only feeling comfortable in myself and my community, when I didn’t feel Indian. I didn’t realise how this affected me at the time, but looking back, it wasn’t fun at all. And I’m sure I wasn’t alone in feeling like this. I know other people who were made fun of for having lunches that ‘look funny’. I know people who were mocked for talking with an accent. I know people who were bullied, and even denied educational opportunities simply because their beliefs and cultures were ‘different’. No one, least of all a child, should feel as if they must change themselves to feel like they are important and belong here. It certainly doesn’t help when government officials reinforce the idea that you are an outsider.
One of the beauties of Australia is its multiculturalism, and that’s lost when people don’t feel comfortable bringing their cultural identity to their everyday lives.
Rather than making the process of immigrating more inclusive, most government policies just make the experience more harrowing for immigrants. Take the changes to the citizenship test, for example. There is something inherently wrong with awarding citizenship based on a test which most Australians would fail. More than this, there is something inherently wrong with suggesting that someone doesn’t deserve to be Australian unless they are proficient in a specific language, or can sit a test on facts about Australia.
These sorts of tests and policies perpetuate the idea that immigrants are not worthy people unless they are ‘really Australian’. They legitimise the ways in which some people discriminate against immigrants, based on the way they speak, their jobs, and their cultural beliefs. They send the message that Australia is not interested maintaining its values of acceptance and fairness for everyone.
Worldwide, we have seen a rise in fear of immigrants. There’s a rise in an attitude which promotes closing our country’s borders and protecting our nation. This is something that we should all consider carefully, and ensure that our views on the issue are made clear. Australia is one country that flourishes with its open borders, multiculturalism, and immigrants. I wish the government realised that their policies should work to preserve that, not destroy it.