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Can I be English, a view from down under..

This is an interesting article. I think England is a slightly different prospect to Australia due to the differences in history but some things are broadly applicable.

Because Australia is a young country built largely on migration, there is widespread acceptance that the definition of being Aussie has no bearing to the colour of your skin. The country is what it is today because of waves of migration from all parts of the world. Australia still has a very complex and turbulent relationship with its indigenous peoples who everyone recognises now are actually the ‘real’ Aussies. The country is evolving and will continue to do so and there is no reluctance to have a constant conversation on how to do better and be fairer.

As far as I’m concerned, the test for whether you are Australian is whether you feel Australian. It’s whether you feel comfortable in your skin, feel you are as important a member of society as the next person, feel like you have the freedom to (within reason) do whatever you like and feel like there is no better place to live. All these boxes are ticked for me. I am saddened when I see people who live here, create entire lives and careers here and bring up children here, while wishing they lived somewhere else the whole time.

The strength of Australia is that governing processes are almost exclusively secular with no attachment to a particular religion or culture. This immediately puts everyone on an equal footing.

Creating a multi-racial society is easy. A multi-cultural society is a more complex concept. To have a cohesive multi-cultural society, there are a few core tenets that everyone needs to follow. Unfortunately, these are not spelt out in a rule book. I will outline a few I think are important.

- There has to be a commitment to learn and communicate well in a unified language (English) because without this, members of society cannot build relationships.

- Understanding that your cultural norms do not trump the rule of law in any circumstance.

- While being completely free to practice your culture and religion to the extent you wish, maintain a degree of privacy about these aspects and afford others (including those who come from the same country as you) the same privacy about their cultural practices and beliefs. Overbearing displays of a certain culture or religion is a barrier to building a secular society that wants to generally be welcoming and inclusive.

- Rid yourself of the mentality that your culture and beliefs are somehow genuinely superior to those of others. Avoid making decisions about friends, affiliates and romantic relationships based purely on someone’s cultural background (this includes influencing others such as your kids).

- Do your part to ensure that the society you live in continues to be a merit-based system. Act against any form of discrimination and ensure you do not contribute to the problem when you hold a position of power.

Everyone migrates for prosperity. In my observation, those who end up feeling they are part of the country are those who feel very comfortable about living by the above principles.

The ‘cricket test’ the author talks about is a good question, it is one of the few questions without a straightforward answer. It is true that I would support Sri Lanka in a Aus vs SL game, although the fierce passion for a SL victory has waned over the years. The reasons for this I think are 1) SL displaying good sporting skills gives me a certain pride within the Australian community, as a person of Sri Lankan heritage and 2) a pre-formed habit, from the many years going up in Sri Lanka. I do not however agree with the writer that a child born and raised in Australia would want to support Australia as they ‘want to be white’. Given this is the only country they know, I would fully expect that my kids will want to support / play for Australia; this is not because they want to be white, it is because they feel this is their country. It is proof of a multi-racial/ multi-ethnic society thriving. Parents who feel the urge to supress their child’s desire to support Australia should ask themselves what they are doing in this country.

I don’t think Australia has too many equivalents to the ‘stiff upper lip’ or sarcastic humour that define the nation. There is too much diversity to lay down national characteristics of that nature.

D Senevirathna

Original blog


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