Australia’s multicultural miracle is put to the test by the war in Gaza
“Australia is the most successful multicultural nation in the world.” Australian political leaders of all persuasions have often paraded this claim - but is it true?
Around 45 percent of Australia’s population was either born overseas or have a parent who was. Moreover, our migrant populace hail from all corners of the earth and exist in thousands of complex diaspora communities. All this proves, however, is that Australia is a multiracial society.
The claim that we are a “successful multicultural nation” presupposes that our countless cultural groups live in a frictionless existence amongst one another and all are meshed and integrated into a melting pot of different ethnicities and cultures.
After the October 7 massacre of Israeli citizens, hordes of people met in Sydney to demonstrate their support of Hamas’s actions and to oppose the illumination of Israel’s colours upon the sails of the Sydney Opera House. Some were chanting “gas the Jews”.
The pro-Hamas protestors at the Opera House have completely undermined that heartening presupposition of a successful multicultural society through their vile behaviour. Their actions have done a disservice to the various Middle Eastern communities across Australia who have put cultural and religious divisions behind them.
We are not a successful multicultural nation if we allow foreign divisions to simmer and spill into our political discourse the way they did this week.
Global solidarity is an admirable ideal, but this ought not compel everyday Australians to engage in partisan approaches to foreign conflicts. Our melting pot of cultures will never be able to coexist, let alone thrive, if they seek to import their cultural, religious, and political conflicts into the Australian context.
I’m afraid that the protesters’ actions signify a stark reality: the failure of a successful multicultural nation.
The chants, marches, and impassioned addresses to crowds of thousands exemplify how Australia is failing to integrate newcomers into our broader community. Discouragingly, many involved in these activities were second and third generation Australians.
It is alarming to consider that countless migrant populations live in cultural enclaves which state and federal governments often promote. This can lead to societal fragmentation and can hinder or suppress the countless benefits which migrant communities bring us.
I was recently told by a relative who arrived in Australia on a refugee visa that he and his young family have spent years dreaming and preparing for the promised land of Australia, only to be shocked to find themselves in a migrant enclave not unlike from where they had come from.
We can call out murder as murder and war as war, and governments can provide aid or “choose a side” (strategically speaking), sure, but the spectacle of political and cultural partisanship since October 7 is a sign that we are unsuccessfully integrating new Australians into our community.
This week's events showcase a tear in the fabric of our multicultural nation and the failure of successive governments to import communities from abroad without the importing of their hatred fuelled convictions. It is our duty to ensure new Australians understand that certain prejudices, particularly those incredibly offensive to race or religion, are unacceptable.
We have so much to gain from our rich migrant communities, but we cannot let distant divisions divide us.
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The land where my parents were born and raised, the Sudan, has gradually disintegrated into anarchy and chaos in recent months, forcing my relatives to flee through the Sahara Desert and into neighbouring nations.
I have my own views on Sudan’s civil war, but my Australian sensibilities and experiences tell me to care less about the politics, and more about how peace might be achieved.
Let’s consider peace our ultimate goal, and push for a greater appreciation by the Australian public for just how good we’ve got it - for all Australians to understand why we are “the Lucky Country”.
I, for one, am grateful to have been raised in a safe place like Australia, rather than in the pugnacious Middle Eastern context, and hope my brothers and sisters in other migrant communities can come to appreciate that peace.
I believe the tyranny of distance is a great strength of this nation, in that we are often physically separated from foreign wars and faraway fighting. That is why so many Australians have sought a better life in our great southern land, detached from conflict and strife abroad.
In any foreign war, the only side Australians ought to barrack for is the side of peace. Because when we import distant quarrels, multiculturalism is put to the test.
John-Paul Baladi is the Vice President of the Sudanese-Syrian Christian Community in Australia and the Former Territory Director of the Country Liberal Party.
Image: protesters burning the Israeli flag in front of the Opera House / screenshot 7 News Australia
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