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ICA President’s Column: Multicultural Australia

Posted By Terry Flew (Queensland U of Technology), Thursday, September 5, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Maybe you are considering coming to the ICA 2020 annual conference at the Gold Coast, but are still thinking about whether it is worth the long trip to Australia. You may have a mental image of Australia as a land of exotic flora and fauna: kangaroos, koalas, emus, wombats. Or your image may be of the scary wildlife of Australia: crocodiles, sharks, venomous snakes and deadly spiders.

Perhaps you know Australia through its celebrities and personalities. Paul Hogan as Crocodile Dundee or Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter. Nicole Kidman, Chris Hemsworth or Margot Robbie. Like Kirsten Wiig’s character Lucy Wilde in Despicable Me 2, you have been brushing up on your Australian language. Wallaby, didgeridoo, Hugh Jackman. 

You may or may not know that Australia has possibly the world’s oldest continuous living culture. Indigenous people have inhabited Australia for at least 60,000 years, and have been a part of about 300 distinct language and kinship groups, or nations across Australia and the Torres Straits. Australia’s First Nations people (also referred to as Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islanders) today constitute about 3 percent of the Australian population. The local people of the Gold Coast region are the Yugumbeh people (pronounced yoog-um-bear), and they will welcome ICA delegates to their country at the opening ceremony. So say jingali (hello, or, if you prefer, g’day) when you arrive. There will be opportunities to undertake tours with local indigenous tour guides to understand the local country and its significance to the Yugumbeh people. 

Australia is also a highly successful multicultural society. Australians identify with up to 270 ancestries, and almost seven million people have migrated to Australia since 1945, out of an overall population of about 25 million. One in four of Australia’s 22 million people were born overseas; 46 percent have at least one parent who was born overseas; and nearly 20 percent of Australians speak a language other than English at home. 

The multicultural nature of Australia is particularly apparent in its urban centres. While migrants from the United Kingdom and Ireland continue to constitute the majority of overseas-born Australians, there was a strong history of migration from Europe – particularly Italy, Greece and southern Europe – after 1945. In more recent times, there has been very high migration from Asian countries, most notably China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia and The Philippines. But virtually every country in the world has a presence in Australia. People from up to 200 countries become Australian citizens each year.

As an ICA delegate, you will most likely become aware of Australia’s multiculturalism through the very wide range of food cuisines available on the Gold Coast and elsewhere. But it will also be apparent in street signage, the visibility of overseas tourists and, at the universities, the high number of students from all around the world on Australian campuses. Australia also has a dedicated multicultural television service – the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) – as well as a dedicated indigenous channel (NITV). 

Wherever you are from, the conference organisers will go out of their way to make you feel comfortable on Australia’s Gold Coast. The region is home to people from around the world, and hosts visitors from around the world. So whether it be g’day, ni hao, guten tag, or as-salam alaykom, multicultural Australia is keen to welcome you.

Tags:  September 2019 

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