Australia Day: A Celebration of Multiculturalism

From the earliest white settlement at the end of the 18th century, Australians have striven to celebrate a national day, and in so doing, define what it means to be Australian. January 26 has traditionally marked the landing of Captain Arthur Phillip at Port Jackson in present-day Sydney … (australiaday.com.au)

Australia Day has evolved from a small commemorative New South Wales holiday into a major national celebration, a celebration of multiculturalism.

The Indonesian community in South Australia has been very proud of the success that the Indonesian contingent has received by achieving Best Costume Award at Australia Day 2012 multicultural parade. What other lessons can we learn from Australia Day?

Unfortunately, Australia Day 2012 has been attached to a not-so-good image. Australia has a lot to do to prove its identity as an inclusive country. The sight of the Prime Minister being dragged from shouting Aboriginal protesters, losing a shoe in the process, became the enduring image of Australia Day. The scene should never have happened. Associate Professor Charles Teo AM at his 2012 Australia Day Address claimed that ” Unfortunately, racism still exists in Australian culture today”. On refugees issues, he viewed that

I want all Australians to see how immigrants have contributed to our nation and to appreciate that a rich and prosperous country such as ours has a moral and global responsibility to share our resources.

Indonesia is not less diverse than Australia. Combined with its various development challenges, Indonesia has also striven to address equality issues. Hence, there are many lessons about what works and does not work to deal with a multicultural society that Indonesia can learn from Australia. So can Australia learn from Indonesia.

Indonesians who study, work and live in Australia have become part of the Australian community. We do contribute to the colour and dynamics of the country. Australia Day provides a good momentum for us to reflect how important Indonesians for Australia are and Australia for Indonesians is. The two countries have shared a great deal of interests in various sectors and aspects. Yet, there are times where communication breakdowns exist between the two countries. The presence of Indonesian communities in Australia becomes crucial. We have strategic positions and are required to be ambassadors for our beloved Indonesia. Whether we accept or not, our behaviour can be generalised and named as “Indonesian behaviours”. Various organisations which can strengthen relationships between Indonesia and Australia such as Indonesian student association (PPIA) can play significant roles in influencing Indonesian younger generation to not only participate and become good residents of Australia but also facilitate knowledge transfers between two countries. This is an area that the GoLive Indonesia project also aims to contribute to.

This article is prepared by Risti Permani.



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