a multicultural History of Australia

Making multicultural Australia

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Commentary on: Queensland's New Millennium »

Prof Andrew Jakubowicz.

Text Commentary

Looking back, we can see that Queensland discovered multiculturalism step by step. In the early 1990s the government recognised the importance of including ethnic communities in the social mix. Then in the late 1990s One Nation appeared as a political force, threatening to take Queensland back to a mythical and mono-cultural past; the state was split politically, but one result was a strengthening of ideas about why multiculturalism should be sustained. By the late 1990s, after public campaigns created a growing awareness in the state government of the value of cultural diversity, some new initiatives emerged. Across the state the new Millennium called for partnerships between communities, with new strategies of inclusion that would celebrate diversity in the everyday lives of ordinary Queenslanders.

At the local level, communities began to display their presence more actively through art, through cultural performance, and through landscapes and gardens. Brisbane City took the lead, with exhibitions and public events, and strategies to facilitate settlement of refugees, especially those who were on short term visas and unable to work. Across the state, local governments opened their local communities to the benefits of recognising diversity. Multicultural Arts organizations extended their festivals and performances, from Brisbane in the south to Cairns and the Torres Strait Islands in the north. New immigrants contributed their own sense of the changing world such as painter Towfiq Al-Qady, an Iraqi refugee. Teacher Adele Rice reflects here on the role of ordinary Australians in building multicultural Queensland, while academic and administrator Hurriyet Babacan reviews the challenges to multiculturalism that remain in the new Millenium.