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Subject: Cultural Studies »


What is a multicultural society?

Malcom Fraser.

Malcom Fraser speaks on the background of multiculturalism.



Date Added:

16 July 2002


Interview for Making Multicultural Australia, 1994.


mov (Quicktime);

File size:



1min 5sec


Prime Minister 1975-83

But for myself, the broad background to a concept of multiculturalism was always designed to make all Australians, no matter what their background, feel that they belonged - that other people accepted that they belonged, that they didn’t need to keep looking over their shoulder for when somebody was going to shout out to them “where do you come from?” or whatever. And certainly up to the beginning of the Second War, Australia was a pretty narrow Anglo-Saxon community. For some time after the War, to be regarded as a real Australian you had to either be Anglo-Saxon or Irish or whatever - or if not, pretend to be.
Now for a lot of people that’s a bit difficult. And a lot of people didn’t want to, anyway. So the purpose of, and the philosophy of multiculturalism, in my view, was always to make sure that that strand within the Australian community came to understand that it’s not the only strand; that people from different historic and ethnic backgrounds should be respected for what they had been and what they were in Australia; that the history and culture of their country should be respected as we respected the history and culture of Britain.


There are still people who believe that multiculturalism was designed to promote special programs for Greeks or Italians or Vietnamese or whatever, for their advantage without any relationship to the rest of Australia - and really for those people to make Greece or Italy or Vietnam more important than Australia. But it was never that. British history is taught. That doesn’t make British history more important than Australian history. If Vietnamese history is taught, that shouldn’t make Vietnam more important than Australian history. And I think the whole idea was that people should be able to respect or love the history and culture of their land of origin, if they wanted to, and that did not in any way diminish the primacy of the place which they call their new country - Australia.
Indeed if Australians generally have respect for the source countries from which people have come, I would have thought then that people who become Australians from those places are going to have a greater affection, a greater regard for their new country, than if it was a country that despised the origin of others. And again, if you went back to the 1930s it would not really be too strong for quite a lot of people to say that people who came from other places, that their origins were despised. It would be too strong for some, tolerated, or whatever, but certainly not given the same place, or not given a place on an honour role, for example.
So multiculturalism, as I understand it, is not something which is separatist. Something which is unifying, was its objective and purpose. And I think by and large it succeeded.

Interview for Making Multicultural Australia, 1994.