I just read an article about the joys of multiculturalism and how all Australians should strive to “show the world what a truly multicultural society could be.”
“Multiculturalism” is such a nice-sounding, inoffensive word that we may be forgiven for picking it up without really examining its implications. A multicultural society is also a fragmented society, divided along ethnic, religious, language or cultural lines and represents a breakdown in cohesion. Taken to its extreme, individual groups will claim the right to self-determination — another nice-sounding word, this time conjured up by spin doctors of South Africa’s apartheid era — a euphemism for promoting the interests of one group without consideration for the impact on others.
I find it ironic that Simon van der Stel, a Dutch governor of the Cape colony had in the early 18th century created a blueprint for a cohesive society. When Dutch settlers were swamped by French Protestants fleeing from persecution in Catholic France, he recognized the dangers of creating a fragmented society. His solution was to allocate farms in a checkerboard fashion, interspersing Huguenots among existing settlers, with the provision that all school lessons and official business be conducted in Dutch. Within a generation the two cultures had successfully integrated. Dutch remained the official language while the culture was enriched by a strong French influence still prevalent today, especially in the wine industry.
We need to similarly recognize the dangers of multiculturalism and strive for a truly integrated society with a unique Australian culture, tolerant of all religions and enriched by the infusion of many different cultures.
Segregation of schools on religious, ethnic or language lines encourages fragmentation of our society. The present state school system in Australia needs to be reformed after a healthy, open debate — in order to discourage segregation.
Australia’s strength in times of adversity has come from its unique culture. While that culture is evolving, and will continue to do so, we should ensure that it remains unified. Unity and openness are our strength.