The next big issue:
As an advocate in the area of multiculturalism and the advancement of the community generally one of the things that I often ponder revolves around the subject of what is going to be the next “big” issue or problem area. Obviously any view I express would be a personal one that could be argued for or against by others. However, if I was to nominate a significant area of concern I would point to the youth of the community and observe that there are members of that community that represent a high risk group in so far as their integration into Australian society is concerned.
There are many reasons for my taking this view. The most pertinent reason is the fact that these children are caught between two or more cultures and this is particularly so in their formative years. Some simple and obvious examples of the outcomes of being caught between the cultural values of two communities can be, inter alia, as follows:
- Young Muslim girls choosing not to wear the Hijab in defiance of their parent’s wishes
- The Australian born children of some cultural groups choosing not to get married in arranged marriages
- Children having access to things that they may not have had in their countries of origin (e.g. mobile phones, access to casinos/gambling and alcohol)
- Children having and developing close friendships with members of the opposite sex
One of the most common outcomes of being trapped between cultures can be the formation of like minded individuals into a collective. The factor common to all the members of this collective is usually their cultural heritage. A contributing factor in this area is the approach of the immigration authorities of western nations when confronted by refugee children without the necessary identification papers. This approach has seen us allocate an age based upon the physical development of the child. On the basis of this age we then allot the child to a classroom for their education. This approach ignores the fact that the child may have come from a society where their school has been bombed thus leaving them with little or no education. The children lose any sense of self actualisation in the classroom and will start looking for this out on the street with others of a like mind. The policy position has then involved the regulatory authorities treating this group of children as a gang and applying all the strictures that would normally apply to an organised gang.
The approach taken by the authorities thus far is only going to result in a community of disenfranchised youth. The long term result of this disenfranchisement was patently obvious in England in recent years. Firstly the bombings that occurred in London were undertaken by young people who were actually born in the United Kingdom. However, these children never felt a valued member of the English society. Accordingly they became prey to the preachings of radicals and rebelled against the society that they saw as not accepting them for what they were.
There are some simple approaches that can be adopted to ensure that we do not follow the example set in the United Kingdom. Some of the approaches are as follows:
- Not assessing the level of school participation on the basis of an estimated age but applying some form of scholastic assessment to the children before allocating them to a class level.
- Undertaking a far more rigorous approach of acculturation and education about the new culture than currently occurs.
- Cultivating and nurturing a group of “ambassadors” for the children to have as role models. Recently the Children and Youth Commissioner in WA announced a series of Ambassadors. Quite correctly there were a number of people from the Indigenous community. However, as far as I could ascertain there was no one that represented a role model for the young people from a number of the “at risk” culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) communities
- Instituting a mentorship program for every person coming to Australia on a humanitarian or student visa. This mentorship program would allow children and their families, caught between cultures, the opportunity to contact someone to seek advice on various issues. In recent years we have seen a number of violent incidents occurring in the Indian student community that could have been avoided by the intervention of a mentor. For example, the murder of two Sikh brothers (Navdeep and Kawaldeep Dhaliwal) in Morley by their room-mate (Jagdeep) over the return of a $310 property bond could have been avoided if the murderer had had the opportunity to ring an elder in the community to seek their advice as to the return of that money. I make this claim with some certainty having spent time at Hakea prison in discussion with the murderer.
- Establishing homework programs so that CaLD children can have additional help in integrating into their school community
- Funding the community groups such as the various associations and Migrant Resource Centres to specifically target the youth in their community to ensure better integration
- Reinvigorating the PCYC programs and giving them a cultural appropriateness so as to encourage attendance by CaLD children. Swimming classes can be an important part of this program. Some of the children may be coming here from land locked states or after having spent many years in a refugee camp and therefore not in possession of a skill considered in Australia to be essential, swimming. In the last few years there have been at least 5 deaths of children from these communities from drowning.
These are but a few suggestions as to what may be done to ensure that the children of the community are better integrated into the community. The risk that we run is that should we choose to ignore this issue we are going to have the same problems that some European nations have already encountered.