Edited versions of this letter were published in the Herald Sun, Daily Telegraph and Courier Mail – 8 August 2018
It is disappointing that Andrew Bolt (August 2) sees only the trees of alleged failures in social cohesion rather than the forest of successful Australian multiculturalism. If he could only take one step back from focusing on unresolved challenges he would be able to appreciate that Australian identity is constantly being informed and invigorated through migration and multiculturalism, a model devised to ensure a productive and cohesive outcome for our undoubted multi-ethnic reality.
Australian multiculturalism works because it emphasises not only rights but also responsibilities, in equal measure. Members of our society are able to observe and celebrate aspects of their identity – be it ethnic, religious, language or national origin – so long as this is consistent with respect for our overriding core values. These values include support for the rule of law, parliamentary democracy, gender equality, mutual respect and the centrality of being able to communicate in English.
There is no reason to believe that individuals choosing to live near houses of worship or communal facilities with cultural relevance to them, or speaking languages other than English at home, is inconsistent with these core values. Problematic behaviour certainly exists, but it is not a product of Australian pluralism and multiculturalism. It is instead a challenge to them, which responsible political leadership and our robust legal system should firmly repudiate.
We do not and should not aspire to coercive “assimilation” – often requiring forced relinquishing of cherished aspects of identity, which is not only often impossible but in any case unnecessary and unwarranted. Instead, the goal must be a process of “integration” which embraces people of many different backgrounds so long as they adhere to Australia’s core values. Integration is the key to allowing them to contribute to the vitality and cohesion of our nation in a way that has largely worked well in the past and provides the basis for a successful and harmonious future.
Dr. Colin Rubenstein is executive director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council and a former member of the Council for a Multicultural Australia.