Thoughts and reflections on Tim Southphommasane’s book, by BI Consultant Ramona Singh
In “Don’t Go Back to Where You Came From”, Tim Soutphommasane builds a convincing case for the success of Australian multiculturalism. He tackles controversial subjects such as migration, refugees, racism, and comparisons between the Australian model and those of Canada, the USA, the UK and Europe. His evidence is compelling as he argues that, rather than declare Australian multiculturalism a failure, it can be held up as an exemplary model, in which the right to express one’s cultural heritage exists alongside the responsibility to fulfils one’s duties as an Australian citizen – a commitment which the overwhelming majority of Australians of all origins adhere to.
More than 25% of Australians are born overseas, and roughly 45% of us have at least one parent who was born overseas. Having been born in Bombay to a Dutch mother and Indian father who later built our family’s life here in Australia, I fit into both of these categories. In my primary school class, Frank Tripoli and I were the only two olive-skinned children, and we both copped our fair share of racism. But as I grew up I watched Australia slowly change, and overt racism was something I never experienced again. The things I was ridiculed for at school – my mother’s accent, my mixed race family, my sandwiches, my name and the colour of my skin – slowly became acceptable, things to be proud of rather than ashamed.
It always puzzles me to hear people say that multiculturalism doesn’t work here, when I see evidence of it all around me. Not just my own experience, but the glaringly obvious yet easily overlooked way that, especially in our major cities, intercultural friendships and culturally diverse workplaces are the norm, bi-lingual Australians speak English with an Australian accent while retaining their mother tongue, and the children of immigrants outperform children of non-immigrant Australians in education and highly skilled occupations.
If, like me, you believe Australian multiculturalism is a success story, you will love this book. If you have your doubts, you’ll be interested in what Soutphommasane has to say. Multiculturalism in Australia does work, and this book will tell you why.