The Australian Nation
Australia is said to be a multi-cultural country. Australia is a very unique country for many reasons. They are both strengths and weaknesses. Australia is the single largest country in Oceania, it is so large that it sits alone on the continent of Australia. The territory of Australia is comprised of the mainland Australian continent, Tasmania and various other small islands. On a global scale, she is the sixth largest sovereign country by land area. The country is highly urbanized and most of the twenty five million inhabitants live along the eastern coast. The country is not homogenous. Instead it's a complex mix of cultures from all over the world which combined make the Australian state what it is. The ethnic groups present in Australia are the Aboriginals, Caucasians, South East Asians, Indians and Africans. This paper explores the multicultural nature of the Australian Nation so as to try and find out whether there is existence of ‘Australian Nation'. This is throughdescribing how it was since the beginning through being composed of diverse multi ethnic people living side by side.
Australia as a Multicultural Country
Australia is classified as a developed country. This means the inhabitants of Australia enjoy a standard of life relatively better than the peoples of the rest of the world's nations. It has the world's thirteenth largest economy. The per capita income in Australia is the tenth highest in the world. It also has the third highest human development index and a vibrant democratic system of governance. Therefore life in Australia is relatively enjoyable. The country often ranks very high in quality of life, economic, civil liberties and health surveys.
The Australian nation is multicultural. The Multicultural nature of Australia has developed through various phases since the first aboriginal tribe set foot on the vast continent. There had been aboriginal inhabitants in Australia for about sixty thousand years before the first European set foot on the continent. It is said that before the Europeans arrived in Australia there were various ‘nations' of aboriginals. Between 200 and 400 active languages were spoken. These people developed a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and lived in complex societies. It is theorized that they arrived using land bridges from south East Asia or crosses short sea crossing to get to Australia.
Since then, the next large migration of people happened in the 1600's when European sailors first encountered this large southern land mass. These early sailors were Dutch, Spanish and English origin. It was not until 1783 however that a formal organized settlement of Australia by Europeans was attempted. This was done by the British government through the command of Captain Arthur Philip. This first attempt was happening at a time when the British had lost their American colonies which had declared independence and fought a war to ensure their liberty. This first settlement was a penal colony; a camp who's citizens were prisoners. In the coming years more ships arrived carrying more prisoners and more colonies were established on the continent. These new comers brought new diseases which the local aboriginals had never seen since they had lived in isolation for so long. They therefore had no immunity or medicine. These diseases ravaged the population. There were also conflicts with the new comers over resources these two factors caused the population of the aboriginals to plummet. The colonists continued to expand across the continent in the 1800's and by 1901 the whole continent was occupied by subject of the British Empire. On the first day of 1901 on 1st January, 1901 the federation of colonies was achieved. Government of this territory was temporarily based in Melbourne while Canberra (the official seta of government) was being built. This new nation fairly well since thirteen years later they were able to contribute troops to go fight alongside the queens other subjects in world war one. However a significant event happened in world war two that shifted the nations focus away from the commonwealthThe British had suffered major military defats in the pacific region and the threat of being invaded by the Japanese empire pushed the new nation to seek American help.
Historical record show that immigration had been going on in Australia for a long while. A study of Australian indigenous DNA showed that they may have mixed with people of Indian origin thousands of years ago. The same study says that Indian dogs and tools may have been introduced to Australia at the same time. There is also archaeological evidence of contact with east Africa. Coins minted from the Kilwa sultanate have been found on the Wessel islands. Contacts with china have also been provingthat the earliest non-disputed contact between Australia and the Chinese happened during the period of setting up the penal colonies. The ships, after dumping the cargo of prisoners in Australia would sail north to china to pick tea and then sail on to another part of the empire to sell it.
The earliest organized non-European immigration of peoples happened during the 1850's during the Australian gold rush. Chinese peoples moved en masse to Australia during this period. Gold had been discovered in various places throughout the continent and these people particularly those Guangdong province of china attracted. These people had had previous experience in gold rushes in the American California territory. They were also fleeing the harsh environment in china. It was during this time there was an opium epidemic in china, their empire was declining and local clan wars had arisen. This influx of Chinese natives surprised the Europeans and soon anti-Chinese movements were formed. There were a few revolts and even limits were put on the amount of Chinese people a ship could carry. At one point a ship had to pay ten pounds per Chinese person they brought to Australia.
Africans and Indians were brought to the Australia territories with the ships carrying penal colonists. These were British subjects who happened to be of African and Indian descent. They worked as merchants, artisans and businessmen on the continent. The Europeans however introduced a policy to control the populations of the non-Europeans, the policy was formally known as the immigration restriction act of 1901. The informal name of the policy was the "white Australia policy". Remarkably the policy was in place until 1972. The purpose of the policy was to limit ethnic and cultural diversity in the Australian population. Essentially it filtered out anyone wasn't European from coming to Australia.
Nonetheless the world was changing day by day these racist laws were being left in the past. The British Empire to which Australia belonged had fallen and the age of empires was gone. The new age of globalization was beginning and racism/ethnic discrimination had no place in Australia. India and Africa had gained their respective independence and soon after a new type of immigrants started immigrating into Australia. These were Indians and Africans of mixed heritage: British or Anglo-Indians, Dutch-Indians, Portuguese-Goans, South African Boers, Afrikaners and British Africans from Zimbabwe.Australia moved with the times and these racist policies were officially abandoned by government. Not only did they cease the racism but they welcomed diversity. The government, through humanitarian programs took in refugees fleeing from violence in Burundi, the republic of Congo, The DRC, Eritrea Zimbabwe and many other places. Additionally the state set up other programs to encourage emigration such as the skilled migration programs here people with skills needed in Australia were encouraged to come. Student study programs which encouraged foreigners to come and study in Australia.
The nature of Australian modern culture is diverse. Multiculturalism is alive and well in Australia. Churches stand next to mosques. The Australian, Special broadcasting Service broadcasts in six new languages among them Swahili, Dinka and Tigrinya from Africa. There are teams across all sports with players whose ancestry can be traced across the world. Australia is truly a home for all peace loving ethnicities and cultures.
However the history is not all rosy, there have been conflicts, racist activities and discrimination. From the days of the gold rush when anti-Chinese riots happened to recently with the detention of asylum seekers on Manus island off the coast of Papua New Guinea traditionally these incidents had been, almost always, been instigated by the fight for resources or fears that the new comers were a threat to the existing population or their way of life. Some of these incidences however are simply criminal actions which happen to have an ethnic connotation such as the formation of ethnic gangs with the intent of committing crimes. The governments' action of setting up detention camps on the impoverished Island nation called Nauru for the express purpose of containing immigrants is concerning. These islands camps have been described by human rights groups like the human rights watch as being "prisons like", hot, overcrowded, unhygienic and dangerous". One of the United Nations top officials on migrant human rights is quoted saying that the conditions at the facility in Nauru are "cruel and degrading". Such reports are damning for a country which for so long has upheld the basic human rights for all.
It is clear that there is an "Australian nation". From the first day when an Aboriginals set foot on the continent, through the period when the modern nation state of Australia was established, the nation has always been multicultural. Ethnic hatred and violence has not escaped Australia but these incidents were largely based around a fight for resources, unfounded fears and criminal actions disguised as defending/fighting a certain race. The essay concludes "Australian nation" it has existed for as long as Australia has existed. The identity of this nation is multicultural. It should be defended and protected by all Australians.