As the daughter of an immigrant, I believe that some newcomers to Australia could be doing more to assimilate into the national culture. There have been several examples lately, that have made me think some immigrants don’t always embrace this great Australian way of life.
I am the proud daughter of an immigrant. My mother was from Korea, and my father met her there in 1950 during the Korean War. After the cease-fire was declared, my mother and father returned to Australia as a married couple. From then on, my mother embraced Australian culture.
She learnt English, and took work at a local florist shop. She made friends with her neighbours, shopped at nearby businesses and emotionally supported my dad when he resumed work as a carpenter. My mother made every effort to understand Australian culture (she was once very confused by the idea of “bringing a plate”, and bought her best ceramics along to a BBQ!)
However, that didn’t mean my mother gave up being Korean completely. She often cooked delicious Korean meals and sang Korean songs. She still wrote letters home in Korean, and when my brothers and I were eventually born, she would occasionally speak Korean to us. I regret not asking her to speak with me in her native tongue more often.
As a proud Korean-Australian though, I am troubled by recent examples where immigrants have perhaps not assimilated into the country. For instance, I’m wondering why companies like Optus are bending over backwards to advertise in Arabic? It seems that immigrants should be taking the onus to learn English in Australia, rather than English-speakers needing to adopt a foreign language.
Even as a biracial Australian, I worry when I see Letters to the Editor like this: “More and more often we are being instructed, under penalty, to stop singing or saying our national anthem”, and “we are not to openly sing or play Christmas carols, including in schools or even in our shops”. I believe Australians have the right to celebrate this great country, so long as we are not harming anyone else.
Embracing Australian culture doesn’t mean that immigrants need to sacrifice their own. Instead, the true meaning of “multiculturalism” should involve just that – being proud to belong to two different groups. Being proud to be Australian AND Korean, but not at the expense of either group. Being proud to speak two languages, but not demanding others do the same. Being proud to have personal expressions of faith, but not pressing those religious expectations on others.
The majority of immigrants are so grateful to be living in Australia, but for those other few, I hope they can learn from great examples like my mother’s.