If you were to just take a short stroll through the city of Melbourne, you would quickly realize it is probably one of the most diverse places you have ever been in. All around you, there would be people of all nationalities, creeds, and religions. It is something that I love about Melbourne because it can be plainly seen that this multiculturalism contributes to the majority of Australian citizens’ open mindedness, tolerance, and general curiosity about different people and their backgrounds. Especially now, after the “Yes” result for marriage equality, Melbourne is better than it has ever been.
However, there are still strains of racism apparent in Australian society. There is still one-third of the population that voted “No” for marriage equality, there are still several members of parliament who are blatantly anti-Muslim and anti-refugee, and there is still racism towards people of Asian descent in regards to finding a job and getting paid.
When I first arrived in Melbourne, I met a friend of a friend who is from Vietnam. He is one of the kindest, sweetest people that I have ever met. As I was lamenting to him about the fact that I could not work in Australia due to my visa, he told to “just get a job under the table, they’ll pay you the normal rates because you’re white.” (Don’t worry Study Abroad, I didn’t do this). He then went on to explain that Asian workers, especially under-the-table workers routinely receive lower wages than their non-Asian counterparts. This can probably be linked to Australia’s political history of campaigning for a “White Australia” even up until the mid-20th Century.
Not only that, but Australia Day is much like America’s Columbus Day. To many Australians, Australia Day is a day of celebration when Australia first came to be. To the Aboriginal peoples, however, this is the day that their land was invaded.
The purpose of this blog post is not to defame Australians or Australia in any way, but rather to show the reality of life in Australia. Australia is a wonderful, multicultural place housing large Bosnian, Italian, Chinese, and Vietnamese communities. To many in Southeast Asia, Australia is the place to go to if you want a better life. However, to talk about Australia’s multiculturalism and diversity without talking about the dark underbelly would not only be inaccurate, but it would be unfair to those who wish to come.
Australia truly is a beautiful place, and all the people I have met in my time here have been nothing but open and tolerant. I love this openness of the people and this is a place that I will never forget.