The station is called 1CMS - Canberra Multicultural Service. It is multiculturalism in action. It exists because multiculturalism works. Therefore it is galling to hear some prominent sceptics bang on and allege that in Europe multiculturalism is a failure and hence must be a dud everywhere. Surprisingly even Frau Merkel is on the public record with kindred sentiments.
Occasionally such outbursts cause me serious heartburn. I'm proud of both my European heritage while also holding multiculturalism to be one of Australia's greatest social achievements. An achievement embracing cultures and traditions deriving from all corners of the globe. And I'm not forgetting the Aboriginal dimension: 50 000 years of continuous presence in these lands. Yet I have to see, hear and read that many people in the old homeland don't share, would even condemn my enthusiastic view that multiculturalism is a practical, intelligent and progressive social policy. The basis of modern nation building.
Multiculturalism may seem exotic in hidebound regions (is that what Europe is becoming more and more with every passing day?) As an antidote, perhaps the sceptics in Europe and elsewhere should get themselves pronto to places such as Canberra. Here, to brag for just a moment, we Share the World (that's our motto) in more than 30 languages on 1CMS, Fm 91.1. There are even more languages spoken in our community, and we are working on getting them on-air too.
Why does Australian multiculturalism work? Because it is centered on democratic principles: fair say, fair go and fair share in all spheres of life in this country. Once you're an Australian citizen you have the same rights and duties as every other Aussie. But that doesn't mean that you have to morph into a something that you aren't. Or have to give up the traditions and language(s) of your family. There is plenty of room for people with hybrid identities. There is nothing wrong with feeling proud of being Aboriginal Australian, Irish-Australian, German-Australian or Vietnamese-Australian and so on. We are quietly confident that the more we interact and the more we share our cultures, the better we are placed to take part in the life of the Global Village. And also, the more fun we all have. It's pretty straightforward really.
Having just praised Australia for its farsighted approach to immigration and nation building, I'm embarrassed by the political shenanigans playing out right now in the lead-up to the next federal elections.
There is a natural human urge to have a look at and control who is coming to a your country: every state around the world does that. But there is no need to treat people seeking refuge in Australia the way we do at present to those arriving on boats: interning them, locking them up indefinitely, effectively punishing them while their application for asylum is being processed. And it's farcical that the harsh treatment they receive is linked to their mode of transport: leaky and overcrowded boats. Why such a pathological fear of people coming in boats?
And here comes the last dollop of Senf for today: Boat people have a right - morally and legally - to apply for due processing of their claim for refugee status. And Australia's politicians, should think again before they continue the mad race to show who is toughest on the most vulnerable people on earth.