Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Integration, Part 2

The other day it was suggested to me that I shouldn’t allow locals to join the Expats in Adelaide group.  I hesitate to even post this, to be honest, as I don’t want to risk anyone not joining on this basis.  It was a one off and to me, bizarre complaint, which ended in my apologising to the person that the group was too inclusive for her, at which point she removed her membership and advised me she’d be letting people know how awful I am.

Then this morning, I got an email from an expat web site that stated that it was too restrictive to call themselves an expat site any longer, citing that these days, there was a need to be more inclusive, and that expats need to integrate into the wider culture, hence they would now be focusing on the greater community as an audience.

Aussies who return home from overseas, and even those who move states within Australia often join up to the expat group.  They’ve been away and come home to find that they’ve changed and they need a little something more than their high school friends, they miss the international atmosphere, or they come to Adelaide from Melbourne or Sydney and just want to meet more people, Aussie or not.  We even have some Adelaidians who’ve always been here but are keen to try something new.  One of the most difficult things for expats here can be meeting locals, so I encourage them, and am pleased when I see an Australian join up.  The more the merrier I say!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

In Support of Integration - A Letter to the Editor

Who knows if they'll publish it, but here's my letter to the editor at The Australian:

While reading the article in The Australian, Hygiene lessons will help migrants integrate, I was reminded of my orientation day at university in England, where we were given a list of English customs we would not be familiar with as newcomers.  This included topics such as queuing, health care and tenants rights, amongst other things we had no knowledge of.  Had I not been given these helpful bits of information, it's very possible I might have done exactly what I was used to doing in Chicago - standing around then going straight to the front door of the bus when it arrived, easily offending those lined up patiently.  Knowing the right thing to do in a new place is not common sense, and even coming from an English speaking nation originally doesn't prepare one for the many cultural differences in everyday life.

Teresa Gambaro raised an important issue in relation to immigration; that of integration and the fact that the Government is failing to assist new migrants on how to fit into Australian culture. Taken out of context, one might easily judge Ms Gambaro.  I'm dissappointed to see migrant advocacy groups take immediate offense, rather than seeing that Ms Gambaro might actually be an advocate herself for new migrants.  Diversity training in Australian workplaces is not only a good idea, but a necessity, for both current and new Australians, so that we can learn about each other.

Look at the bigger picture instead of grabbing the most negative aspect.  Perhaps Ms Gambaro should not have included a potentially offensive topic such as body odour, but her overall message of doing more to assist new migrants to integrate into Australian culture is something we should all pay attention to.  Long term, what will the future Australia look like if we stick to ‘our own’ and don’t work harder on integrating cultures.  We have an opportunity right now that will pass us by.

And to read what Teresa Gambaro's message actually was (back in September), look here.