a multicultural History of Australia

Making multicultural Australia

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Commentary on: Globalisation »

Prof Andrew Jakubowicz.

Text Commentary

Over the past 50 years the world has seen a rapid spread of capital and money, people and culture. National boundaries are more open, ideas and immigrants flow more quickly, and new centres for production appear everywhere.

This process is called globalisation.

It is not new. Australia itself was the result in the 19th century of globalisation, as was the United States. That was a globalisation focusing on the flowing from Europe out to the edges of the world, as it was known at that time. What is new now is the speed of change, the directions in which change is going, and the pressure on countries to modify their economies, their cultures and their populations to receive these movements.

The impact of globalisation, then, can be very positive. It can increase cultural interaction and open up new economic opportunities. It can also be negative. It can intensify inequality, and undermine local culture.

Whichever occurs in any particular place, interaction between people is growing immensely, and cultural change is everywhere.

In the contemporary world, cultural diversity, different cultures living together in one place, is the typical experience in most cities. This is brought about by immigration, by refugee settlement, and by large numbers of business and skilled migrants or workers, moving through temporary settlement from one place to another around the globe.

We've seen in recent years the tensions caused by the new globalisation. Mass rallies and violent street confrontations have taken place in North America, in Australia, in Europe and parts of Asia. They've been extraordinary rallies in places like Porto Alegre in Brazil, South America.

Yet, whatever we think about economic globalisation, it's quite clearly been the driving force behind Australia's emergence as a modern nation. We are, after all, dependent on the import of skilled workers, on Euro-American culture, and on foreign capital. Not that we don't contribute a bit to that flow the other way as well.

In addition to the purely economic definition of Globalisation, it can also refer more generally to cultural, social and technological exchanges amongst people. Fashion, food and music are aspects of culture that often move across borders, and influence how people dress, what they eat, what music they play and listen to, and what they think of themselves.

Some people blame globalisation for a decrease in cultural diversity, making everyone the same. On the other hand, other people see it as driving cultural innovation and new ways of seeing the world. Opening up things that liberate people from older, less resilient, more conservative cultures.

The history of Globalisation in Australia is really the history of Australia.

What we're going to look at here is how globalisation works in this country. How does it affect the long history we have of cultural diversity, and what are its implications for the future of communities living together in a globalising world.