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Subject: Sociology »


At the crossroads... Social Justice

Mary Kalantzis.

Professor Mary Kalantzis talks abouit our nation of diversity.


5 April 1995

Date Added:

27 June 2002


Vox Populi, SBS Television Current Affairs, 5 April 1995


mov (Quicktime);

File size:



13 secs


Dean, Department of Education, Language and Community Services, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology

No matter whether we have an immigration policy tomorrow, or whether we have a multicultural policy tomorrow, we still have a nation of diversity. And the State - governments - have to service that diversity and educate for that diversity. Now that has to be recognised.


...Australia has no choice but to figure out a way of dealing with diversity, and if it does, I really believe it can show leadership in the world. And I say that because we have five unique reasons that allow us to show leadership.

The first one is that we had, until very recently, a very weak sense of who we were. And that was our strength. Not knowing if we were British or Aboriginal or whatever was a strength. It meant that we could rethink who we were. So our weak nationalism was a very positive thing for this country. Trying to close it now around a one Australia and an Anglophone, English Australia, is a mistake. So that’s our first strength.

Our second strength was that we’d managed the second largest immigration program in the world, without blood on the streets and without ghettos. And our experience of doing that, I think, is something that we haven’t properly understood as being part of our history of economic and social development.

The third thing is that we’re now an export oriented nation. Our economy will not survive unless we’re able to find markets outside our country. That means we have to look at our history and our prejudices and deal with those, because (otherwise) we won’t be able to clinch the deals. And we have to draw on our weak sense of national identity to create ourselves as an independent nation. And we have to draw on the talents of diversity in order to clinch those deals, both in terms of exports and foreign policy.

And my fourth point is that although we were slow to deal with our unfinished business with Indigenous people, we’re beginning to do it in the moment of pluralism, and in the moment of the discussion of our constitutional reform. That’s meant it is possible to do something here that other nations that have had Indigenous people and dealt with them at the moment of assimilation, didn’t do. So we have a very exciting opportunity.

And the fifth one, which is critical and ties those others together, is that we’ve maintained an interventionist federal system and a semblance of a welfare state, for lack of another term; that the diversity has been managed and government has intervened to ensure that at the symbolic realm, at the political realm - wealth, social services - that people have had access and that we’ve been talking about and discussing what it is to be an Australian.

And I think those five things have meant Australia has been a very unique kind of democracy, and could indicate a way of living with diversity in a way that has been to the benefit of all the people, and has produced economic and social benefits. Now our neighbours in Asia need that. South Africa needs those models. England needs a model like that, so does America. I mean these nations dealt with diversity with very different histories and with very strong nationalism. We don’t have that. And it’s the accident - not that we’re clever, there’s nothing clever necessarily about Australia - it’s the accident of those five things coming together that I think poise this nation to make a tremendous contribution.

At the moment a brake has been put on it because of the ideological dimension of this new government, but I don’t think that can be sustained... I do believe that the demographic reality and the global imperative of this non-aligned nation, mean that we will have to come back to that point and reconsider the way in which a robust inclusive society can be developed in this country.

From Vox Populi, SBS Television Current Affairs, 5 April 1995, and Interview for Making Multicultural Australia, 1996.