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Category: Interviews »

Subject: Politics »

Carlo Carli on Ethnic diversity in Brunswick today

Carlo Carli and Mara Moustafine.



Date Added:

21 April 2009


source not available


mov (Quicktime);

File size:

24.1 MB






The proportion of people from Ė born overseas is dropping. Itís still the communities that have been large in the post-war which are still very large: Italians and Greeks in particular. The Lebanese are the third, theyíre declining. Chinese have risen. We get a smattering of Africans, we get a smattering of Ė because weíve got large numbers of rental housing, we get smattering of other groups. Weíve remained a bit of a centre for the Turkish community and the Iraqi community in terms of community life: restaurants and community centres and that. But actually not many people live in that area, they tend to live further north when they come in. So we still have ... that elementís still there.


So, itís still noticeably strong in terms of ethnic communities and has that very multicultural feel, particularly Sydney Road. The Indian populationís obviously which is coming from two ends, the permanent migration and also the students that are living in the area, and thatís really revitalising parts of Sydney Road. Itís taken on a very Indian characteristic. So the ethnic communities are still there and still present. But thereís probably not as strong a sense of solidarity or the work thatís Ė that used to happen, they donít all work in the same factories and the clothing factories are gone . So one group might be ... the Indians are large proportion of the students or the Chinese large proportion work in small business.


And so thereís probably not as much engagement with them on Ė if you like on a class basis, but the Councilís incredibly concerned that we respect and support the diversity and so thereís a lot of cultural activities that are obviously often promoted by the Council and to some extent by the State Government. Thereís a a big effort to celebrate the ethnic diversity in cultural form, which means you know, not just the restaurants but the musical activities and feast days and all of that, which in a certain sense has an economic spin off, because thatís why a lot of people come and visit the area because itís got important and interesting cultural events.


My interest as an MP has been around a lot of issues, that were really common to the ethnic communities, were probably where itís most dramatically changed has been in language teaching in the schools. Thirteen years ago it was still considered a really good form for schools to have a lot of languages and to teach them well. Realistically now, the primary schools have largely abandoned teaching languages. If you teach Arabic itís very hard to get middle class parents into the schools. So whereas languages once were seen as a way of building support in the local community thatís no longer the case.


The expectation of a lot of the new parents in the area in terms of schools is more likely to be music programs. The emphasis is still schools, schools are really the core of that community but whatís being demanded has shifted so itís gone from languages to particularly music programs and probably computer based type teaching and Iíve worked very hard to ensure that our schools are really well-equipped. Weíve got a lot of Ėweíre very strong in those areas. So the other area I suppose thatís been really changing has been the Ė even though we have a fairly strong age demographic, itís decreasing. I do a lot of work with the various aged communities, of which a large proportion are of ethnic background, I mean a large proportion of the aged are Italian and Greeks.


And I think increasingly what weíre being asked to do locally is to deal with issues that reflect the disproportionate number of people between the ages of 18 and 30 thatís come into the area. One of those is public transport and I worked within government for seven years on public transport so weíre very well equipped with public transport, but itís almost impossible to satisfy, itís one of those ďhow long is a piece of string?Ē But increasingly weíre getting the demand in terms of that group Ėtheyíre more concerned about issues that I suppose are iconic. Like, you know, unlike other areas a lot of our correspondence and people talking to me will be about for example genetically modified crops. Itís a big issue.


I take it up as a big issue, thereís not many grown in Brunswick but itís iconic, itís part of the change in trends, the environmental consciousness and we have a very strong environmental conscience tradition in Ė we have an environmental called CERES which was founded probably 30 years ago. We have made a big effort to reduce energy use so itís not surprising that iconic issues sort of shoot out there, but they probably have more currency in that area than they do in many other areas. I suppose the other thing thatís really different is I think as a local MP I was almost the perfect person 13 years ago because I represented both if you like, the growing intellectual, well-educated cohort if you like, the people and the ethnic communities.


I think thatís probably less important now. The ethnic component has been less important. I mean whatís now coming in on top of that is the issues that really are facing the generation thatís between 18 and 30 and theyíre an intriguing generation because they do have a high level of environmental consciousness, theyíre political but not necessarily all that party political. They do respond very strongly to iconic issues. Theyíre very, very interested in issues of lifestyle and culture. And so the fact that we strongly support cultural programs in the area becomes quite important to ensure thereís a strong cultural life.


I suppose the other thing thatís interesting about them is theyíre often, particularly the student ones, theyíre quite poor. When we had poor migrant families, they were really about feeding the kids, whereas theyíre now poor but theyíve got really high expectation values. And they expect to do really well out of life, so whatever they earn, they spend. So you know, theyíre not poor in the sense that I used to think of poor people, they just donít have a lot of money but theyíve got a lot of cultural capital, but they donít have a lot of financial capital and I think that makes them very interesting as a group as well. So, I suppose Iím changing myself and how I respond to things partly as a result of that so Iíve gone from being less interested in plain working class factoryĖbased type issues to one of interested in issues of lifestyle and environmental sustainability and those issues.


And itís probably a development that it was going to happen anyway, but being the local MP Iíve seen myself become increasingly interested in issues of environmental sustainability, of energy management and probably less interested... For example, 13 years ago, I was a major spokesperson on tariffs and the survival of the clothing industry because that was the industry that my area lived on. Well thereís very little of that industry left. And I donít to be a major spokesperson of that industry any more.


End transcript