Embracing diversity

Peter Williams
Summary 
Australians have come here from many different countries. Our diversity has made Australia a more interesting place to live. But some people worry about more migrants moving to Australia. They are worried their way of life will change. People should be free to voice their concerns. But some people encourage anger and intolerance. Anger makes people quick to judge. As a person with a disability I have felt people's anger. People have treated me differently because of my disability. But we should not be afraid of people who are different. I believe intolerance is the real threat to our wellbeing.
Posted by: 
Peter Williams on 03/05/2011
men with cane walking along street
men_with_cane

We should celebrate our diversity

Australia is a country containing people from many different cultures. Many Australians believe we should celebrate our diversity. It is widely accepted immigration has enriched our country. New arrivals have also helped us realise how much we all have in common. But some Australians remain fearful of the impact of multi-culturalism and further immigration.

It is understandable that some people are concerned about migration levels. People are worried about preserving their own culture and way of life. But the ill-feeling shown towards migrants and the bitter tone of the debate is unnecessary. We need to discuss these issues without being overwhelmed by anger.

Mature debate

There is constant talk in the media about a lack of civility in the community. I find it ironic when many media outlets do little to promote mature debate. Some commentators actually play on people's fears and promote callous attitudes.

Recently on a Sydney talkback radio station a presenter held a quiz. Listeners had to guess how many people died in the Christmas Island boat tragedy to win a prize. When someone made the correct guess there was cheering from the panel. Most Australians prize values such as compassion and kindness. We should not laugh at people's suffering.

Other media commentators have a similar approach. The anger they express towards migrants seems to be contagious. The commentators claim they are trying to uphold traditional Australian values. But I suspect their spiteful attitudes do more to undermine these values than protect them.

Negative stereotypes

People use negative stereotypes to create unfavorable opinions of others. Stereotypes are characteristics that are assigned to groups of people. They don't take into account the qualities held by individuals. They are often untrue and insulting.

As a person with a disability, I have found some people are quick to assume negative stereotypes about me. Some people see something different and blame us for being lazy or weak. They do not think how unjust their accusations might be. If they experienced what it is like to have a disability they might understand how harmful it is to slur others with ignorant remarks.

Many people with a disability often have to overcome stereotypes. People with a disability can be seen as a burden. Some may think we have little to contribute to our community. Others think we cannot fit in. These views are formed without knowledge or reason. The reality is that people with a disability work in all sorts of professions. Some people with disabilities are leaders in their field. People with a disability make diverse contributions to community life. People need to have an open mind about what we can do.

Fearing difference

Some people fear those from a different culture or people with a disability because they are unfamiliar. They would rather avoid their fears than confront them. I believe we should embrace diversity. We can learn from people who have faced different challenges. Meeting different people gives us the opportunity to exchange ideas. Our diversity has given us different experiences. We can share the knowledge we have gained.

I believe it is important to stand up to prejudice. If prejudice is left unchecked it could flourish. It could undermine the goodwill that binds our society together. It could increase mean-spirited attitudes toward the disadvantaged and the vulnerable. We could become focused on blaming others for our problems. Instead we need to find sensible solutions.

Some people are happy to promote the idea that multi-culturalism is harmful to Australia. I believe that racism and prejudice are the real threats. We need to argue against prejudice. We should stand against it for the greater good of the community.

 

Have you experienced prejudice or discrimination? Let us know in the comments section below.

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