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Friday, September 15, 2006

Migrants: Let em know they're in for.

Some thoughts on Australian immigration, but would probably apply for any country.

Australian Prime Minister, John Howard is floating ideas around at the moment about making people sit a test in order to become Australian citizens. This was a response to Opposition Leader, Kim Beazley's proposal that new arrivals to Australia pledge their allegiance to Australian values.

But why wouldn't applicants just see these things as just another bureaucratic hurdle? And I can't say I'm entirely comfortable with parliament legislating what our values are (even with the help of polling and the mass media) and having the bureaucracy word it for our benefit.

What about something less divisive that's in the interests of all parties? Just let them know what they're in for. Give them information they really want, before they make that fateful trip to the other side of the world. Ask them what they imagine their life will be like and tell them how realistic it is.

It benefits noone when Australian life turns out to be letdown. It costs our social security system and criminal justice system when disappointment turns to sloth and/or resentment. And for the immigrants themselves, even when they have no choice but to leave their own country, perhaps another is more suited to them.

Having gone to a very mixed school, I got some insight into the migrant experience. Very often their expectations about the country are different to what they get. It's amazing how little knowledge their parents had before taking the plunge.

Migrants should be told the following things:
  • Whether your professional qualifications will be accepted.
  • If those skills won't be accepted, how hard you will have to work to attain an average standard of living.
  • Even once you've achieved that you'll have to pay high levels of tax, and how strictly enforced.
  • Australians will feel that your children have a right to marry anyone they see fit, including people of other races.
  • That your children may adopt western values more readily than you might think, and may not care for you in your old age.
  • Australians generally believe that religion is a personal thing and don't like seeing it (mis)used in the public sphere.
  • You may not feel so welcome when you return to homeland years later. They may view you as betraying the motherland, or not suffering along with your people, yet seeking to benefit when times are good again.
This is just a few pitfalls I came up with off the top of my head. They could have different ones for each ethnic group, and they could be based it on migrant surveys.

Imagine if all this was delivered in a documentary style video starring their fellow countrymen who'd make the move and in their own language.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Karen said...

I get the impression Howard's concerns are different to yours. He's not worried about people being disappointed with Australia, more about them happily living out their lives in cultural enclaves and occasionally plotting our explosive downfall. I don't think your proposal is such a bad idea, but I don't think many people would be put off by it, especially if they're facing serious pressures in their home country. For example, I knew Hong Kong was stinky and humid before I came over here, and did that stop me? Nooooo. Ok, not quite the same situation... but I think people's enthusiasm would be undiminished. On the other hand, later when they came to see the downsides for themselves, it might come as less of a shock, and they may be better able to cope.

9:26 PM

 
Blogger Luke Metcalfe said...

Yeah it is a different angle. What really stuck out in my mind the number of times migrants' kids would say their parents had a choice between Australia, Canada, US and Turkey or whatever. Then I would ask "so why Australia?" And the answer was generally unclear.

Probably just a vague notion of sunshine and getting moving far away would have been a part of it.

8:08 PM

 
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