Labor Party member Tim Watts believes Australia will continue to hold its place as the most successful multicultural country in the world only if Australians work at preserving the diversity
“If you are a migrant to Australia you do better at school, you’re more likely to run a business, you’re less likely to end up in jail than someone born in Australia. There aren’t many countries that can say that”
We’re putting in place similar support structures to be able to help people in those more isolated contexts. We’ve got Jagriti: a social awakening in Melbourne’s west, which is an Indian Diaspora-driven support network for victims of domestic violence
Australians need to work at multiculturalism and counter anti-migration groups like Reclaim Australia, according to Federal Labor Party Member for Gellibrand Tim Watts.
“Australian multiculturalism works because we work at it,” Watts told the Indian Sun, speaking on the sidelines of the Australia India Youth Dialogue in New Delhi earlier this year. “There are always going to be difficulties working through difference but we’re committed to it – that’s what modern Australia is.”
“Part of that is when nitwits like this Reclaim Australia movement come up, they need to be put in their place properly,” he said.
The far-right group Reclaim Australia polarised the nation when it emerged last year holding street rallies across the country to protest Islam and Halal certification. On their website, they claim to be about trying to “protect the Australian way of life”.
As for what the rise of such a radical nationalist group suggests about the future of multiculturalism in Australia, Watts said it needed to be viewed in context. “They get a couple of hundred people turn up to their rallies,” Watts said.
“Now some of those rallies by the equivalent group in Germany have had hundreds of thousands of people turn up.
“I look at where we are in Australia; we don’t have an equivalent of UKIP [the UK Independence Party, a right-wing populist political party], we don’t have an equivalent of the National Front [another British far-right political party opposed to non-white migration], we don’t have mass large scale racist political parties in our mainstream political system.
“Yes we need to be alert to it, we need to stomp it out when it comes up, but it’s not having a major impact,” Watts said.
A longstanding advocate for multiculturalism, Watts believes Australia is the “most successful” multicultural nation in the world. “I say that not saying we are a perfect society, we certainly have our issues,” he said.
“But if you are a migrant to Australia you do better at school, you’re more likely to run a business, you’re less likely to end up in jail than someone born in Australia. There aren’t many countries that can say that,” he said.
Watts’ own electorate in Melbourne’s West is a multicultural melting pot, where two-thirds of the constituents are either born overseas or have a parent who migrated to Australia. The politicians’ family is also a shining example of migration, with his wife having been born in China.
Speaking of Indian migration to the area, Watts said: “Across Melbourne’s West, Indian Australians, new arrivals to Australia, are really re-shaping the community’s cultural, commercial and charitable spheres – I see the impact that the Indian Australian Diaspora’s having every day in my day job.”
“I represent around 100,000 constituents, of whom around 5,000 to 6000 would be Indian Australians.”
Watts noted that the growing Indian-origin population faced a “whole range of issues”, which even the Indian government was beginning to pay more attention to. “The issues facing non-resident Indians is something that the Indian government’s taking more seriously now,” he said. “And we’re starting to see institutions being established to help work through some of those issues.”
“We’ve had some really horrific family violence incidents, some incidents associated with dowry, which in Australia we don’t have as much experience in,” Watts said. “It’s been a learning process, but that’s what we do. Australian multiculturalism: we work at it, we get good at it.”
Asked if there had been efforts to reach out to India to learn about cultural aspects in family violence, Watts said: “Interestingly there’s a lot of learning between the multicultural communities in Australia. A lot of the issues which the Indian confronts in my electorate are the same ones which the Vietnamese communities’ confronted, and some of the other big migrant communities have dealt with.”
Watts said one the key issues that affected family violence in multicultural communities was that women were often more isolated. “You don’t have the same support networks as you might have in another context,” he explained. “So the people you turn to might be more invested in your family relationship. There’s no independent arbiter you can go to for support.”
“We’re putting in place similar support structures to be able to help people in those more isolated contexts. The great thing about that is many of them are actually driven by the community itself, so we’ve got Jagriti: a social awakening in Melbourne’s west, which is an Indian Diaspora-driven support network for victims of domestic violence,” Watts said.