Australia is a diverse and multi-faceted society. This gets said so often that it’s become something of a cliche, but sometimes cliches are repeated not because they’re meaningless, but because they’re true.
Woven into the story of Australia are the lives, hopes and histories of people from all over the globe. Whether it’s the long Dreaming of our first peoples, the sufferings and aspirations of the convicts and their masters or the myriad stories of hope and renewal originating from East and South Asia, pre and post-war Europe or South East Asia, the common thread is that Australia isn’t so much a unitary culture as it is an ongoing project of inclusion and acceptance.
This project hasn’t always gone particularly well. The people of the First Nations, for example, would attest to that. What we see over time, however, is that Australia is at its best not when it ignores, suppresses or resists difference, but when it actively celebrates it.
I think that this is because the thing above all others that makes Australia strong is not an ethnicity, a cultural identity or a political philosophy – it’s an idea. The idea that within our borders lies a place for everyone, regardless of their colour, their faith, their creed – just buy into that central Australian idea of inclusiveness and equality, and there will always be room to carve out a life here.
So it follows that I think that government should reflect the true nature of the nation. It matters, therefore, that same-sex couples are granted equal rights before the law, that working parents have their way eased through more effective workplace initiatives, that our indigenous peoples are recognized and supported – in short, I don’t think it’s possible to be a true representative of the Australian people without believing in equal rights and true freedom of choice for all, regardless of who we are or where we originally come from.