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Nurturing unity amidst controversy

By Steven Schwartz - posted Monday, 29 January 2024

The idiot who praises, with an enthusiastic tone, All centuries but this and every country but his own.- WS Gilbert (The Mikado)

Forty years ago, I pledged to share Australia's democratic beliefs and respect the rights and liberties of the Australian people. And with those words, I became a naturalised citizen.

It was one of my life's most memorable days and of many others who have become citizens.


In the tapestry of nations, Australia stands out as a beacon of inclusivity and optimism, with a remarkable 30 per cent of its population born in another country. This figure, twice the percentage of Americans or Britons born abroad, attests to our nation's exceptional ability to foster and embrace diversity.

Australians come from over 190 countries, representing a kaleidoscope of races, religions, and ethnicities. It is entirely fair to say our country is a global leader in welcoming migrants.

The story of Australian migration is a stark departure from its convict-colonised origins. Unlike the unwilling settlers of 1788, modern migrants freely choose Australia for its promise of freedom, acceptance, and unparalleled opportunities.

This nation, poetically immortalised as a "sunburnt country," radiates a warmth that attracts brave individuals willing to embark on a journey of new adventures, unknown possibilities, and the pursuit of a better life.

The resilience and optimism of migrants are evident in the continued growth of Australian families, contrasting sharply with demographic stagnation in many other parts of the developed world.

However, amidst this vibrant tapestry, a dissonant note of self-loathing has infiltrated the national dialogue.


Some politicians, pundits, and educators propagate the notion that Australia is xenophobic and racist, perpetuating a narrative that is impossible to reconcile with the welcoming spirit that created the nation's huge immigrant population.

Australia Day, once a symbol of national pride, has become a focal point for controversy.

We are told that the convicts (who would rather have been anywhere else) constituted an "invasion," and Australia Day marks a day of shame.

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This article is republished from Wiser Every Day.

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About the Author

Emeritus Professor Steven Schwartz AM is the former vice-chancellor of Macquarie University (Sydney), Murdoch University (Perth), and Brunel University (London).

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