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A testing time for our new arrivals

By Graham Ring - posted Monday, 5 February 2007

Eighty-six per cent of Melbourne's Herald-Sun readers say migrants should pass a test on Australian values before being granted citizenship. How we can catch out those other un-Australian types whose families have been here for 60,000 years?

Prime Minister John Howard's “decent Aussie values” test can't come quickly enough for me. Naturally, I share the widespread and utterly reasonable concerns being expressed on commercial television about people with funny skin colours, funny languages and funny religions threatening to overwhelm Godzone.

This is not merely blind prejudice. The fact is, things that are different are scary, and therefore dangerous and wrong. Everybody knows that. So the sooner the Prime Minister can usher us all back into the “fabulous 50s”, the better I will like it.


But I'm afraid to report that I also have grave doubts about the “dinkum Aussie” quotient of some of the folk who are already here. I did some travelling in the Northern Territory earlier this year and was frankly disgusted at the rampant un-Australianness of some of the people I met.

Truth is, a worrying proportion of the Yolngu mob up in East Arnhem land seem to speak English only as a second language. Apart from the insufferable Kevin Rudd smarty-pantedness of being bi-lingual, this unpatriotic ability raises questions about loyalty.

I reckon the Prime Minister could do a lot worse than sool his cultural coppers onto anyone who speaks more than one language. If they've got nothing to hide, then they've got nothing to fear, right?

If further evidence that something is amiss out in the boondocks is required, then I would cite the noticeable absence of conversations about Shane Warne.

On the other hand, the preposterous over-representation of Tiwi Islanders at the top level of Aussie Rules football competitions around the country is way beyond the realms of statistical aberration. It fairly reeks of conspiracy.

It was bad enough to be outplayed by people called Koutoufides and Liberatore without having the blackfellas make us look slow and clumsy as well. Surely this constitutes un-Australian behaviour?


And if the Top End is tendentious, God only knows what kind of unpatriotic plots are being hatched in the Central Desert communities, far from the scrutiny of cultural tourists. How can we sleep soundly at night confronted by the possibility that the inhabitants of Docker River and Papunya are not as “Australian” as we would like to think?

When cornered, Indigenous folk are wont to bang on about 60,000 years of occupation prior to the arrival of Captain Phillip's boatpeople - as though that makes any difference.

The unassailable fact is that most of this mob have never even been to a Test match at the MCG, let alone painted a sheet with a very clever slogan built around puns on surnames like “Waugh” and - the aforementioned but ubiquitous - “Warne”.

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First published in the National Indigenous Times on January 25, 2007, Issue 121.

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About the Author

Graham Ring is an award-winning writer and a fortnightly National Indigenous Times columnist. He is based in Alice Springs.

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