On social inclusion

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What it means to be ‘Australian’ is an ever-changing concept

Australia Day has just passed, and, for many of our readers, it ended on a happy note, to see our Men in Blue finally claim the sole victory in the ODI series.

In the lead up to 26 January though, we saw the usual soul searching that the occasion typically brings for many Australians. It is the time of the year when the discussion centres around what it really means to be ‘Australian’. One social media discussion concluded that we should call it ‘Austral-vasion-vival’ Day, and commemorate all of its varied connotations!social inclusion.indianlink

Indeed, the headlines in the past few days have been screaming ‘selection by omission’ in many walks of life, not only here at home but overseas as well.

Internationally, Hollywood is leading the charge and speaking out about the lack of diversity in this year’s Oscars shortlist with the hashtags #OscarsSoWhite and #SoWhite trending on Twitter. The tremendous power Hollywood exerts in contemporary life is undeniable, and to see the “whitewashing” of the ballot in the acting categories, for the second consecutive year, suggests that perhaps the real world is not correctly represented in the industry. On the other hand, the #OscarsSoRight campaign is pushing the argument that the Oscars are all about talent, not race.

Actor Viola Davis hit the nail on the head when she suggested that film-makers themselves – producers and script-writers and casting agents – can help with social inclusion in their particular roles.

Closer to home in Australia, it is heartening to see many attempts at increasing diversity in the workplace, not only by the government but also the large corporates. Diwali last year was a wonderful opportunity for many organisations to organise Indian-themed events and initiatives. No doubt there will be more of the same when the Chinese New Year comes by shortly.

Such occasions to get a glimpse of another cultural perspective only serve to highlight the underlying commonalities between us.

Even television is slowly but surely jumping on the bandwagon. While we still have the Rhondas of the AAMI campaign, we also saw Indian-origin Gurinder Sandhu being your typical Aussie cricketer in the Optus ads. And new shows such as SBS’s The Family Law go a long way in proving that all families, whatever the cultural background, experience the same ups and downs, the same anxieties and the same pleasures. As Twitter would say, #SameSameButDifferent.

What it means to be ‘Australian’ is an ever-changing concept. Our nation is a marketplace of ideas; we should pause to consider the different sides of each argument when it comes to social inclusion, and judge each by its merits. We should all have the maturity to at least listen to each perspective, adopt the most salient points,  and integrate the best ideas in order to create a workable proposition to better our society.

And for those of us upset at the lack of inclusion at the Academy Awards, perhaps the silver lining will be this year’s host Chris Rock, who, you might expect, will not hold back!