Cultural Diversity

Posted by Dan Ryan on 21 May 2013. Tags:

21 May, World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. This is the story of my day Tweeting for One Young World!

You can follow the journey with myself, Ajarat Bada and Noni Hlophe on the @OneYoungWorld or share your story in my form below.

Morning- Checking out of the hotel and off to a meeting with the Foundation for Young AustraliansEven on my walk/tram ride to the meeting in Melbourne CBD I was reflecting on the diversity within the Australian popluation. I could count about 6 different ethnicities in the tram carraige. It was something I had identified as important to emphasis in my UN Speech in October which included the sentance;

"Our cultural diversity enriches our social tapestry and fosters a peaceful and tolerant society. Australia is home to people who identify with more than 270 ethnicities, speak more than 260 languages and observe all of the world’s religions. It is a democratic country that celebrates and embraces religious and racial diversity. more"

I decided to ask a few people what it cultural diversity means to them and if they would recommend to 'Do One Thing' what it would be. I'll keep this page updated through the day...

 Meet Pradeep Sajwan from India who lives in St Albans, Victoria

Meet Pradeep Sajwan from India who lives in St Albans, Victoria


"Cultural diversity, it is even in the states, isn't it? Footy it is here, NSW it is rugby. But Sydney people still watch footy. Some neither, some are  just cricket...Before coming to this country I didn't know much about Vietnamese or Malaysian. Where I live it is like 70% Vietnamese...

I like Chinese New Year. I like to go with my wife, have a day of food...We eat some food, watch some dancing

That Sunday became special for us. My brother in law got a kid, he was very happy, we spent two hours there'

You know, I never met in my life a racist person or close to racist.

Some people are crazy you know...things come off the tongue. But not someone who is racist. If you are racist you do it again and again. I'm seeing 15 20 people a day in this taxi...

Do one thing?  I'm gonna say google how people behave or their cultures." 


Ryan Clark, Melbourne Airport Wine Tastings

At the airport  Ryan signed me up to a competition he was promoting and I told him about One Young World and asked him a few questions. I asked him about cultural diversity, he said;

"I don't really believe in separate cultures, we all learn from each other you know?

A song influenced me, it said  "Once you know the person who you call bad words, who do you call bad words" or something... I think I was about 13, it was a Skate punk band who were in a skating video.

Of course living in Joburg with Nelson Mandella just released and schools combining white/ made sense.

It stuck with me....I've got 3 citizenships, a Sri Lankan girlfriend and i build orphanages in Kenya Uganda see leone Cambodia, I've been doing that 4.5 years now."

Landing in Adelaide I had a chat with  Brackyo from Ethiopia who drove me to my office. I told him about One Young World and the day and he asked if i wanted his opinion. He spoke almost without promting for the next 20 minutes with great enthusiams but said he's a bit shy and would prefer no last name or photo 

"Australia, Ethiopia, the World... different languages, different dialect, so much diversity, the good side, it's different tests, you learn new food, new tradition... the problem is sometime when different things come together there is always friction. Could be language, could be misunderstanding on what could be abusive in another country. There is a need to be aware, sometimes ignorance can be dangerous. We need a medium for creating understanding.... i think the media can play a big role, have someone come to talk about their culture and then other people can learn...You know? Like, if an Indian comes with a big turban and big beard it may be scary for me because it is not where i come from. I may not feel secure, i may act in a way that annoys him, I may act in a way that may cause conflict. ...Your question is key for everything, if you properly educate everyone you can get the best out of everything and diversity... otherwise it could be a curse. For me, naturally i am open minded. Of course, there are so many problems but if you are open minded, it just takes time. Do one thing? ahhhh, what about museums? You know, museums people can pay a small amount, or free to go there and understand another culture. ...No, I don't have but I want one, a kid. I will teach them diversity, that it is a good thing!"

 In the Austraining office this afternoon and just caught up with friend and colleague Jess Whiting back from some time working in the Indonesian office ‘I was woken up at 4:30 on the first morning I was there by the call to prayer, an amazing reminder that it is a Muslim country. Half the Austraining office is Christian and the other half Muslim, you wouldn’t know the difference, everyone gets on really well. I found this to generally be the case in Jakarta and Jogyakarta, big cosmopolitan cities... I met with volunteers in Bali which is predominately Hindu and then other volunteers western Indonesia where there is a Catholic population.  


Thanks  James Wong for being first to share your story through the form below!
It's hard to sit down for a meal with someone from a different background and part ways without a deeper understanding of their story. I'm organising a dinner to be attended by both long-term and newly arrived Australians from the Monash community to bring people together and to celebrate diversity.

Next contribution is from Natesha...


 Natesha Somasundaram As an ‘Australian born Sri Lankan’, I have had a wide array of experiences in regards to cultural diversity. But, I don’t think I can address this topic without discussing another. So, I reckon I’ll address the elephant hanging about in the room while I’m here, by beginning with a quote from one of my fave actors.

“The only way to end racism is stop talking about it” – Morgan Freeman

Now don’t get me wrong, I completely admire Morgan Freeman as an actor and as a human being. Bruce Almighty was the Gr9est. But, I’m going to have to go out on a limb and say...I disagree with him in regards to this statement. BEFORE YOU PUNCH ME PLEASE LET ME EXPLAIN.

I personally don’t think racism has solely evolved out of a strong resentment for another human being. Rather – I think racism is the product of a growing sentiment that discourages curiosity and enforces acceptance of a superficial reality.

Racism occurs in daily life, and appears much more subtly and nuanced than the media portrays it to be. It’s a problem, but so is not partaking in another individual’s culture out of fear of ‘offending’ them or even feeling too disenfranchised to ask; and I think this is what is causing many people to miss out on appreciating the beauty and wonder of so many other’s traditions and practices.

We live in a society that is indeed ‘multi-cultural’, but is not necessarily integrated. I think people are feeling so reluctant to partake and learn about perhaps why there are over a million deities that have come to represent the Hindu faith, or why some women who identify as Islamic, wear a hijab or burqa. Stereotypes arise because of misinformation and only choosing to view and emphasise a certain aspect of a culture or members of a culture.

But, I’m not talking about caricatures performed by comedians – I am talking about the unspoken, pre-conceived ideas that many people have about particular cultures. The only way to halt racism and truly enable cultural diversity is to not punish ignorance, but to turn around and educate. Talk about racism and why it is a bad thing, but also rejoice over the many spectacular elements of the infinite cultures that surround us. I think it is completely counterproductive that we keep enforcing this notion that “We are all the same – we should not differentiate based on the colour of our skin!” We are all human beings – but we are not all the same. I know my skin is 'brown' and I know I am ethnically identifiable as Sri Lankan – There is nothing remotely ‘racist’ about identifying these factors – they have played a huge role in the formation of my own identity.

Discrimination begins to occur when people begin to believe that all people with 'brown skin' are effectively the same person. We need to start recognising that we have differences – but that is what makes the human race such an exciting bunch. When people start talking about their own personal cultural experiences – don’t feel afraid ask them about it!

Ask them about what it means to them and why they choose to practice what they do; educate yourself and then educate others. Next time I tell you about how I went to the temple and how I had to place a 'pottu' (more colloquially known as a ‘dot’ ) upon my forehead, ask me about what it means to me! Because trust me, I would absolutely love to tell you. :)

 TBC - I'll be updating soon

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