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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 13 February 2016
OPINION 24 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 13 FEBRUARY 2016 OPINION BILLY COTSIS Ethnically-challenged wog in 2016: are we really diverse at the highest levels? Growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, many people who looked like me or had a different cultural background, would inevitably come face to face with racism. I won't shy away from it. The last punch up I ever got involved with was against two neighbours who wouldn't stop with the wog or greasy Greek slurs. I was around 10 or 11, and yes, I could hold my own back then, although there is no way I would ever again respond like that. Recently, I was having flashback conversations with my friends about the good old days at school. And there were some fun days. What came to mind were some of my experiences. Little things. Like not being picked for the cricket team yet I kept taking wickets at good pace for no runs in the trials. In Year 12 I was the only wog in the initial Commonwealth Bank Cup rugby league team. I was fit and athletic. I recall at training that no matter what, they would kick high balls to me and send the forwards at me. I never flinched, never dropped a ball and in return I would get applause. As soon as I had that, I dropped myself from the team. I was never, ever going to get a guernsey. With a nice tan all year round and dark features, I knew that I would never fit in with 'Caucasians' even though I did my best to hang around non-CALD. I was referred to as a wog hundreds of times. Ironically, I rarely hung around with Greeks either, choosing a mixed bag of people. People to me were people rather than ethnicities. I care not where you are from. No matter my philosophy, I would occasionally have to hear the wog tag. What was a wog anyway? What did these other kids actually know that I did not? For the record, wog is a very derogatory term used in England in a bygone era to denigrate people who weren't white. It was sick, actually. Why does skin colour have to matter? What makes white superior? Are they really superior? If anyone is reading this article, drop the wog tag even if you are CALD. Backtrack a little and let me introduce Gough Whitlam. What a man, actually, what a great man. He espoused multiculturalism. Go way back and we find that Alexandros o Megas did the exact same thing when he conquered Asia. Now fast forward to 2016 and we find every government Down Under to be progressive in their way of thinking. We shall not discriminate! Awesome! We shall treat youse all as if youse are one of ours! Awesome! We love you the way you are! Awesome! We value you in our society! Awesome! In fact, we will even start flying the Aboriginal flag where possible despite the way they were treated and the massive gap that exists between us and the Indigenous! Awesome! But just don't come looking for jobs at the highest level. Awesome! Sorry, but those roles are full. Sydney, in my humble opinion, is around 50 per cent CALD. Western Sydney is higher. Yet I look around and I struggle to see many public service senior roles that are gained by CALD. I look around and I flick through the TV, and I generally see no CALD on mainstream TV. Admittedly, there are some and I actually hate watching TV anyway. The Habibs show sounds funny. But do we really need to make fun of ethnicities like that? Last time I checked, Lebanese via Phoenicia created the alphabet. What a long history. Are there not alternative ways to promote CALD to the mainstream? I love my Aussie music. In fact, I will be writing a book about how brilliant our music efforts have been. But where exactly are these CALD performers? How many do you hear on mainstream radio? Actually, speaking of radio, what can you tell me about the CALD mix? How many radio announcers in key slots are CALD? Any Muslim ones out there? What's wrong with religious diversity? DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Oh, I've just been told that we have a girl of Asian heritage on 96.1, which comes in at about seven on the FM ratings. Wait, hold the boats or should I say Stop Them. Now I know why we sometimes start the day wanting to keep the turn back policy in place. A one-sided argument against refugees and asylum seekers on AM radio. Do many CALD listen to talkback, non ABC? Hey I want secure borders too, but can't we get some CALD people talking about it too? Yes, yes I know, ABC is there for the softies. I would listen more but that Paul Latter on traffic gets me down by telling me how bad the traffic is. In 2012 I came back from London. I never felt weird or out of place there. In fact, for the first time in my life I was called Australian. OZZZZZZZtralian! Wow, that took a loooooong time. "Meet my Aussie mate. Guys have you met that Billy, he is from Australia, but don't hold that against him!" I’m Australian. You are, we are, I am, you are, well something like Australian. Ironically, my Aussie accent is what they identified. Same accent that occasionally people would make fun of back home. Surprisingly, there is no ethnic twang to the way I speak. My look creates a stereotype for some. I would come back to London during summer with a tan and people would ask (I ran 140 workshops, met 2,000 people) "are you a Maori?". I would explain my heritage and they would say, "oh that kinda explains it, but you are Australian anyway!". Felt good. I love being from this country. The country that gave me INXS and body surfing. Anyway, I make a short story long. I think overall, including last year, I went for 20 job interviews upon return from London. Three people on a panel. Aside from the last role, I encountered a total of seven or eight CALD people (I'm being generous with the figure). Surely Sydney at a medium to senior level could be better represented by CALD. I have taken four jobs in that period and rejected others, engaging with dozens of corporate and public sector agencies. I may have misplaced my glasses, but I just couldn't seem to find too many CALD at a senior level. Nor did I find a strong gender balance. Is there something wrong with women too? Are they not in the same era that you and I are in? Does the kitchen really belong to them? Maybe gender is lagging behind (ya thunk!)? Actually, there is no doubt. Look at the top end boards in this country. Count the women and then count the CALD. If I am wrong, I will lace up the boots again. What the heck is CALD? How many meetings did that take to create? I'm Greek Australian, if truth be told. Recently in NSW we had 18 appointees to help oversee the move to final consultations before mergers. Fifteen were men - count them, because my maths is hopeless. I did a search on the names. Couldn't work out if there were any CALD. Again, I need glasses I think. It's not to be critical, these people may be awesome appointees. The best. Somehow I think we need a CALD and gender balance. Then again, at an elected government level, how many Indigenous, CALD or women do you see at the top? Do you need glasses too? I have a friend who works in an optical store. She can get you a discount. Will we ever get a Muslim PM, or how about a premier with a cultural background. Are there many in this country? Our society is one of the best in the world. We do not have racist policies. Around the world other less progressive countries do; though we did believe Indigenous people did not exist until 1967 and White Australia was only disbanded just before I was born - thanks Gough! Having said that, we place great value on diversity, and maybe once we all have glasses, that diversity will rise to the top. NRL has, basketball, A League have made massive inroads. After the treatment of Adam Goodes, I reserve my judgment on AFL. It's up to all of us to think long and hard about how far we can take our society to the next level. Quotas are not an answer. Valuing gender and ethnic diversity is. I am ethnically challenged. I may be wrong or correct, but I hope to open a dialogue that is constructive. My intention is not to offend, just to pass on experiences. What we collectively do today will help future generations make this an even better society. * Billy Cotsis is the author of The Many Faces of Hellenic Culture.
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