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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 17 June 2017
COMMUNITY 6 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 17 JUNE 2017 Dancers wow audience at Multicultural Folkloric Dance Concert 2017 PHOTOS: KOSTAS DEVES Just when we thought we had seen it all when it comes to traditional folk dancing, participants at this year's Multicultural Folkloric Dance Concert have proved otherwise, exceeding all expectations. Organised by the MANASIS School of Greek Dance and Culture, the three-anda-half hour event was held at the Besen Centre in Burwood on Sunday in front of an audience of 2,000 people. Throughout the afternoon over 600 students took to the stage, including local and interstate guests from MORAVA Serbian Dance Ensemble, FONO Hungarian Dance Group, AZAD GHARIBIAN Armenian DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Folk, Dancing Group, RUSICHI Russian Dance Ensemble, SYDNEY GREEK Dancing School and SYDNEY SIZMOS Greek Dance Company. The concert, the latest in a long line of cultural events presented by Manasis, was hosted as a celebration of Australia's cultural diversity and to foster the growing connection between the dance schools and dance groups. It was clear to all in attendance that the school had successfully achieved its mission, showcasing diverse traditional forms of folk dance while also sharing its evolution with new contemporary styles. OPINION What are ‘Australian values’ anyway? The government’s ‘citizenship crackdown’ raises a very simple question NIKOS FOTAKIS Malcolm Turnbull warned us in April when he made clear that his government was to present a new citizenship test, one that would confirm prospective citizens' commitment to ‘Australian values.’ This week he reaffirmed his own commitment to this cause, gradually presenting the details of their plan. Under the proposed legislation, persons seeking to become Australian citizens will be subjected to a thorough and difficult testing process, designed to exclude people who do not espouse Australian values. Yes, but what are these 'values' and what is it that makes them specifically 'Australian'? When I heard about it, I did a quick, informal survey around people I know (mostly in social media), getting answers that cover all areas from 'sausage sizzle' to 'negative gearing'. So, I would say that 'joking about their selfimage', is one of the pillar values of Australians, however I don't think that this is what the prime minister had in mind. When Mr Turnbull himself was asked about it, he started recounting some: of them "mutual respect, democracy, freedom, rule of law . . . a fair go". I'd heard about the 'fair go'. It was actually one of the most valid answers I got in my survey, coming from people who explained how they had benefited from becoming Australian citizens. Which raises one very simple question. Will applicants have a 'fair go' at citizenship, now that the government is set to strengthen the requirements? According to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, applicants will not only wait longer before being eligible for citizenship, but will also need to pass a more stringent English language test, demonstrating their relevant skills, before taking a citizenship test. The new requirements also include "strengthening the Australian Values Statement to include reference to allegiance to Australia and require applicants to make an undertaking to integrate into and contribute to the Australian community", while the Australian citizenship test itself will have "new test questions about Australian values, and the privileges and responsibilities of Australian citizenship". Yes, but what are these values that the department sees as 'Australian'? The answer to this lies in a booklet - aptly named Life in Australia: Australian values and principles - which is already part of the essential reading in every visa process. The booklet is meant to be downloaded by visa and citizenship applicants, who will read it carefully, then tick the relevant boxes and finally sign the Australian Values Statement: "I confirm that I have read, or had explained to me, information provided by the Australian Government on Australian society and values. I understand: Australian society values respect for the freedom and dignity of the individual, freedom of religion, commitment to the rule of law, Parliamentary democracy, equality of men and women and a spirit of egalitarianism that embraces mutual respect, tolerance, fair play and compassion for those in need and pursuit of the public good; Australian society values equality of opportunity for individuals, regardless of their race, religion or ethnic background; the English language, as the national language, is an important unifying element of Australian society." These are all fine values, but they're basically ecumenical. It says so in the booklet: "they are not unique to Australia, but have broad community agreement and underpin Australian society and culture". Well, do they? One can argue ad nauseam about "the spirit of egalitarianism", especially in regards to religion, at a time when the mainstream rhetoric includes the constant assumption that Muslim Australians need to constantly prove themselves as not being jihadists. Even the most pampered part of the population - millennials - would laugh at "equality of opportunity", given their exclusion from pretty much everything that was a given for their parents: job security, sick leave, maternity leave, annual holidays, entering the property market, being able to repay a mortgage on a single income. A series of tax and labour reforms, resulting to the current 'gig' economy and 'flexible' work hours has undermined many of the so-called 'Australian values'. And let's not even start about the 'rule of law', when this same country is required by a court ruling to compensate the poor souls indefinitely detained in offshore concentration camps, subjected to inhumane treatment. As for the language skill prerequisite, Misty Adoniou, Associate Professor in Language at the University of Canberra recently wrote an article explaining that "it is going to take a very long time for our most vulnerable aspiring citizens to reach a proficiency that will enable them to pass the test . . . an English language test may appear to be a compelling motivation to learn the language, but without the opportunity to learn, and excellent tuition over time, the test is not a motivation. It is an unfair barrier to anyone for whom English is not their mother tongue". As some have already argued, such a prerequisite would have excluded a large part of what is now the core of the middle class, elderly people who came to the country and worked hard to make it what it is today. Not to mention the grasp of the English language the average Aussie has. No, there's no point in putting all this under scrutiny and exposing the pretence behind it. Anyone can understand that the point of 'strengthening' the requirements is not to safeguard Australia from people who want to somehow erode it. It is easy to learn how to properly answer questions set to prove that you espouse the most generic basic values in the world. It is even possible to learn how to pass a really difficult language test. Those who are able to do harm, they are also able to lie their way into the country. No, the point of these changes is not to expose those who want to become Australians under false pretences; it is to discourage those who are afraid that they will fail. The target is once again, the most vulnerable. And this undermines any notion of a 'fair go'.
10 June 2017
24 June 2017