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The linguistic and cultural prerequisites for participation in Australian society.


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Bostock, William W.(William Walter),1943- 1974 , 'The linguistic and cultural prerequisites for participation in Australian society.', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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When we examine the liberal democracies of the world, we
find that their workings are undermined by differences of language,
culture and race. Members of linguistic, cultural and racial
minorities often maintain that their participation in society must
necessarily be from outside the 'rules of the game', through, for
example, violence.
Are we thus bound to draw the conclusion that the concept of
liberal democracy presupposes a linguistically, culturally, and
racially homogeneous society? In the case of Australia, its
political leaders have, in their never-ending search for labour to
develop bhe nation's resources, based their policies upon the
assumption that this homogeneity must be provided, and hence the aim
of assimilation. With regard to race, only members of the European
or Caucasian race, with preference going to Northern Europeans, were
permitted to enter, while the indigenous racial minority, the
Aborigines, were expected to be racially assimilated or absorbed
into the European-Australian population. With regard to their
languages and cultures, these were expected to be replaced in due
course by the English language and Australian culture, as were those
of migrants.
Has the assimilationist policy worked? In the case of the
more easily assimilable migrants, such as the Dutch and the Germans,
it has worked. They have often lost all trace of their original
language and culture and become indistinguishable from other
Australians. In the case of the less easily assimilable migrants,
that is those whose language and culture are further removed from
that of the host society, such as Greece and Turkey, it is proceeding
with more difficulty. In the case of the Aborigines, assimilation
is not proceeding at all. Instead of having the Aboriginal language
and culture replaced with the English language and European-Australian
culture, they are now finding a despised position on the
fringe of a white society whose language and culture they only
imperfectly understand while at the same time they have in many
cases lost their own language and culture, and with it sense of
The ideal of an harmonious society, free from the violence
and bitterness of oppressed linguistic, cultural or racial minorities
is one that most would accept. But is the elimination through
assimilation of minorities the only way to achieve this kind of
society? The conceptual basis of the assimilation policy must be
challenged. Firstly, the physical characteristics of a race can
never be completely eliminated, even after many generations of intermarriage.
Secondly, a language and a culture cannot easily be
suppressed, not at least in the life of one generation. Thirdly,
there is no basis for the belief that one individual cannot be both
bilingual and bicultural, so that linguistic and cultural suppression
may be unnecessary. Fourth and lastly, the results of unsuccessful
policies of linguistic, cultural and racial assimilation may be
more conducive to resentment, bitterness and conflict, than the
absence of such policies. Rather than assimilation, the aim of
government policy should be to provide the means of participation,
that is, to encourage the members of linguistic, cultural and
racial minorities not to suppress their distinct identities, but
to develop, alongside their existing language and culture, the
degree of competence in the English language and Australian culture
necessary for participation. Many scholarly investigations have
shown that the process of learning a new language and culture is
facilitated rather than hindered by the maintenance of the existing
language and culture.
Our objective then is a policy with an ideal according to
which, for example, Sicilians, Mauritians or Aborigines are not,
as at present, struggling with limited success to assimilate themselves
to the language and culture of white Anglo-Saxon Australians,
but one in which the members of these groups are able to participate
as Sicilian Australians, Mauritian Australians or Aboriginal
Australians, secure in the uniqueness of their identity, and yet
participating fully in every aspect of the life of the nation. The
Jewish Australians and to a smaller extent, but in the same way, the
Chinese Australians, have shown that participation without total
assimilation is a realistic and desirable objective. Without the
contribution of these groups, Australia would be a very much less
rich society in many different respects.
The participation of a minority group must be encouraged to
take place within an open system. If minority participation is
blocked by the linguistic and cultural majority, a situation of
'participation from outside' along the lines of terrorism and
violence can be predicted. The participation must be carried out
in the English language and according to common cultural norms, as
for example, are provided in the parliamentary system of government.
If every member of a minority is fully bilingual and bicultural, no
such blockage could come to exist.
The development of multilingual multicultural participatory
democracy would be assisted by changes in the education system which
produces at present a high degree of monolingual monoculturalism.
If young Australians of British origin, could be encouraged to learn
another language and assume the rudiments of another culture in
addition to their own, they would realise the relativity of their
native language and culture, and thus find themselves in a better
position to admit the advantages to be gained from the participation
of the minorities in their midst. Moreover, there could be an
additional advantage: that Australia Gould participate more in the
outside world than the monolingual and monocultural education which
at present is given allows.
This very same solution has been proposed by a Royal Commission
into the languages and cultures of Canada. Moreover, in Switzerland,
we find a multilingual and multicultural population who are
able to exist in harmony because they are multilingual and multicultural.
Furthermore, when the members of racial minorities possess
perfect fluency in the language and culture of the racial majority,
the causal conditions of discrimination are removed, while at the
same time, a sense of identity is maintained. ,
We are thus entitled to draw a conclusion that: providing
the linguistic and cultural prerequisites of participatory democracy
are met, any amount of linguistic, cultural and racial
diversity can exist, and, moreover may be highly beneficial to
participation within that democracy.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Bostock, William W.(William Walter),1943-
Keywords: Language and languages
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 1974 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Footnotes: l. 375-405. Thesis (Ph.D.) - University of Tasmania, 1975

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