Multiculturalism and the Greens

How do we address the lack of cultural diversity within our own Party? How can we do better to create an Australian Greens that embraces multiculturalism as more than a policy position?

By Rebecca Galdies
Monday, September 12, 2016

There has been a lot of attention both pre- and post-federal election on the rise of racism in Australia in the last few years. This is remarkable really, as according to the 2015 Mapping Social Cohesion survey, 86 per cent of Australians agree that multiculturalism has been good for the country. So when we are tackling this racism, it is important to remember and to perhaps highlight in conversations with others how important multiculturalism has been in developing the Australia we now live in; to remind ourselves and those around us that this country, once solely occupied by Australia’s First Nations people, has since grown out of successive waves of migrants from a multitude of backgrounds over the last couple of centuries.

I have to admit I am a little uncomfortable writing about racism as someone who comes from a very privileged background and having never been the victim of racism myself. My parents both came to Australia by boat, Dad from Malta and Mum from England. I grew up with loads of cousins as both sets of grandparents were Catholic, and we would regularly converge on Sundays at my paternal grandparents place for lunch. Food was always abundant as was laughter and noise, and occasionally our weekends were peppered with tears, usually brought on by one of us kids not wanting to leave. I was very lucky. Not all children of migrants in Australia had as positive an experience growing up here as I did. Many of my friends experienced racist taunts at school, and many continue to experience racism both overt and less obvious.

Positive change

I believe that one of the best ways to tackle racism in Australia is through continuing to embrace multiculturalism and celebrating our diversity. I believe the Greens have a responsibility to encourage representative cultural diversity in parliament. On gender diversity, we have managed pretty well even without quotas. On ethnic diversity however, we could certainly be doing a little better. When I joined the Greens, one of the first things I realised was how lacking in cultural diversity we are.  I didn’t say much about it, but as I began to grow in confidence and realise that it was a safe space to have these conversations I started to talk more about my observation.

At National Conference in 2015, for the first time I was a conference delegate for South Australia. One of the ongoing working groups that caught my eye was focussed on addressing issues of multiculturalism in the party, or the lack thereof, as it happened. For the first time ever in my Greens experience, I felt like I was actually sitting among a group of people that were an accurate representation of the incredible diversity of the Australian population. And everyone was singing the same tune, asking the same question: how can we increase the cultural diversity of our Party? 

Next steps

After several discussions held over the course of the conference, including at the after-Conference catch up, we made a decision that we need to take some sort of action to increase the cultural diversity within the Party. We all recognised how much more productive we are when we are able to bring diverse experience to a common goal and how much the Party could benefit from increasing our multiculturalism.

Since then, in collaboration with Dr Mehreen Faruqi MP from New South Wales and in my capacity as an alternate delegate for South Australia on National Council we have championed the idea of forming a national multicultural working group. Our collective hope is that National Conference will again inspire people from diverse backgrounds to come together and form this group. What the group looks like and who is involved is now up to you. You do not have to be a conference delegate to be involved, you just need to be interested in actively supporting the increase of cultural diversity in the Australian Greens.

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Rebecca Galdies is the Alternate delegate for South Australia to the Australian Greens National Council. She was the candidate for Sturt in the 2016 Federal Election. Please get in touch with Rebecca if you would like to be kept informed of the next steps in forming the Australian Greens multicultural working group.