In his infinite wisdom John Howard a few weeks ago said that the Greeks should be the yardstick by which all other migrants should measure themselves by. You see the Greeks know how to be good Aussies.

“You integrate fully, you become part of the mainstream, your first loyalty is to Australia, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a place in your heart for your home culture and that’s how we want it,” Mr Howard said.

The majority of Greeks migrated to Australia in the 50’s and 60’s when the White Australia Policy rife and the buzzword was “assimilation” not “multiculturalism”.

The Greeks were arrived to this country and were encouraged to learn English. However, my father and mother’s generation of migrants have a different story to tell when it comes to having “a place in your heart for your home culture”. As long as “home culture” wasn’t paraded out on the streets for the locals to see and hear, “that’s how we want it”.

It is clear to see that even today my parents are wary of politicians and their intentions. They believed when they landed in Australia way back in the 50’s that they would be welcomed. But instead had to endure being called “wogs” or “dagos”, getting lowly paid jobs and were generally given a hard time. Can you blame them for being disillusioned?

So forgive me if I think that Mr Howard sounded ignorant and his sentiments towards the Greeks sounded patronising and condescending. The Greeks may have blended nicely into the “Australian” way of life, but it was not an easy road to travel for my parents or for me – a first generation Australian.

So let’s applaud the Greeks, the Italians, the Germans, the Dutch and whoever else came to Australia all those years ago and integrated not only with the Anglo Saxon Australians but with all migrants.

But the buzzword today is multiculturalism so let’s not make the journey for the new migrants as difficult at it has been in the past. Okay Mr Howard? It all starts with you.

This post was originally published on my other Mum’s Word blog “Take A Souvlaki and Baste It In Vegemite”


  • At 2012.04.14 13:41, Grace said:

    It’s those backhanded compliments from politicians that really send me up the proverbial wall. And Howard…OMG…Wasn’t he just our finest role model for modern society Australia and multiculturalism ? (Deep sarcasm…)

    • At 2012.04.14 22:38, Veronica @ Mixed Gems said:

      You make a great point and give history some perspective. It might look like it was as easy as meat pie that Greeks, and any other immigrant, assimilated quietly but it sounds like it was the expectation. To imply in the present day they did it the “right way” 50 or so years on, really doesn’t highlight that, for many, that was the only way they were allowed to be.

      • At 2012.04.20 11:01, Maria said:

        I find Howard hypocritical because it’s no secret he opposed multiculturalism when it was first introduced and through his entire career. He may not have banged on about it as loudly since it fell out of step with being ‘politically correct’ but I find his ‘sincerity’ disingenuous.

        Love & stuff
        Mrs M

        • At 2012.04.20 11:03, Maria said:

          My uncle told me stories that if they were heard talking Greek in the street they would be set up on by Anglo Saxon Aussies. Hopefully Australia has moved on from that but it doesn’t help my parent’s generation in the trust issue. And I once read documents that migrants were only allowed to apply for blue collar jobs. Too bad if they were university education.

          Love & stuff
          Mrs M

          (Required, will not be published)