Academic journal article Australian Journal of Music Education

Cultural Diversity in Australia: Promoting the Teaching and Learning of South African Music

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Music Education

Cultural Diversity in Australia: Promoting the Teaching and Learning of South African Music

Article excerpt

Setting the scene: the Australian context

Although this article focuses on the insights of three South African voices on the teaching of African Music in Melbourne (Australia) it is necessary to provide a brief outline of the Australian context as all three voices per se are originally immigrants from South Africa arriving as early as the late 1980s to 2000 into Australia. As early as the 1850s, the 'White Australia' policy can be traced favouring applicants from certain countries. "'The White Australia' policy described Australia's approach to immigration from federation until the latter part of the 20th century" (Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship, 2011, p. 1). According to Willoughby (2011, p. 1) "at the time of Federation, most Australians feared that the introduction of people from non-European backgrounds would threaten the security and unity of the new nation. They believed that Australia should be a nation of people of British descent and that an increase of the population was necessary for Australia's survival". Initially, more British immigration was allowed, nonetheless Northern Europe and to a lesser degree Southern Europeans were tolerated. Willoughby (2011) confirms "few Europeans sought to migrate to Australia before World War One, but after the war, Southern Europeans as well as non-European migrants, were excluded from migrating to Australia". It took 25 years for the abolition of this policy in 1973 by the then 'new Labor Government. The Whitlam federal Labor Government"shifted from one aimed at integration of other cultures into the dominant Anglo-Celtic culture to one which supported multiculturalism" (Jakubowicz, 2011, p. 1). At the state level in Victoria in 1982, the Cain Labor government implemented multicultural policies in the workplace, in education and in the community. To this day Australia prides itself on its great strengths of inclusivity and rich cultural diversity. The Commonwealth of Australia (2003b) maintains that "Australians have the right to be active and equal participants ... free to live their lives and maintain their cultural traditions". They further acknowledge the unique contribution of the Australia's Indigenous people and their culture making it a rich multicultural nation today.

Australia continues to be a tapestry of diverse cultures and this embroidery of cultures weaves "shared knowledge and belief systems" (Mushi, 2004, p. 181) not necessarily changing meaning from any particular culture, but rather finding an educational mixture where opportunities for interchange can co-exist. As Australian society becomes increasingly multicultural, the demographics of classrooms changes and the pluralistic multiculturalism that now exists can contribute in its own unique way to the social enrichment of this country. As such, teachers need to adapt as well as adopt "a more critical multicultural approach to their practice to meet the challenges posed both by societal diversity and the system in which they work" (Hagan & McGlynn, 2004, p. 245). The Commonwealth of Australia (2003a) document advocates "Australian multiculturalism encourages Australians to support each other" and "encourages diversity in ways of thinking" (pp. 7-8) which also extends to education at all levels. The Australian multiculturalism policy asserts that, "all Australians have the opportunity to be active and equal participants in Australian society, free to live their lives and maintain their cultural traditions Australian multiculturalism recognises, accepts, respects and celebrates cultural diversity" (Commonwealth of Australia, 2003a, p. 6).

Writing specifically about Melbourne (Victoria), the Victorian Multicultural Commission (2009), reports that there are immigrants from more than 230 countries, speaking more than 200 languages and dialects, and following more than 120 religious faiths. Victoria is said to be the most multicultural state in Australia with a history that was "forged on successive waves of migration" (Victorian Multicultural Commission, 2009). …

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