Chicken and Chips and Multiculturalism

I live a pretty exotic life. Over the years I have refined my tastes and have educated myself in the ways of art, music, cinema, literature and of course world cuisine. So the other day when I was in Red Rooster having just ordered a classic quarter with a rooster roll on the side I was contemplating the fact that the city I live in has made it so much easier for one to gain such knowledge when residing in a truly multicultural society. As a Melbournian I think it’s reasonable to say that I do indeed live in a resoundingly successful multicultural metropolis, a point that was just about to be reiterated as I dined on what I believed to be some sort of bird, most likely chicken with some chips that were almost undeniably made with real potato extract.

The particular restaurant I dined in was, and still is I suppose, situated in an area of Melbourne with a burgeoning Somali community. As I was feasting on my white meat a group of five Somalian Australians walked in (I know they were Somalian because I asked later).

If you had been in the restaurant with me you would have saw four precocious primary school children, ranging from 5 to 12 years in age. Accompanying them was a nanny probably in her early to mid twenties. The nanny was pressing upon the kids to use their manners and while asking the kids, particularly the youngest what he learned at school that day. The children were excited to see the food and the nanny told them not to become over exuberant as they might disrupt the other diners (me).

In short while the food was poor to very poor the atmosphere and ambience generated by my fellow diners more than made up for it. None of this is surprising of course but is a gentle reminder that there is more that unites as a species than divides us. The vast majority of us just want to the best for themselves, their families and to contribute what they can to society. The family at Red Rooster that day were no different.

I think it’s fair to say that every new immigrant community that comes to Australia is more or less demonised by mainstream society, that’s the way it always has been unfortunately. But if only people took time or even just opened their eyes to see those around them or to just scratch below the surface to see beyond the stereotypes that gradually take hold.

It’s a pity that political debate in Australia over the past decade has been dominated by a provocative and divisive over asylum seekers and refugees, colloquially referred to as “boat people”.  The toing and froing on this issue has appealed to xenophobic elements of this wide brown land. Of course Australia needs a sound border security policy but why must it dominate the political landscape given that in the scheme of things it is such a minor issue.

Intended or not the politics of immigration and asylum seekers must make it that little bit more difficult for new communities to settle into their new lives. Surely as nation we can move beyond the mean spirited pettiness that consumes this issue. I challenge anyone in Australia to highlight a wave of immigration to this country that has resulted in an enriched and in many ways better Australia.

Let’s be grateful for multiculturalism for so many things, but not least of all the fact that  we might still think that Red Rooster is the height of cuisine.