Aleksandra Hadzelek explores the debate about Generation War: we recently published on this issue of Poland’s historical memory of its Jewish past

Posted in Uncategorized on January 31, 2014 by Andrew Jakubowicz


Our joint article is in Holocaust Studies Autumn 2013. 

(From The Conversation 31 January 2014)

Polish reactions to the German TV series Generation War, which has just screened in Australia, confirm that the history of World War Two remains highly contentious. The resulting public debate tested Polish-German and Polish-Jewish relations and placed historical memory at the forefront of the disputes.

The series first aired in Germany last March. It told the story of five young Germans in the 1940s who, as German newspaper Der Spiegel put it, “lose their innocence without being malicious”. The broadcasts contributed to Germany’s ongoing re-assessment of its past, especially among post-war generations.

The series inevitably raised questions about the responsibility of ordinary Germans for the crimes of the Nazi regime. More specifically, questions were asked about these depictions on public television in a historic drama miniseries, which was sure to attract a wide audience.

The reactions in Poland focused less on Germans being presented as likeable human beings caught in the war than on Poles being portrayed as anti-Semites. Such depictions (in only a few secondary scenes) led the director of Polish public television, Juliusz Braun, to fire off a protest to the German TV station. His letter objected to the injurious and false simplifications of the historical image of Poland, which could not be justified by the creators’ artistic freedom.

Protests by Polish public organisations led a month later to the government issuing an official letter of protest signed by the Polish ambassador to Germany. The Polish embassy in Washington protested at plans to broadcast the series in the US.

The news in August that the BBC would air the series caused another uproar in Poland. The sizeable Polish community in the UK held protests against screening “a film slandering the Polish Home Army”.


A poster reading, in Polish, “New provocation! New manipulation! New Europe?” objects to the German TV miniseries Generation War. PAP


In Poland, the broadcasts on three consecutive evenings last June was preceded by an aggressive drumming up of expectations of controversy about a German director’s negative depiction of Poles. It was difficult to watch the series without anticipating those most “controversial” bits. These became the focus of a debate aired live after the last episode.

In an ironic turn of events, Juliusz Braun was heavily criticised for screening the series on public television in Poland. The leading Polish right-wing party, Law and Justice, demanded his immediate resignation. The Polish Anti-Defamation League contacted the Attorney-General’s Warsaw office to report a crime of “public slandering of the Polish nation”.

Why has this series caused such a strong reaction in Poland and among Polish diaspora around the world?

Power of the myth

In the post-war Soviet takeover of Poland, the Polish Home Army was dismantled. Its members were vilified, persecuted and executed (or otherwise exiled for life). For many generations of Poles, the Home Army soldiers came to symbolise honour and ultimate sacrifice in the fight for freedom.

Accepting that the Home Army was anti-Semitic would go against the myth of the glorious Polish soldier and survivor. The notion of martyrdom that this evokes, centuries-old and all-important in the Polish imaginary, is always accompanied by tales of heroism.

In this TV series, instead of heroes, we see a bunch of dirty and primitive bandits who commit very questionable acts and display questionable attitudes.

Historical truth

Since 1989 Poland has sought to recover the “historical truth” after half a century of Soviet propaganda. Contemporary Poles, who in their vast majority rejected the Soviet version of history, have been engaged heavily in making public the “real historical truth” – the version of history silenced by the pro-Soviet regime. Truth about the Katyn massacre is a perfect example.

However, within this project of rewriting the national history, it is difficult to fit in multiple interpretations and varying viewpoints, especially on the most sensitive topics.



Victims and perpetrators

Generation War’s five main characters are portrayed as young, idealistic and somewhat naïve. The experiences of the war lead them to certain actions that might be questionable, but, as in any film or TV series, the viewer cares about and feels for them.

The implicit message is that these were the average Germans. Caught in the enthusiasm for the war project without being ideologically involved with Nazism, when faced with harsh reality they were forced to act as they did by circumstances and not by their own will.

The character of the SS officer does not in itself balance the overall impression that the main German characters are almost the victims of the war and not the perpetrators.

Among non-German characters, on the other hand, the Polish Home Army soldiers are probably the least sympathetic of all. In the scenes that most outraged the Polish public, they are simply repugnant and framed almost as perpetrators of the Holocaust.

This is an issue so sensitive in Poland that after US president Barack Obama referred to “Polish death camps” in 2012, heformally apologised for the “inadvertent verbal gaffe”. Obama acknowledged that these were, in fact, Nazi camps located on German-occupied Polish territory.

Polish anti-Semitism

So, were/are Poles anti-Semitic or not? Well, yes and no. The fury over the TV series confirms that this issue remains highly problematic.

It is difficult to accept expressions such as “Polish death camps”, with its implicit message that these were Polish-orchestrated and operated. It is equally difficult to accept that there were no anti-Semites in the Polish Home Army, or anti-Jewish crimes committed by Poles. Poles were victims of the Nazi terror, but some Poles also perpetrated anti-Jewish violence. Neither one nor the other can be denied.

A fully accurate re-examination of this chapter of history will be impossible. This is because of the unreliability of primary sources from the WWII-era, due to the age of first-hand witnesses, as well as Soviet authorities’ heavy postwar manipulation of the collecting and archiving of testimonies. Thus the goal for the historians will be to engage younger generations in a constructive dialogue by carefully considering multiple viewpoints and experiences.

The national project of rewriting Polish history ought to have room for a re-evaluation of Polish attitudes towards the Jews. Poland should seek a reconciliation with this difficult chapter of the past and ultimately a celebration of a 1000-year Polish Jewish history so that, as Michael Gawenda wrote, the story doesn’t have to end in a cemetery.

Brandis’s Gotcha! IPA’s Tim Wilson the new voice of freedom?

Posted in Uncategorized on December 18, 2013 by Andrew Jakubowicz

See also edited version on The Conversation

There is something both utterly predictable and wonderfully larrikin about Attorney General Brandis’ appointment of the Institute for Public Affairs’  self-described “classic liberal” Tim Wilson to the vacant Human Rights Commissioner post at the Australian Human Rights Commission. In a “gotcha” moment reminiscent of an undergrad poker game, Brandis saw and raised former ALP Attorney General Mark Dreyfus’ appointment of Labor intellectual Dr Tim Soutphammasane to the Race Discrimination Commissioner job, an appointment he had excoriated in the pages of The Australian while in Opposition.   So now we have the two young Tims facing off at each other, Wilson having been the main architect of Brandis’ push to chop the Racial Vilification provisions (Section 18C) from the Race Discrimination Act, and Soutphammasane the main defender of the rights under those provisions.  Here we see the “me” generation” confront the “we” generation in a fundamental test of the vision for freedom – as a personal versus a social phenomenon.

In one swift move Brandis has dragged the HRC into a very modern moment, with Wilson the gay advocate of LGBTI aggression against all comers, strong supporter of same-sex marriage (for the best of conservative reasons including no taxation without representation)   and valiant defender of Andrew Bolt, circling the space inhabited by the ranks of anti-hate speech activists. Last week over 150 organisations signed on to an open letter to Brandis pleading to save Section 18C. Every one of them would have been red rags to the IPA bulls.

Tim Wilson is well known to the chattering classes, being a fixture on the ABC (“in the name of balance”?) and an ardent opponent of Climate Change and Global Warming.  He describes himself as “currently completing a Graduate Diploma in Climate Science and Global Warming at Murdoch University.” Wilson was first amongst equals in arguing for the end of the Climate Change Commission (one of the first ten IPA victories with the new Abbott regime), king-hitting that third Tim, Dr Flannery, in the process.

While his education has pushed him towards international development and health issues (he is a strong opponent of health labels and limiting the freedom of people to eat, drink, and get very merry), he is also a favoured son of the Murdoch empire, having been anointed by The Australian as one of ten emerging leaders (2009) and been gifted with an Australian Davos Connection leadership award. His formal position at the IPA has been as Director of the Climate policy Unit, where he has been a strong supporter of Lord Christopher Monckton, a global warming denialist.

He presents then a very interesting mix, someone who argues for policy to reflect political values, and be informed by evidence, rather than determined by evidence. He has no problem in arguing that the values he represents and advocates should be placed at the heart of the Australian human rights agenda. Now what indeed might that mean?

Brandis has pointed him at the International Civil and Political Rights convenant as his first landing field. The ICCPR is a complex document but it does rub right up against the International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). In hailing him, Brandis foregrounded Wilson’s role in “thwarting recent attempts to erode freedom of speech, freedom of the press and artistic freedom”.  So here we can see the Andrew Bolt case (Wilson and Bolt  form a mutual admiration society), and the attempt by the ALP to regulate the media that ended in a complete shambles under Senator Stephen Conroy’s ham-fisted intervention, though artistic freedom is a bit more obscure. Perhaps a desire to confront Kevin Rudd and back Malcolm Turnbull over the Bill Henson affair in 2008? At that time the IPA (though not Wilson himself as far as I can tell) came out in strong support for Henson and even Serrano’s Piss Christ.   That should be an interesting conversation among the boys in Cabinet.

So what are the classic human freedom issues that Wilson will need to address? A former HR Commissioner, Sev Ozdowski, himself today a supporter of Andrew Bolt *and advocate of removing Section 18C, brought down an important report on the human rights of children in detention in 2004. It had some short-term impact on focussing the Immigration minister of the day on his duty of care for minors. This may be back on the agenda a decade later with the tales of multiple still-births and neo-natal deaths among detainees starting to emerge. So Wilson could do a revisit there, and include something on the right to life.

Freedom of speech is another good one. He could check out what sort of freedoms should be allowed journalists who fake stories in the The Australian to bolster the political agenda of Senator Brandis.  In this case (9 December 2013) journalist Joe Kelly wrote a story about a delegation of community groups which had met with Brandis to protest his moves to remove 18C: the headline was “Brandis wins approval for changes in RDA”.  The delegation was outraged and the The Australian pulled the piece.

But perhaps his main task will be, as it was at the IPA, to ensure that all the bits of the neo-liberal agenda can be held together, on a paltry $320,000 pa +. Given the difficulty the Government seems to be having in doing so, Mr Wilson may give them some well-needed taxpayer-funded support.


  • * Conversation started 18 November

18/11/2013 02:53

Andrew Jakubowicz

We need to act to stop the licensing of hate speech proposed by the new Australian Government. You can help by signing on to the petition and telling your friends. Thanks, Andrew.

  • 8 December
    08/12/2013 21:21

Sev Ozdowski

I think you are wrong. What happens to A Bolt was not fair. A legislative change is needed. Sev

Myanmar’s rocky road to multiculturalism:Aung San Suu Kyi’s challenge

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on November 27, 2013 by Andrew Jakubowicz

Slightly different version published in ABC The Drum 27 November 2013.

Aung San Suu Kyi will be in Sydney Australia today (27 November 2013)  to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Technology, originally bestowed on her in 1996 and given to her late husband in 1997 in her absence (she was unwilling to leave Yangon). Daw Suu Kyi is widely expected and hoped to be the winner of the 2015 election in Myanmar, but her accession to the leadership, even if it occurs, leaves many problems yet to confront. Even the pathway over the next eighteen months remains treacherous.

Key issues Myanmar faces in the lead up to the 2015 election, a turning point that many commentators hope will produce a final transformation of the polity into one which is both politically democratic and economically egalitarian, can be traced back to its origin as as an “abandoned colony”.  The Economist recently argued that of these ethnic conflicts were the main road-bloc to economic development and democratic stability.

Myanmar cannot escape its history as a former British colony as easily as changing government. In a statistical analysis of the impact of forms of colonialism on post-colonial violence, two Montreal sociologists Matthew Lange and Andrew Dawson  have argued that ex-colonies formerly ruled by the UK have a shared profile of fractured social relations once the colonial power has left. The reason for this is the way in which the British typically organised their colonies, and as importantly, the way in which they departed. Ethnic violence or suppression are the most characteristic of the forms of conflict that emerge. Australia went that way (think Indigenous Australians and think White Australia), as did a myriad of other places, from Singapore to Zimbabwe. Myanmar continues today to deal with the fall-out from having been British Burma.

Lange and Dawson review 160 ex-colonies once ruled by a range of European metropolitan powers: where the British have been in charge, the picture seems to be:

  • a diverse range of ethnic communities, some “imported” to fill key colonial tasks,  with embedded and conflicting identities
  • a political economy where the division of labour is “communalised”
  • a stratification system in which the distinctions within the hierarchy are ethnic in form
  • animosity between indigenous and non-indigenous populations
  • the imposition of arbitrary political borders that suit the ruling power
  • despotic forms of rule
  • ineffective states
  • a power vacuum at independence.

When the post-war British Labour government said to the Burmese independence leaders that they were “out of here” in 1946, they set in train a tragic sequence of events. These are acutely poignant for Aung San Suu Kyi; her father, a wartime leader of the struggle against the British and post-war architect of a possible egalitarian nation state, was assassinated by competitors for state power. His dream, of a united states of Burma, became instead the nightmare of decades of wars and struggles between various ethno-national and sometimes Christian quasi-states on the periphery of the nation, against the Burman Buddhist majority in the centre.  Most recently, as most of these statelets on the edges of the nation have made a sort of peace with the centre, Buddhist violence against Muslims has re-ignited.

When the British finally defeated the last king of the Burmans in 1885 and sent him into exile in India (exchanging him for the last Muslim rajah of India, who was buried in an unmarked grave in Rangoon), they significantly transformed the country through manipulation of ethnic boundaries and the imposition of ethnic hierarchies. Importing thousands of Indians from Bengal and beyond to fill jobs from labourers to clerks in government and business, the colonial power sought to destroy the capacity of the Burmans to resuscitate their defeated kingdom.  They empowered the hill peoples, and enabled the conversion of many to Christianity – Baptists and Catholics found ready converts where economic and political advantage would follow.  The colonial army offered career opportunities to the  Shan, while opium production began to provide monetary rewards in the hill country, as did the logging of the teak forests.

Muslims have been in the territory of Burma since their earliest days as purveyors of their evangelising mercantile religion.  By the time of the first British invasion of 1825 they were well integrated, including as military servants of the King, some captured in raids in Bengal before the British came.  Their numbers increased with the import of Indians and the spread of Bengalis along the coast and through the mountains into the west of Rakhine state (the Rohingya).

Anti-Muslim sentiment was interwoven with British colonial power, with economic competition, and with the support of Muslims for the British against the Japanese in 1942 . The Japanese were initially supported by the Burmese National Army, led by Aung San, in a war of independence against the British, who then pulled back to British Bengal, behind a native defensive shield including Muslim troops.

The contemporary unrest builds on decades of an essentially militarised neo-fascist regime that had locked together Burmese nationalism with Buddhism; its civilian replacement has not entirely escaped that heritage. A specific trigger for anti-Muslim local conflicts in lowland Myanmar came in 2001 the wake of the Taliban destruction of the buddhas of Bamyan in Afghanistan, seen by Burmese Buddhist activists as a sign of the utter treachery of Muslims en bloc. The recent release from prison of a Buddhist monk active in that conflict has provided new leadership and revitalised the movement, with tragic consequences.

The Myanmar nationality law of 1982 contains a very essentialist definition of who can be a citizen. It adopts a jus sanguinis approach, which lists the blood and soil peoples (none that come after the British invasion of 1825 are acceptable). The Rohingya of Rakhine are especially not part of the national story, and are corralled into their edge of the country and prohibited to travel elsewhere. Some Burmese Muslims try to distance themselves from the Rohingya so as to avoid the constraints and the prejudice they fear for themselves. Aung San Suu Kyi has also found the Rohingya a difficult issue, embedded as she is in the ideology of a national Burmese federation of original peoples, promulgated by her father.

In the lead up to their  2015 election, the peoples of Myanmar have some tricky issues to resolve – how to articulate a plural nation that ensures economic equality and opportunity; how to smooth the edges of ethno-national resentments that have the capacity to crack open the whole development story; and how to take the country from the poly-ethnic conflict of the British legacy to a multicultural egalitarian democratic polity based on inclusion and social justice. Critical to this will be how they deine who can be a Myanmar citizen and share in the democratic story. Exclusion of any group may erode the legitimacy of the system for everyone.

Does Murdoch’s multiculturalism light Abbott’s path to the future? (The Conversation)

Posted in Uncategorized on November 5, 2013 by Andrew Jakubowicz

(Published at The Conversation 6 November 2013).
Rupert Murdoch’s Lowy lecture last week celebrated Australia as a multicultural and migrant society, a place where “multiculturalism is not relativism, and tolerance is not indifference” and there is “an openness to all comers – provided they are willing to abide by our way of life”.

(Our way of life practiced by two Sudanese burquini lifesavers)

Having visited Australia in April to celebrate the Institute for Public Affairs’ (IPA) 70th anniversary – where he was praised as one of the three Australians to have “most shaped the world” by then-opposition leader Tony Abbott – Murdoch has now further positioned himself as the éminence grise of Australian neoliberal conservatism. His shaping of the multicultural discourse gives strong indications of where Australia may be headed over the next few years.

Essentially, Murdoch believes it is the British institutions that give Australia its core morality and energy. This is moderated only by the now-clear ascendancy of Catholic politicians (Murdoch is a papal knight but not a baptised Catholic) and values in the form of Abbott and many of his frontbench, an impossibility a generation ago. What then does this mean about the “multicultural face” of Australia over the next decade of potential conservative dominance?

While we cannot speak of a Catholic/Protestant split in the Liberal Party, the decisions around multiculturalism point to some interesting social directions. In particular, Abbott specifically decided to take multicultural affairs (but not ethnic affairs) out of the hands of immigration minister andevangelical Protestant Scott Morrison, and instead passed them across to Kevin Andrews, a conservative Catholic, ex-Lyons forum mover-and-shaker and a former immigration minister (now social services minister).

It was Andrews who famously announced in 2007 that African humanitarian immigration would be halted because Africanscould not assimilate, while also leading the witch-huntagainst supposed (and later exonerated) Queensland terrorist Dr Muhamed Haneef. Andrews also has carriage of the IPA-prompted policy on the privatisation of social services, which has implications for settlement services.

Abbott assigned multicultural affairs to Wollongong-raised senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, another conservative Catholic, who is responsible to Andrews, and comes from apersonal history as an activist for the Italian community on welfare and cultural issues.

Fierravanti-Wells sits at the bottom of a rather long ladder of power – the most junior parliamentary secretary. However, she has been making progress since her appointment by meeting with key stakeholders – most of whom had approached the election of the Coalition with a modicum of trepidation with good reason.

Morrison went on the record in January condemning multiculturalism in a London Australia Day speech. He effusively celebrated Henry Parkes as the father of Australian democracy, missing the key role Parkes played in bringing in White Australia and excoriating the Chinese, though noting his anti-Irish Catholic bent, which Morrison half-excused.

For Morrison, the mantra now is so strongly “what we share not what makes us different” that he has alienated himself from significant ethnic members of the NSW Liberal Party. NSW premier Barry O’Farrell, already crusty about shenanigans in Morrison’s electorate branch (that lost Miranda back to the ALP in October in the largest ever NSW by-election swing), has been careful to reiterate his strong support for multiculturalism, including its “differences”. O’Farrell recognises the role that his commitment to multiculturalism played in his landslide election win in 2011.

The other spoiler in the multicultural patch is attorney-general George Brandis. He has been pushing (in support of the IPAand Murdoch columnist and IPA celebrant Andrew Bolt) for the elimination of Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act as it now stands, which outlaws racial vilification.

This is a difficult issue for “multicultural Australia”. Any reduction now in the small protections available (even if only to freely permit the right to “insult” and “offend”) would be widely seen as a license to proliferate hate speech.

The Jewish community was already concerned about this promise by Brandis, and has upped the ante since the attackon a group of Jewish pedestrians (including a senior Jewish National Fund officer) in Bondi last week. The attack, quite clearly racist and opportunistic, fed concerns that any diminution in official condemnation of hate speech would leave the way open to more such attacks.

Local MP Malcolm Turnbull, whose office last year told me that he totally supported the removal of 18C, has been inmeetings with Jewish organisations where he seems to have recognised that removing the protections now would not be a good look – even if the backdown makes Andrew Bolt angry. Abbott had been looking for a win-win here, but may simply decide to have Brandis lay low for a long while.

Even so, as recent events have shown, stakeholders in multicultural policies may get a better hearing from the Coalition than they did from the Labor government, though they face widespread privatisation of their services. Rudd’s first term was not a great period for multiculturalism. He was no product champion and little if anything was done, other than moving some of the deckchairs around and reviewing settlement services.

With Julia Gillard’s election and Chris Bowen moving into the immigration portfolio, there was a significant shift. The government instituted a Multicultural Council, appointed a full-time Race Discrimination Commissioner (now Tim Soutphommasane, who was blasted by Brandis) and a significant commitment of funds to community organisations (which may or may not survive the razor-gang).

A joint parliamentary inquiry also reported on multiculturalism and migration, and its limited recommendations were signed off on in March by both sides of politics. Fierravanti-Wells will be facing many pressing issues, not the least how to build some leverage from the bottom of the pile on an issue that once sat (during the Hawke period) in the office of the prime minister. The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils (FECCA) meets this week in Queensland and has signalled its priority for a Multiculturalism Act. The proposed act has long been anathema to both political parties at a national level and hated by the bureaucracy, though Liberal governments in NSW and Victoria had no problem with introducing such legislation.

Meanwhile, the Multicultural Council has run its term. The new government will have to decide whether there will be another and if so what will it do and who will be on it. Further, with a major attack by treasurer Joe Hockey on the Australian Research Council’s humanities and social sciences funding role, a probable break-up in the immigration department’s research section, and few (if any other) sources for support for research, the parliamentary inquiry’s unanimous recommendation for a major invigoration of research into migration, settlement and multiculturalism looks to be stillborn.

In this case, ignorance will not be bliss. The 2005 Cronulla riots demonstrated this all too well.

Moving forward to real action: shaping a research strategy for the next multicultural decade FECCA 8 November 2013

Posted in Uncategorized on November 5, 2013 by Andrew Jakubowicz


Available from Australian Scholarly Publisihing

Research: the process of identifying questions, clarifying evidence, reaching conclusions

A shattered landscape: shared realisation in 1980s and early 1990s that knowledge was crucial to addressing social issues was erased by systematic government action after 1996 designed to destroy capacity of society to debate issues on the evidence:

Closure of Bureau of Immigration Multicultural and Population Research  1996/7 ends regular national conferences and support for wide-ranging research

Freezing access to Eureka research on Australian attitudes to cultural diversity removes critical knowledge from public debate 1998: produces uncritical program of Living in Harmony rather than addressing racism. Reports released under FoI 2011/12.

Opposition waste watch committee attacks humanities and social science research, pledges to remove funding from ARC 2013.

Where is research now?: Research on issues of immigration, settlement, racism and community relations

Australian Multicultural Advisory Council: identified need for research development 2010 – nothing happened

Australian Multicultural Council: ALP government stated AMC would oversight development of national research agenda – nothing has happened

Joint Parliamentary Inquiry into Migration and Multiculturalism: Recommended major initiatives on research 2013 – Opposition agreed in principle but reserved position subject to funding – nothing has happened

Access and Equity Inquiry: 2012  That the Australian Government consider adequacy of current provision for research, including national research priorities, on the practical outcomes of the migration program. This assessment should particularly include research on interactions between the Australian Government and Access and Equity target groups and interactions with temporary entrants.
Nothing happened.

Immigration Department research publications: primarily program focussed though increasingly in recent years more broadly spread as governments slowly learn value of social research such as Current and Emerging Drivers for Social Cohesion Division and Conflict. Potentially subject to Government control as Minister approves release. Now split between two portfolios, and possibly due for pruning.

University research centres and programs: eg  CCS:UTS, UWS, Macquarie, Deakin, Monash/Scanlon (also Prejudice Mob) struggling under limited resources facing an uncertain future as ARC comes under attack

NGOs:   AMF, VicHealth, Brotherhood,

Shaping a Strategy

National research network:
• coordinating hub with many associated nodes building communication between academic, community,  government and private organisations
• use of social media and building of accessible research data bases (see MAIS  and AUSSA)
•  annual conferences to bring policy people, researchers, and NGOs together
•  undertake research audit to develop broader national research framework reflecting approach in Canada and Europe

Government acceptance of Parliamentary Report framework to move forward

Recommendation 14

7.31 The Committee recommends increased collection, by the Australian Government, of accurate and up-to-date disaggregated data in order to identify trends in migration and multiculturalism, and to measure and address CALD related disadvantage.

Recommendation 15

7.32 The Committee recommends the establishment of a government funded, independent collaborative institute for excellence in research into multicultural affairs with functions similar to that of the former Bureau of Immigration, Multicultural and Population Research.

The institute should have a statutory framework articulating key principles of multiculturalism, functions in research and advice to government, and a cross sectoral independent board.

This institute should actively engage with local communities, private business and non-government organisations and provide data for better informed policy.

The qualitative and quantitative research capabilities of the institute must enable up-to-date and easily accessible data and research analysis on social and multicultural trends.

More dedicated research into long-term migration trends occurring within Australia and the social effects of migration—such as the local impacts of migration on cultural diversity and social inclusion within Australian society—should be supported.

The Committee particularly recommends an increased emphasis on qualitative data collection.

Promotion of public debate about Australia’s people based on evidence rather than prejudice

I would like to hear back from people interested in advancing a collaborative research agenda about the future of Australia’s people :

Andrew Jakubowicz at ECCNSW Macquarie Uni Multiculturalism Forum 1 October 2013

Posted in Uncategorized on November 5, 2013 by Andrew Jakubowicz

Andrew speaking at Forum

Multiculturalism Forum on Youtube

Panel 3 – Lessons from the Research: Ways Forward

Chaired by Pino Migliorino, Chair, Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) with panellists:

  • Professor Andrew Jakubowicz, Co-director, Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Research Centre, University of Technology, Sydney
  • Professor Lucy Taksa, Head of Department of Marketing and Management, Macquarie University
  • Professor Ingrid Piller, Department of Applied Linguistics, Macquarie University

Below is the video of the closing panel session which discussed “ways forward” at the Multiculturalism, Inclusion & Participation Forum held on 1 October 2013 in Sydney, Australia.

We have also published a webpage summarising key points raised at Agenda for Ways Forward.

About the Panellists

Pino Migliorino photoPino Migliorino, Chair, Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA)

Pino was born in Bari, Italy in 1959 and migrated to Australia with his family through an assisted passage program in 1964 to reunite with an extended family who had arrived in Australia in the late 1950s. After over 30 years of ethnic community involvement and working in multicultural affairs across three sectors Pino was elected Chairperson on FECCA in October 2009. Pino is passionate about multicultural affairs and social justice and provides an informed and representative voice for FECCA in advocating for the needs and interest of our diverse cultural, linguistic and religious communities. Nineteen years ago Pino founded and still leads Cultural Perspectives and CIRCA Research which are sector leaders in researching and communicating with CALD and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Australia. Prior to working in the private sector, Pino held important positions in the third sector and in government including Executive Officer of the ECC of NSW, NSW Regional Coordinator for the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Senior Conciliator at the HREOC and Principal Policy Officer at the Ethnic Affairs Commission of NSW. Pino retains a deep knowledge and strong experience of culturally and linguistically diverse communities in Australia, and is a leading expert in this field.

Photo Andrew JakubowiczProfessor Andrew Jakubowicz, University of Technology, Sydney

Andrew Jakubowicz is Professor of Sociology at the University of Technology Sydney. He has an Honours degree in Government from Sydney University and a PhD from UNSW. Since the early 1970s he has been involved in action research and race relations, and has been centrally involved in the development of materialist theories of cultural diversity. He has taught at universities in the USA, Europe and Asia, and was the foundation director of the Centre for Multicultural Studies at the University of Wollongong. He has published widely on ethnic diversity issues, disability studies and media studies. In 1994 he led the research team that produced the book, Racism Ethnicity and the Media (Allen and Unwin), and more recently has been involved in multimedia documentaries such as Making Multicultural Australia (1999-2004) and The Menorah of Fang Bang Lu (2001-2002). He was historical adviser to the exhibitions on the Jewish communities of Shanghai, at the Sydney Jewish Museum (2001-2002), the National Maritime Museum (2001-2003) and the national travelling exhibition, Crossroads: Shanghai and the Jews of China (2002-2003). He was foundation chair of the Disability Studies and Research Institute. He was historical advisor on the SBS series, Immigration Nation (2011), and is series advisor on Once Upon a Time in…, a four season project for Northern Pictures and SBS. He chaired the Institute for Cultural Diversity, a national NGO ( from 2009 to 2012.

Ingrid Piller photoProfessor Ingrid Piller, Department of Linguistics, Macquarie University

Ingrid Piller (PhD, 1996, Technical University Dresden) is Professor of Applied Linguistics at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, where she previously served as Executive Director of the Adult Migrant English Program Research Centre (AMEP RC). Over the course of her international career, she has also held appointments at universities in Germany, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates and USA. Ingrid’s research expertise is in Intercultural Communication, the Sociolinguistics of Language Learning and Multilingualism, and Bilingual Education. She is particularly interested in the ways in which linguistic diversity as it arises in the contexts of globalization and migration intersects with social inclusion and global justice. Ingrid has published, lectured and consulted widely in these areas. She blogs about her research atLanguage on the Move

Lucy Taksa photoProfessor Lucy Taksa, Head of Department of Marketing and Management, Macquarie University 

Professor Lucy Taksa is Head of the Department of Marketing and Management at Macquarie University. Between 1996 and 2007 she was a part-time non-judicial member of the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal Equal Opportunity Division and has been a member of the Diversity Council of Australia’s reference groups for research projects relating to cultural diversity among senior executives and on corporate boards, of the NSW Ministerial Roundtable on Cultural Diversity in the Workplace and the Western Sydney Community Forum’s Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Workers’ Mentoring Initiative. She has published research on Diversity Management, cultural diversity and immigrant workers and multiculturalism. She is currently investigating cultural diversity on Australian corporate boards.

Five things I think about asylum seeking and what we can do and still save souls (ours and theirs)

Posted in Uncategorized on July 31, 2013 by Andrew Jakubowicz

Five big issues – all connected, and you can’t have or deal with one without the other.  So first big issue – the boats; actually it’s not the boats, or the numbers, or even the poor souls dying at sea. It’s that every boat that arrives corrodes the authority and legitimacy of the government. Since 1901 Australians have wanted their governments to keep our borders “secure”. We had the first federal parliament spending every ounce of its power to work up a deal that would keep out the boats without alienating the British government. We got White Australia. Then Billy Hughes basically stuffed the whole world in 1921 by demanding the League of Nations refuse to allow a non-racial clause: so he kept the boats out that time too, until the Japanese bombed Darwin twenty years later (about the time period since we first started mandatory detention – and look where that’s got us).

You can’t turn the boats around, slow then or stop them unless you have a real alternative in place that deals with the four other issues.  Australia’s the end of  the food chain in this part of the world, or you can continue to New Zealand. We need to accept that the start of the chain – places like Afghanistan, Syria, Quetta, and on, are going to hell in a handbasket, and everyone who wants to survive and not be blasted, will be trying to move away from the line of fire. Iran may be somewhat different, but its particular characteristics can be accounted for. Meanwhile, the oceans are rising and we haven’t even begun to see the start of the environmental refugees from Bangladesh and the Pacific that the next decade will produce. So question one, can we stop the push factors? Well, we’ve done incredibly well in Afghanistan, haven’t we? The best possible scenario is that the Afghan National Army will last a few years and won’t roll over for the Taliban; whatever the outcome the Hazaras are not going to get out of it well, and in Quetta they are being blown apart day in and day out by the Pakistani Sunni terrorists/nationalist/sectarianists who don’t want these people in their country.   Oh and global warming, we’ve cracked that too. Concluding point one, not much we can do is likely to moderate the pressures at the other end.

So it’s all about the supply chain, if the tap is open at the dam.  We now have four big problems.

We have signed up to a commitment to save the lives of people fleeing for safety and we don’t know how to do it anymore.

We have designed an asylum model that guarantees to piss of everyone who is a part of it, from the families be they African, Afghan, Tamil or Iraqi trying to save their relatives, to the people held hopelessly/hopefully in camps, to the Australian workers forced to act as gaolers for people they are supposed to be succouring, to the wider population whose callousness blossoms with every iteration of the get tough rhetoric.

We have no way of managing the legitimate claims to filter the potentially overwhelming demand, among which is maybe 50% of people who are trying it on, often not knowing themselves whether or not they are really eligible, and discovering the only way to find out is to jump on a boat.

We keep rabbiting on about a regional plan but no one seems to know what that might really mean, who’ll pay for it, and why anyone else should stop the richest nation in the region copping it sweet.

Ok so here’s my two bob’s worth (dates me…), and just to set this up, my parents were refugees, most of their families were exterminated, and nobody gave a shit at the time, or much afterwards.  They used people smugglers, they used fake documents, and they could have been killed a dozen times or more every week they were on the road.  It took them seven years to find refuge in Australia, and the door slammed shut hard behind them, in an epiphany of racist rhetoric from the ALP government and media of the day.  And they and I are damned glad they made it.

Recognise we are dealing with a problem for which regularisation, management and least-worst solutions are needed.  Recognise the source issue will grow not lessen (in the past we’ve been lucky that the sources have contracted so the flow diminished, so a couple of boats could be turned around).

Firstly, Australia will need to recognise that a figure of 50,000 refugees ultimately settled each year for the next five years at least will be needed – in the context of a  200,000 p.a.  or so immigrant intake that’s hard but not impossible.  Then disengage the two elements that really stuff it up – self-starters versus sponsored and selected.  Start with 20,000 family reunion, UNHCR and humanitarian sponsored refugees and do not allow the places to be consumed by other arrivals.  That leaves up to 30,000 to play with. Some of these go to on-shore applicants arriving with valid visas by plane who then apply for protection. For this category, most Chinese applicants (the majority) fail and are returned. Most of the others (a minority) succeed; meanwhile they live in the community on bridging visas and everyone seems comfortable with that, because their identities are “known” as is their whereabouts. That is government still appears to be in control.

Now the critical thing comes in, these off-shore permits to apply for on-shore determination have to be available and used further up the chain in a reasonably accessible way; otherwise Indonesia is inundated with yet more hopefuls, and we don’t want to load up our neighbours with queues they cannot handle.  There’s no point in trying to intervene in Jakarta in a process that starts in Quetta; that’s the sunk-cost fallacy that the Government has refused to recognise for years.  Once people have invested or borrowed the cash, they’re committed unless you kill them or drive them into madness, or unless they can lose the money and not worry about consequences.

So Australia needs to create something like an off-shore permit that serves as a bridging visa, that requires proof of identity or good evidence that such proof is not available, and some evidence of claim. This is an alternative or parallel to the current UNHCR pathway, which would also need to be extended. Those dodgy Indian papers will not work for this. Successful applicants will then be issued with a short-term visa with certain conditions (like a working holiday visa but with some added elements, notably a commitment to leave Australia if found not to be a refugee, to undertake work or training as directed for pay while in Australia).  If deemed a refugee, they will be allocated a location and work or training for two years under a new national settlement plan that encourages economic enterprise, education and integration; or they may be resettled elsewhere depending on the agreements Australia is able to reach around the world.

Unsuccessful applicants will be informed near the start of the supply chain that they don’t fit the criteria. These short term visas would allow them to be processed on-shore but not out of the normal humanitarian intake. Anyone seeking to arrive without such a permit, will be deported or detained. Leaving any neighbouring country without such a permit will place people at the end of the queue, and they may be placed on Nauru or Manus: they can always choose to go back to their last port and apply for a permit.   People with a permit will not be placed on Manus, Nauru or anywhere else, though they may be sent to specific work locations around Australia (as occurred under the sponsored migration program for decades after WW2).  Essentially it creates a series of queues that all provide better outcomes than jumping on boats, relieve some of the pressures on our neighbours, allow normal procedures of refugee acceptance to proceed without being hijacked by people-smugglers, and engage other countries in a positive process of resettlement.

This basic idea needs careful refinement, yet even so  it seems to push back on all five problems, suggesting that we can become less callous, we can cause less harm, we can reduce the numbers of people drowning, we won’t be escalating the war with the smugglers so they try to over-run us like some weird and horrific post-modern version of Verdun and we will gain greater benefit from those who arrive and contribute; it may or may not be cheaper than 5-10,000+ pa  people on Manus and supporting them for ever in PNG, or boiling them under tents in the middle of the Nauru dry. Altogether that’s got to be a step ahead of where we are; and we may just surprise ourselves and produce a regional solution out of it that means something.






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