Conversation with a reluctant Australian citizen

If media headlines were an accurate marker, particularly in the conservative press, you’d conclude that Australians are hostile towards migrants and multiculturalism.

But the recent 2011 Scanlon Foundation Survey into social cohesion reveals a more complex picture. We hold seemingly contradictory positions on these issues. While most think the size of our migrant intake is about right, there is strong and widespread negativity towards boat people. There is also broad acceptance of Asian migrants, a marked change since the 1990s, with current disquiet focused on migrants from the Middle East.

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Only 7 per cent of respondents have negative feelings towards Vietnamese settlers, while Lebanese migrants provoke antipathy in 24 per cent. A scant 3.6 per cent have negative feelings about Christianity, and even less towards Buddhism, but 25 per cent admit to fear of Islam.

The interviewee featured here is a relatively recent migrant, and her life provides a snapshot of the success of contemporary multicultural Australia. She has entered into a cross-cultural marriage, has made her home in one of the new suburbs on the western fringe of Melbourne, and in mid-October became an Australian citizen. 

Fatima Measham is one of the up and coming writers in Eureka Street. This interview with her concludes a special series with prominent contributors celebrating the 20th anniversary of the journal. 

She speaks from a migrant’s point of view about living in Australia, and about how she dealt with the ups and downs of settling in a new country. She reflects on her gradual move towards Australian citizenship, which was also the focus of one of her recent articles. 

Measham was born in the Philippines and was raised in a devout Catholic household. She gained a BA with a major in communication from the Ateneo de Manila University run by the Jesuits. 

Her contact with the Jesuits has been a major influence on her, fostering an interest in spirituality, social justice and writing. This has continued since she came to Australia.

She met her Australian husband online. The romance led to marriage, and to her move to this country. Soon after arriving she studied for a graduate diploma in education at RMIT, Bundoora in Melbourne. She also worked as a pastoral associate at Marist Young Adult Ministry during this time. After completing this she taught English and media for five years at a high school in Melbourne’s western suburbs.

She has done volunteer youth work, and written extensively for Eureka Street and Australian Catholics. She is also a prodigious blogger and tweeter.

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Peter KirkwoodPeter Kirkwood is a freelance writer and video consultant who worked for 23 years in the Religion and Ethics Unit of ABC TV. He has a Master's degree from the Sydney College of Divinity.

Topic tags: Fatima Meesham, Peter Kirkwood, Scanlon Foundation, Ateneo de Manila University, migration, social justic

 

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