Multiculturalism's influence on society
Even though by far the largest groups of immigrants to Australia are and always have been from other Anglo-Saxon cultures (Britain, Ireland and New Zealand), the influx of other cultures to Australia has made ours a truly multicultural society. The effects of multiculturalism can be found in the following areas, among others.
Australian supermarkets, grocery stores, markets, delicatessens, cafes, restaurants and take-away stores offer an enormous variety of foods from around the world. Not only have many of these foods been incorporated into the mainstream Australian diet but they have also become the basis for much of Australia's social life.
Many Australians of all cultural backgrounds can use chopsticks and enjoy the al-fresco dining introduced by Italian immigrants. Places to eat, including take-away stores and supermarkets sometimes offer kosher or Halal food.
Art and architecture
Trade, organisations and government
Having people in our midst who speak other languages and understand other cultures has helped business and trade in Australia. They are able to tap into others of their community here and help open up markets in other countries overseas.
There are many cultural organisations in Australia that help to support different communities. Some of them are social places, some provide services and some are multi-ethnic. Some service a particular cultural community while others seek to bring communities together. Among these organisations are community radio and television stations.
There are many non-English newspapers around the country too. Governments provide documents and signage in multiple languages and have interpreting services for non-English speakers. The federal government has set up a Council for Multicultural Australia, which follows on from previous organisations such as the Office of Multicultural Affairs. Through this multiculturalism can have some influence on government policy and other public institutions.
People and language
Australians are becoming more and more diverse as a people. More than 40 per cent of Australians were born overseas or have at least one parent who was born elsewhere. There are people from about 200 countries who speak many different languages. We are now a people of many colours, accents and styles of dress and appearance.
This diversity continually evolves as changing world situations bring new communities to the country. For example, a decade ago it was rare to see someone of black African heritage in Adelaide. These days, however, there is a growing Sudanese community.
With these various cultures come diverse religions and customs. Sometimes other Australians take part in these, particularly through cultural festivals. Some of these religions, particularly Buddhism and Islam, have been taken up by people in the broader Australian community.
Within Australia's cities are cultural enclaves, groups of suburbs where lots of people from particular cultures live. Some of these become popular tourist spots, especially Chinatown (in each capital city) and Italian café strips.
Because mainstream Australian society has become accustomed to new languages, religions and cultural practices it has become more tolerant than it was before World War II. There is greater understanding of other parts of the world and more tolerance of different lifestyles. Australia now has many subcultures, particularly in the larger cities.
Through these developments it is clear that multiculturalism has had some effect on many aspects of daily life: the food we eat, our social lives, the buildings around us, the people we associate with, the governments that govern us and, most importantly, our own outlook on the world.