Global migration: Changing the way we define our identity?

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When my parents moved to Australia with me as a screaming baby in tow, the situation in Sudan was dire, true, but it was much more an economic and socio-political decision rather than one of safety. This type of migration is increasingly common, particularly to a migration based nation such as Australia. How a nation and its people – as well as migrants themselves – deal with these global flows currents of people will define attitudes and perspectives of our current generation and generations to come.

I describe myself as either a “global citizen” or “mongrel”, both labels of which I am proud. What exactly does that mean though, for me personally, for many others in similar situations and for our society as this becomes perhaps the norm?

Menschentraube on Wiki Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

From a purely economical point of view, there is no doubt that migration, particularly skilled and business based migration, is of great importance and benefit to a society. The introduction of policies such as 457 visas (officially known as the Temporary Business (Long Stay) Visa), which allow Australian companies to sponsor employees from overseas has allowed for the development of sectors where skills are required, for example the oil and gas industry. Australia is no stranger to migration by any means; more than a quarter of the population in 2011 was born overseas, we speak more than 260 languages and identify with more than 270 ancestries. With the ease of travel this century and the relative stability of our economy compared to the global status quo, it is no wonder that more people are looking to cross the oceans to call this land girt by sea ‘home’.

If we are to look at this from a cost-benefit point of view, there is no doubt that what is gained from migration – an increase in labour supply, national income, skills, development, cultural depth, awareness and exposure, heavily outweighs any perceived disadvantages; identity crises, housing and services, the cost of humanitarian arrivals (although this is an international obligation), possible rise in community tensions due to a lack of understanding leading to changes in social cohesion.

It can be said that from that point of view as well, Australia is lucky in the sense that it only stands to gain skills from migration. By and large, we are not suffering from the ‘brain drain’ affecting other nations; our Net Overseas Migration (NOM) is 232 000 (497000 arrivals and 265000 departures, ABS and DIAC projections, 2012). It should be noted that NOM is the net gain or loss of population through immigration to Australia and emigration from Australia.

Although the drivers and immediate economic benefits are known and recognised, the effects on the socio-political landscape are those that are more often talked about, highlighted and debated. Migration can be seen as a purely economical factor perhaps, however we must not forget that we are dealing with actual people, who have hopes, dreams, desires and families. Migrants not only bring economic impacts, but their very presence changes the fabric of communities, and it is this change that can turn the tide of opinion. Economic factors are enough to convince a company perhaps, but “not in my backyard” is also a term used…

A cursory look at headlines over the past year or two clearly indicates that migration and identity are in the forefront of people’s minds. The discourse hasn’t always been friendly:

Tony Abbott plans to block people from Australia, news

Australia is a nation based on multiculturalism, and we have a great untapped resource in our cultural diversity. It is important that we appreciate the value of our migration and cultural diversity, capitalise on its benefits and ensure that we do not neglect the socio-political effects that it has. We must ensure the communication lines are always open between migrants and those who have been settled for generations, and that we provide the space for young people to discover and mould their own identities to find the balance between their heritage and their current environment in a manner that is comfortable and familiar to them. It isn’t something that will happen overnight or be ‘resolved’ but more one that will change over time as influxes and migratory patterns change.

This level of cross cultural pollination has never been seen in history before, so we are at a unique point in human civilisation where we can create and mould identity based on more than just an accident of birth location – we almost have the choice and freedom to form whatever identity we want. What effects will that have on our society as a whole? Who knows yet. It could mean that nationalism no longer has the same power that it used to, or that it becomes based on something other than race, birthplace or religion. It could mean that cultures become based on hybrids of existing national traditions… who knows? All I know is that it is within our control.

Migration is not a crime

Migration is not a crime, by dkalo on Flickr, CC BY SA 2.0



The irony is never lost on the Indigenous population – apart from them, we are all migrants to Australia. So who is anyone to deny the benefits of a concept that brought them there in the first place?

Links, Links, Links! March 17th 2013



It’s been a big week and these links have been sitting ‘to be published’ for a while now – hope you enjoy nonetheless!  The photo above is of the UNAOC Youth Forum that I had the honour of being a part of…

How was your week?  If you’re not sure yet…take some time to think while reading these awesome pieces!

‎"Though there is inevitably a focus on the constant tug-of-war between work and life for women, I don't think our feminist dream is a simple binary equation. Maybe it would be better if we had a more nuanced view, of a triple bottom line - professional, personal and public."
Nicola Roxon
Former Attorney General

A fascinating and very Godin-like interview with the one and only, Seth Godin. Worth the read.  I particularly enjoyed this line:

Do you believe in “writer’s block”? If so, how do you avoid it?

This is a fancy term for fear. I avoid it by not getting it. Because I write like I talk and I don’t get talker’s block.

I keep coming back to this article on making this year count.

All that stuff's nice — but entirely besides the point. Of life. For the simple, timeless truth is: You'll never find the rapture of accomplishment in mere conquest, the incandescence of happiness in mere possession, or the searing wholeness of meaning in mere desire. You can find them only — only — in the exploration of the fullness of human possibility.

Jack Donaghy from 30 Rock and some words of wisdom…

What is going on with our PM and the Western Sydney Roadshow?

A heartfelt piece by a good friend of mine about her time at the moment in Afghanistan and our asylum seeker policy.

Are you a political influencer, or want to be? Check out this new tool also being started by a friend, BiPolitico

I disagree with this analysis of the demise of Google Reader. I think I will write something about it. It’s something that I am not looking forward to indeed…

Something a little light hearted – 27 signs you were raised by immigrant parents. Too many of these made me laugh…because it’s true :)

Day 1 of UNAOC Global Forum: Youth!

The Global Youth Forum took place on the 26th of February at the MuseumsQuartier and brought together 150 young people from around the world to come up with a list of recommendations to present to the 5th Global Forum of the Alliance of Civilisations.

This post will give a brief overview, followed by post or two about particular interesting issues that came up over the jam packed day.

(Photos Source)


The day started with keynote speeches from a very young State Secretary and various other dignitaries.  The dignitary of the morning however, was without a doubt, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon.

His visit was welcome and quite interesting. Interesting in that the paparazzi trailing him was enormous, and the dialogue that was had with young people largely tokenistic (simply due to the nature of the visit and the time available). However the Secretary General should be lauded for his personal commitment to youth, and the excitement brought to the room!  It would seem that the next stage is moving from this visual acknowledgment to true engagement with our ideas and concerns. 

The group were then split up into various groups based on the three themes. 

This is all around the central theme of ”Responsible Leadership”.

The recommendations that were produced were comprehensive and far reaching.  These included...

Freedom of media and diversity:

  1. Use social media to “transform media from monologue to a dialogue” and use this dialogue to prompt people to participate in more debates.
  2. In regards to the freedom of speech, The UNAOC needs to establish a legal basis for the exchange of ideas.
  3. Need to cultivate plural society through culturally diverse art.
  4. Need to create training programs for minority professionals in media.

Migration and integration:

  1. Must create policy law with an aim to enhance minorities in political society.
  2. Must strive for successful inclusion by providing children with education in mother tongue.
  3. Need to make the path to citizenship for migrants easier.
  4. Must create a taskforce.

Religious diversity and freedom of religion:

  1. States should invest in formal and informal education systems.
  2. Need to define relationships between youth and stakeholders so that stakeholders will listen to youth members of the population.
  3. Must enforce cooperation of various forms of ethical religious education in early childhood years.
  4. Need to ensure the right to freedom of religion.

Naturally the wording was slightly more detailed, but the sentiment remains. (Press Release)

**Personal comments – the wording of integration itself is slightly problematic, but that is for another post.  Furthermore, this abbreviated version that has been published on the UNAOC website should be, must be replaced by the full versions as these do not give the actual recommendations justice at all.


The day was wrapped up by a fantastic and inspiring presentation of the Intercultural Innovation Awards and some true Viennese Music.  The Alliance of Civilisations was truly epitomised in the 10s of different nationalities waltzing and dancing to melancholy Viennese music as well as Greek hybrid jigs. 

So, day 1 down... The next day bringing the big event.   Let's see how it pans out...!

Follow the proceedings and get involved by following the hashtag #UNAOC2013 on twitter!


***Note that the full topics were -

  • Promotion, protection and full enjoyment of the right to religious freedom in a context of religious pluralism which consists not only of greater diversity, but also of perceptions of that diversity and new patterns of interaction among religious groups;
  • Media pluralism and diversity of media content and their contribution to fostering public debate, democracy and awareness of diverse opinions;
  • Shaping a new narrative for migration, integration and mobility in the global economy.