Various cultures have become ethnically diverse over the decades, and with the high influx of immigrants across the world, this trend is expected to continue (Veldhuizen et al., 2017, p. 2). In Australia, the pattern is particularly noticeable in the Cabramatta suburb of south-western Sydney, which has one of the highest proportions of Asian residents. Cabramatta’s current ethnic residential concentration dates back to the 1970s when a large-scale exodus from Vietnam occurred following the Second Indochina War (Si, Peters, and Reid 2017, p. 1). Cabramatta constitutes the Fairfield Local Government. Although the region is often criticized as an Indochinese ghetto, Cabramatta is celebrated as a rich multicultural society. Residential concentrations have contributed to the integration, social, economic and cultural aspects of Cabramatta.
Multiculturalism became a government policy in 1977 when it was spelled out in a charter. The charter laid down the rights of every citizen to equal opportunity and cultural identity. As a result, the government provided funding and permits to language schools and foreign language media houses for the immigrants. In the early 1980s, newspapers in the country were being published in over 100 different dialects. Indeed, the end of the Second Indochina war changed the Australian culture forever. Instead of maintaining a predominantly British based culture, Australia has become one of the most notable multicultural countries in the world.
Impact on Integration
Residential concentrations facilitate the integration of new immigrants. Living in an area where social and cultural practices are familiar minimizes the initial challenge of operating in a foreign culture and protects the people against feelings of social alienation. Moreover, ethnic communities play an important role helping new members to adjust and fit into the native society. The benefits of ethnic residential concentration are increased by the presence of certain institutions that are centred on the needs of the ethnic group. For instance, whereas the majority of people in Cabramatta practice Buddhism, there is provision for other religions. Figure 3 shows a church geared to promoting the needs of Christians.
Figure 3. Russian Orthodox Church, facing south on 136 John St., Cabramatta, 4 September 2017, 2.05 pm. Russian Orthodox Church reflects the effort made to meet the needs of Christians in the Fairfield Local Government Area, particularly in Cabramatta, where the church is located.
The introduction of Indochinese gave rise to the expression of the culture within the landscape. One of the primary expression is in the form of Chinese and Vietnamese languages in shopfront signage. For example, Figure 1 shows a park street of local shops with mixed English, Vietnamese and Chinese signage. The businesses suggest the Indochinese refugees contribute to local and state taxes. As the ethnic minority add taxes, Cabramatta’s economic growth is remarkably enhanced. The strategic partnerships with the immigrant’s country of origin have also been strengthened by ethnic residential concentration in Cabramatta. An example of such relationship is the Australia-Viet partnership, which according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (2015), contributes to peace, stability, and cooperation of the countries as well as the world.
Ethnic residential concentration has made a significant contribution to the economic, social and cultural development of the country. Having people who can speak other languages has helped trade and business as people can now tap into new markets. Ethnic residential concentration has also influenced Cabramatta’s economy in that the increasing skilled migration has made a positive contribution to the future per capita income levels of the area.
Figure 1. Park Street of Local Shops, facing the north-west corner of Park St and Arthur St, Cabramatta, 4 September 2017, 1.38 pm. The different languages in the shopfront signage reflect the various ethnic groups in the Fairfield Local Government region and particularly around Cabramatta, where the shops are located.
The signage is only a single case of how the Indochinese culture is being assimilated in Australia. The impression of alien cultures on the landscape has continued to evolve. This trend is not only attributed to the presence of Indochinese in the region but also the support of the local council and organizations. Local agencies are committed to developing an Asian theme in Cabramatta. Figure 2 shows the PaiLau gateway, an example of such project, which serves as a symbol of the Asian community in the area and celebration of democracy and freedom.
Figure 2. The PaiLau Gateway, Freedom Plaza, Cabramatta, 4 September 2017, 1.42 pm. The gateway is a symbol of Indochinese communities and Cabramatta’s images as the western Chinatown. The letters in different languages spell out liberty and democracy in Vietnamese, English, Chinese, Khmer, and Lao as a symbol of harmony and multiculturalism.
Multiculturalism is a good thing for the society. First, fair policies allow all citizens to preserve their cultural heritage. Bianco and Slaughter, (2016) maintain that multiculturalism encourages the development of bilingual education programs, which propel the country towards achieving multi-literacy and career readiness for all children. In a multicultural area, racism and other social prejudices are rare. A more open and diverse community that allows others to learn the native culture promotes mutual understanding and respect; the relationships of the people are usually friendly and harmonious. Lastly, in a diverse community, people can eat a variety of cultural foods. Cabramatta is not any different; its supermarkets, restaurants, delicatessens, and grocery stores offer a broad range of foods from around the globe. Besides being included in the mainstream Australian diet, these foods have become the basis for much of the Cabramatta’s social life.
Besides being celebrated for its multicultural achievement, Cabramatta is often critiqued as an Indo-Chinese-Australian ghetto. The stigmatization of the Ghetto residents in Australia has been a major social issue over the last decade. Ideally, ghetto signifies a stigmatized area or a place where the deprivation of external controls has created a neighborhood of danger, so profound that many people not only will refuse to reside there but will advise others against merely visiting the place. Recently, stigmatization has taken a different toll; some ethnic groups have been the focus of attacks (Harte, 2010). An example is the 2008 protests against the development of a mosque in Campbelltown. The 2013 report on social cohesion also found a significant increase in racism against the new arrivals (Humanrights.gov.au, 2013).
As can be seen, the positive impact of ethnic residential concentration in Cabramatta is associated with its multicultural achievement. Multiculturalism has led to the introduction of new forms of art evident within the region’s landscape. Also, having people from different cultural backgrounds have helped in trade and business which contribute to the economic development of the nation. On the other hand, Cabramatta due to its ghetto status is stigmatized as a place that lacks external controls and hence dangerous. Generally speaking, the benefits of ethnic residential concentration surpass its challenges, and thus the ethnic minority may not be as much of a risk as depicted by previous research.
Aph.gov.au. (n.d.). Asian Immigration. [online] Available at: http://www.aph.gov.au/sitecore/content/Home/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/Publications_Archive/CIB/CIB9697/97cib16 [Accessed 25 Sep. 2017].
Bianco, J.L., and Slaughter, Y., 2016. Bilingual Education in Australia. In Bilingual and Multilingual Education (pp. 1-14). Springer International Publishing.
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. (2015). A Declaration on Enhancing the Australia-Viet Nam Comprehensive Partnership. [online] Available at: http://dfat.gov.au/geo/vietnam/Pages/a-declaration-on-enhancing-the-australia-viet-nam-comprehensive-partnership.aspx [Accessed 25 Sep. 2017].
Harte, E.W., 2010. Settlement geography of African refugee communities in Southeast Queensland: an analysis of residential distribution and secondary migration (Doctoral dissertation, Queensland University of Technology).
Humanrights.gov.au. (2013). Mapping Social Cohesion: the reality of racism in Australia. [online] Available at: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/news/stories/mapping-social-cohesion-reality-racism-australia [Accessed 26 Sep. 2017].
Veldhuizen, E., Ikram, U., de Vos, S. and Kunst, A. (2017). The relationship between ethnic composition of the residential environment and self-reported health among Turks and Moroccans in Amsterdam. International Journal of Health Geographics, [online] 16(1). Available at: https://ij-healthgeographics.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12942-017-0084-x.