RECENTLY, I WATCHED worried policemen and politicians denounce the crimes of Sudanese Australians. If you only caught the headlines, you could be forgiven for thinking that Melbournians were sandbagging their houses and stockpiling canned goods as a wave of African gang violence swept the city.
Listen to the public debate and it’s not hard to find voices worrying away at the cultural and ethnic make-up of the Australian population. The flashpoint is the volume and diversity of Australia’s migrant intake – that’s what gets the public debate really heated. Yet, this is not new. We have been here before, many times before. The origins of migrants may change, but the issue remains the same. It may be Africa today; it was Vietnam in the 1970s and Italy in the 1950s. It goes even further back. The caution and hostility remains.
‘They are ignorant of our laws, our habits and our social feelings.’