International Cultural Relations - Australia
Australia is one of the world countries best known for the quality of life offered in the main cities; it is a main destination for many young people and adults who either want to improve their original way of life or they have no option but to emigrate due to economic, politic, environmental reasons.
People coming to live in Sydney and Melbourne mostly, followed by Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth, are attracted by lifestyle and security amongst others, as well as by professional opportunities offered in a country in continuous development. There is also a great diverse cultural offer in these capital cities, as well as a desire of Australian identity placement. Moreover there is a constant community development from the different cultures and backgrounds willing to maintain and nurture their traditions whilst continuing the culture of their home country. Not only each of the countries’ immigrants benefit from the programs that bring value from their home region; but also other social groups with curiosity towards the unknown and foreign.
Inevitably, political and economic interests are embebed into the cultural diplomacy objectives of this country. These are mainly targeted towards the Indo-Pacific and Asia-Pacific region, and this can be perceived in foundations, councils and institutions (FCI) under the umbrella of Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Arabic and Latin-American countries all have bilateral agreements driven from Australia.
However, since Australia is perceived as a safe place, with strong democratic and high quality of life values, there is not only the presence of embassies and consulates of each of worldwide countries, but also there is a very different attraction by others represented by its institutes and councils. Only the world power and largely populated asian countries have cultural representation in Australia (China, Japan, Korea and India); as opposed to a good number of the European counterparts, whose institutes to promulgate language and culture were born already in the XIX century after the postwar (France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain and United Kingdom). Interestingly enough, the only Latin-American country whose oficial council is located in Australia is Brasil, possibly due to both the population and geographic large size.
These institutes, not only they host language courses with accredited qualifications, but also they promote their home’s values and culture; and in many cases they sponsor all sorts of national cultural initiatives. Cinema festivals, gastronomic, street community festivals are probably amongst the most frequented by all sorts of interested in foreigner customs, traditions and festivities. These institutes are also used as platforms for the international community as well as social support.
On the other hand, there is the cultural and community associations giving support to these festivals. Many of these countries’ associations are the ones in which political/social conflicts occur and whose inhabitants may have sought or may be seeking asylum in Australia, such is the example of Jewish, Iranian, Arabs, Armenians and so on.
And finally, there are international organisations with premises in Australia whose themes are in relation to investment, development, finances, commerce, politics and immigration, environment conservation and health; international organisations putting in relation culture and diplomacy in Australia are UNESCO, Human and Indigenous Rights Affairs, International Environmental Affairs, International Database Affairs, Commonwealth Nations and United Nations.
As a consequence of state fragmented structures in Australia’s international projection, there is a dichotomy from the government side in regard to its image, strategy and its outwards exposure. There is also a co-relation between this projected image, the countries with which Australia establishes a relationship and the countries attracted by it.
As an example, Tourism Australia emphasises international consumption values where people are “friendly and straight forward and open” with a “sense of mateship” and “no worries attitude” as well as on environment that is “pristine” and “wide open”. The strategy behind is to attract a population who would like to live in the country, have access to education and/or invest; and so the majority of these who actually come and contribute economically in large sums are the privileged sector of asian and arab countries. Ironically, the profile of both the bilateral cooperation bodies, as well as foreign cultural institutes and associations in Australia, are coincident with these wealthy and widespread countries.
On the other hand, Nation Branding does also proclaim intelligence and the Aussie great capacity for culture and science. This way we understand the reference model from anglo-saxon countries, US and European Union and therefore the grants and mobility programs that have mustered science, innovation and education sectors. Within Europe, there is a stronger interest with countries such as United Kingdom, France and Germany; but also with Italy, Spain, Holland and Scandinavia. The european commission, NHMRC grants and Fullbright are some of the examples of these overseas countries to nurture cultural relations with Australia. Inevitably, this has a correlation with migratory policies in which the visa systems attracts the “skilled professional” or the “working holiday visas” with the more advanced countries.
Despite Australia is well know for its apparent democratic policies, with social, education, health and economic avant-garde systems in regard to their worldwide fellows; in the cultural, human-rights and integration values, specially of those marginalised or more disadvantaged, it still has a long way to go. Immigration policies are laborious and onerous, whilst attracting highly educated and prepared professionals as we can see in other countries such as United States or Canada; however it is less disseminated the almost retaliatory action to the asylum seekers arriving to the country with no legal consent and by boat and who have been often sent to islands in the Indo-Pacifico region. This action keeps changing depending on the government and ministries, having implemented some on-shore processing centres in the last years.
Furthermore, and despite there are international cultural associations of some of these disadvantaged or in-crisis countries whose asylum seekers come to Australia; there are many other regions which don’t have this socio/cultural support. Australia, boasting its multi-culturalism, would need to internally implement some kind of cultural and integration programs for the recently arrived refugees and immigrants, as well as facilitating platforms allowing culture to be developed from the different associations of these foreign countries. Similarly, it is fundamental to understand the cultural and identity role of Aboriginals in Australia and therefore it would be interesting to establish and develop bonds with other countries where indigenous communities live with ethnicities of other generations.