DARWIN – Controversy surrounds the latest decision to raise linguistic standards for immigrants to Australia to ensure they can pass a strict language proficiency test imposed by the federal authorities in Darwin today.
“It doesn’t seem that odd to me,” said government spokeswoman Alinga Barton, “If people want to come halfway across the world to live in Australia, the least they could do is adapt to some token extent to our culture and way of life.
“If they can’t even speak the basics of a single Pama–Nyungan language, I don’t understand how we’re expected to live with them.”
Aboriginal Australia was broadly united in their support for this new policy, with over 78% of Aboriginal Australians citing fears that if immigration is left unchecked at current rates, their descendants may lose all trace of Australian culture and speak some totally foreign language, brought by greedy immigrants with no respect for their heritage.
Immigrant rights groups have objected to the policy as racist and paranoid. We spoke with “White Australia” spokesman Sean Jeffries:
I like to think of myself as an immigrant success story. I came here when I was 12 years old and still managed to learn Warlpiri fluently, marry myself a Warlpiri wife, everything. I’m practically a real Australian now. But not everyone is so lucky. Many are excluded from mainstream Australian life because they can only speak English or Croatian, and it’s completely unfair.
If you’d just give white people a chance, you’ll see that we can learn your language and way of life. It just takes time. So long as Australian society is built around an Aboriginal core, with business and education being conducted entirely in Aboriginal languages, there’s no reason to fear immigrants and our languages.
Not all immigrant groups are so hostile to the policy however. On the contrary, Pauline Han, a Salar Muslim immigrant from China, was sharply critical of the “White Australia” group and what she characterised as its “presumptious attitude of entitlement towards Australian society”:
Australia doesn’t owe you a home, Australia doesn’t owe you a job, Australia has thousands of its own to look after. I can’t stand all these white people, showing up uninvited, parasitically using up all Australia’s resources, and then demanding everyone speak English for them on top of it all!
Even the fact that I have learnt fluent Wik Mungkan doesn’t afford me any right to be here. I’m a guest in Australia, and I know it. So when the real Australians just ask that we do this one simple thing, I don’t complain, I thank them.