1979, 105 Minutes
Our Multicultural Society Series 1 explores Australia’s cultural diversity. The 11 documentaries in this first series explore issues around identity, community, communication, and lifestyle. They consider specific problems or challenges faced by particular individuals or groups, and look at our similarities and differences. The people featured in the programs range from new arrivals and second generation Australians to Indigenous Australians.
Ana - An Interpreter (8 Minutes) Ana is a Spanish interpreter at North Richmond Family Care Centre in Melbourne, Victoria. There, she works with doctors, nurses, community workers, lawyers and interpreters of other languages including Arabic to provide services to people from diverse backgrounds. For many migrants who come to the centre for assistance, Ana is their way out of isolation and a link to the help they need. Even when clients speak English, they often feel more secure and can communicate more accurately when talking with Ana in their first language. In this program, Ana discusses some of the issues that arise in her work and one of the doctors comments on Ana’s contribution.
Betty - A Shop Steward (9 Minutes) Betty was born during the Depression in Glasgow, Scotland where she witnessed extreme poverty. A shop steward, she has a strong sense of the role of unions and what she can contribute to improving conditions in the factory where she works. In this program she reflects on the stereotype of the “pommy” unionist and raises questions about women, minorities and equality in the workplace. Her grown children share their contrasting views of factory work and employment opportunities.
Ethnic Broadcasting (9 Minutes) This program goes inside an ethnic community radio station in Adelaide to talk with those involved about their aims and achievements. Among them are George and Gina, who have been with the station since the beginning. The first Greek radio programs - an hour each week - began at George’s house and grew from there. Ethnic Broadcasters Incorporated is now a co-operative with a studio and a representative committee of two delegates each from 26 ethnic groups. Rather than a government service, George sees the station as communities working for themselves. As well as its cultural value in preserving traditions and language, it also provides people with an important opportunity to discuss problems and issues from a wide range of viewpoints.
Flo and Marianna - A Matter of Language (9 Minutes) Forthright and energetic despite her advancing years, Flo has “taken up” her elderly Italian neighbour as a cause. Her goal has been to make Marianna more independent and bring her out of herself so that she feels more part of the community. However, after two years, Flo is despondent about her friend’s progress. She feels she must help Marianna with her loneliness but that some of her isolation is self-imposed since Marianna has been here for decades and has a grown daughter. The problem is one of language. Marianna is too scared to attend classes where she might be ridiculed so Flo is trying to teach her English. Marianna, on the other hand, sees herself as teaching Flo to speak Italian.
George and Toula (8 Minutes) Born in Australia, Toula is the daughter of a Greek-born father and an Australian-born mother from a Greek background but, by her own admission, she doesn’t feel comfortable in a wholly Greek environment. As a teenager she wanted to date but was pressured to marry instead. She’s been married ten years, has no children, lives in an apartment rather than a house, and works as a workers compensation officer - lifestyle choices that she feels attract the Greek community’s disapproval. Her husband George, on the other hand, is Greek-born - a welder who enjoys the races. The two don’t have much in common, according to Toula, who feels much greater ambivalence than her husband about the traditions in which she was raised.
Kemal - A Turkish Boy (8 Minutes) Kemal is a Muslim teenager who came to Australia from Turkey four years ago. Each year, he finds school harder, especially if he cannot understand a concept or communicate effectively because of language limitations. In this program, his teacher explains how difficult it is for young people who are developing rapidly intellectually but not linguistically. Kemal hangs out with Turkish friends because they understand each other on many levels. Here, they talk about the significance of their culture, religion and families to their lives, and Kemal explains his role translating for his parents and looking after his sisters.
Margaret - A Pride in Identity (10 Minutes) Margaret is an Aboriginal woman married to a non-Indigenous Australian. When the couple moved recently to a home in the suburbs, her new neighbours had a bet on her nationality. Margaret finds the new environment quite a change from her community in inner-city Sydney, where she still works at an Aboriginal-run preschool (Murawina) and attends teachers college. In this program she talks of her experiences as a teacher, student, wife and mother and explores her identity as an Aboriginal person.
Maria - Going Home (10 Minutes) Maria was born in Spain and emigrated to Australia 15 years ago but things haven’t worked out quite as she’d hoped. For Maria, Australia is like a golden cage for a bird - despite its beauty, she cannot feel at home and is scared of growing old here. She and her husband came looking for a better future for their children but they do not agree with the freedoms and choices offered in the Australian school system and they are frightened of what they see as negative influences on their teenage kids. Their son still feels very Spanish and is happy about his parents’ decision but their daughter cannot understand why they have to leave.
Mick - Revisited (10 Minutes) Mick used to be a member of a sharpie gang in Sydney’s western suburbs. This program begins with him, his family and friends watching a documentary about Mick and his former mates made two years earlier. Things have changed and Mick is now ashamed of his actions including “poofter bashing” and stealing. He talks about his new life with his partner Debbie, his varied work history and his ambitions. The program also explores Mick’s and his father’s attitudes to their heritage. Although his parents live a “Hungarian way of life” and want their children to follow these traditions, Mick does not identify with their culture and considers himself wholly Australian.
Murawina - Self-Help (10 Minutes) After years of campaigning, a group of Aboriginal women from Murawina preschool are finally signing the contract that will start construction on a new school and hostel on a block of land in Eveleigh Street in inner Sydney. In this program, they talk of how they, as Aboriginal people, want to help themselves. They want to raise their children in an unthreatening and nurturing environment where the young aren’t ashamed of being black and where they can learn about Indigenous culture. This, they believe, will provide their kids with the inner strength and self-esteem they require to make the best of their lives, particularly in the face of inevitable prejudice.
Teja - A Sikh Priest (9 Minutes) Teja Singh is a priest for the Sikh community in Woolgoolga, New South Wales, where the people have built a temple and work to preserve the traditions and religion of their old life in India. This program follows the patterns of his daily life: morning and evening prayers, teaching language and culture, packing fruit with his wife, and gatherings at the temple. Teja talks about his own family, his community, his role as a priest and a mediator, and his view of the changes that might be required in the future.
A Film Australia Production. © 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.
Directors: Linda Blagg, Debby Kingsland, Phillip Noyce, David Roberts, Michael Rubetzki
Running Time: 105 Minutes (11 Episodes)
Classification: Exempt from classification
Curriculum Links: English 'Belonging', 'Exploring Connections', HSIE, Studies of Society and Environment, History.