A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE
WHAT YOU START WITH AND WHO YOU BECOME
It goes as no surprise that the conditions under which we a raised and the people with who we interact shape both who we are and how we perceive others. Australians love to say we are an inclusive multicultural society, but think about you own circle of friends and ask yourself how diverse a cross-section of the population you have regular contact with. The answer will likely surprise you as being less than you thought it was. Though it is increasing with each new generation, but to them it’s normal, when you are young people are just people.
Children growing up in Australia experience no external threat other than that which immediately surrounds them. War is a faraway concept, because no one living in suburbia has any direct experience of it and the Australian civil wars along the colonial frontier between indigenous and non-indigenous are conveniently forgotten because the memories are actively repressed by those with family connections in the wrong, while those that were oppressed still feel bitterly about how their ancestors were treated.
We have portrait paintings in every house of parliament around the country that create false heroes out our early political figures that condoned and covered up acts of mass murder, but no one get taught about this in our schooling system and people have to find out for themselves as adults.
Only about 5% of the population will experience upward social mobility and by that I mean taking into account inflation rates over the years earn vastly more than their parents did and ascend the social ladder. On the other side 5% experience downward social, with the rest earning about the same as their parents, even if their choice of profession is different. It’s a myth that each generation will earn more than the last, as while they may earn more, the cost of living has outpaced both the median wage and the minimum wage, which in Australia is high in comparison to other OECD countries.
Australians constantly take their high standard of living and good fortune for granted. This creates a feeling by those who grow up here that certain job are below them, while immigrants and tourists are employed on mass to fill the void this creates. This perspective of life varies if you grew up in the country or the city. I spent my formative years between ages 5 to 18, growing up in a small country town in the middle of a forest, then 18 to 30 living in Melbourne. So my understanding of space and how we fit into the world around us is the polar opposite to someone growing up in a block of flats, or an outer suburb of Melbourne. It took me many years to feel comfortable in the city, but now I’m a mixture of both country and city.
Someone who has come to Australia from Asia as a student and stayed on to gain their permanent residency, will see Australia as a land of opportunity in comparison to where they came from. Where those born here see the limitations of freedom and how our relative isolation from other countries fosters a fear of the unknown ‘other’ that manifests itself in politically conservative policies, voted on by an ageing overall population.
Change is a good thing, being forced to confront yourself through having the expectations you project on others dispelled can only benefit society and the workplace in the long term. A diverse workplace is going to be a cooperative one, where people learn more about others and themselves. What companies and communities of people need to avoid is the policy of promotion from within that foster and reinforce an ‘us’ against ‘them’ mentality.
You’ll hear the term we are an equal opportunity provider attached to many jobs you apply for and some are. But many are not, yet they have to say they are in order to keep up appearances of being an unbiased community friendly organisation.
Yet no matter what happens you can be sure that each side argument begin from the same starting point. This caused people’s views to differ and create alternative perspectives of that make different people see an opportunity or a limitation.
Author - Matthew Scrutton is a freelance writer and multi-instrumentalist musician/composer
who holds a Bachelor of Social Sciences with Honours in Anthropology from La Trobe
University. He has keen interests in indigenous rights, migration, refugees, gender equality
and community development.