Abstract: This paper was delivered to the Annual General Meeting of the Nexus Multicultural Arts Centre in Adelaide on the 12 May 2011.
Firstly, I would like to thank Norris Ioannou for inviting me here today to address the AGM. It is a great honour to address such an assembly, one which has dedicated itself to the noble pursuit of this thing called "Multicultural Arts‟ – more specifically, according to the website, “to produce and showcase multicultural arts for audiences” and “to connect diverse communities and bring them into the mainstream”. I hope today to probe this mission a little further, to open up new space for what multicultural arts might mean for the "mainstream‟.
I must confess at the start to being somewhat awkwardly situated in the language of multiculturalism. Perhaps the easiest way to situate myself is to say I am a Filipino migrant to Australia, having arrived when I was just one. I am told I spoke only one non-English word at the time – ahas meaning „snake‟ (I‟ll leave the Freudian interpretations to you). In any case, it was strange while growing up being categorised as a NESB, non-English speaking background, since Philippines was an English speaking country at the time. At other times, I was dubbed „ethnic‟, which presumes that British, Australian or Irish were not ethnicities. But times have changed, I am told for the better. Now apparently I‟m CALD, culturally and linguistically diverse, which still makes little sense to me or at least makes no real advances from NESB. Who isn‟t culturally and linguistically diverse? This is all to say that I hope you can understand that for me the language of multiculturalism seems a rather circuitous way of avoiding having to name „coloured people‟ when often that is what is meant.