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Multiculturalism Essay

1988 words - 8 pages

IntroductionSince the landing of the first Europeans, migration and immigration policies have shaped the history of Australia. These have changed from а forced migration of predominantly Britons 200 years ago, to а racially restrictive immigration policy favouring Anglo-Celtics, to more open policies to include people from all races and countries beginning in the 1970s. Today Australia has become one of the most ethnically diverse societies in the world with speakers of over 120 different languages. Based on the 1991 census, 22.3% of the Australian population was born overseas, and 41.9% had at least one parent born overseas. (Parsons, 2003) There is no doubt that Australia has ...view middle of the document...

(Minas, 2001) It is thus particularly important to ensure that Australia will not become socially disintegrated with increasing ethnic conflicts as is the experience of many other countries today.
In order to plan and provide equitable, culturally sensitive and appropriate services for migrant groups, health professionals need to be aware of and identify cross-cultural health issues. This paper will draw attention to selected migrant health issues and recommend measures to address them. However, before dealing with specifics, we need to clarify some concepts fundamental to the understanding of cross-cultural phenomena and the recurrent migrant policy debates.
Ethnocentrism and Cultural RelativismHumans learn to behave from the group they live and interact with. The group norms they adopt become the standard by which to measure other's behaviour. It is thus natural for human beings to be ethnocentric, judging others' culture by the one they regard as the normal and only correct one, their own. (Manderson, 2001) Thus, to promote cross-cultural awareness we need to promote cultural relativism, the view that all cultures have equal standing, that all are correct, normal, and valuable to those making them up, and that cultures cannot be ranked better or worse.
People from different cultures have different beliefs, values, and practices. It cannot be assumed that the way things are done in one culture is the only or the best way to do them. This tenet can also be applied to the health area. Other than the bio-medical model, there are theories to explain illness developed in various other cultures such as the Greek humoral theory, the holistic yin-yang balance theory of the Chinese, and the Ayurvedic medical theory of India. It is important to appreciate that each tradition has its internal logic and has been developed over time. (Lin, 2003)Ethnicity and CultureWhereas racial characteristics are inherited and immutable, ethnicity refers to the cultural distinctiveness of a group and is changeable over time. An ethnic group is а social group with а shared cultural distinctiveness, linguistic, religious, etc., and а sense of а separate and collective identity while living within а larger society. By definition, all residents of Australia are members of one or more ethnic groups.
Assimilation and EthnicityAssimilation is а process of eliminating distinctive group characteristics and cultural identity and replacing them with characteristics from another culture, usually the dominant host culture in the society. To assimilate fully means that one has to abandon their social upbringing and reject their cultural identity, something difficult if not impossible and very unnatural for first generation migrants to achieve. For most migrant families, the assimilation process can be achieved with increasing success in subsequent generations--if there are no structural barriers such as racial discrimination and the host society is...

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