The Board and staff of the Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland farewell the Hon Bob Hawke AC, GCL, a champion of multiculturalism.
ECCQ Chairperson Alton Budd says his support and commitment to a harmonious multicultural Australia is to be commended.
“ECCQ is very thankful for and proud of the longstanding support from Bob Hawke over many years.
“He embodied the notion of a fair go for all Australians.”
In 1988 Hon Bob Hawke delivered the opening address for the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) Congress. He said:
“Multiculturalism is indeed all about commitment to Australia.
“…So let us proclaim from this Congress the demographic fact that we are a multicultural nation. But let us proclaim too that we are multicultural not only in character but in outlook, multicultural not only by the fact of demography but by virtue of philosophical choice.”[i]
The Hon Bob Hawke created the Office of Multicultural Affairs and established the National Agenda for a Multicultural Australia in 1989 with the intention of showcasing the benefits of multiculturalism.
His multicultural policy was presented in a way that appealed to the fair go image of Australia, that all citizens have equal rights and opportunities. It called for all Australians to accept fundamental basics like rule of law and English as a national language while recognising responsibilities and obligations of a multicultural society, specifically the willingness to accept a person’s right to their own values and beliefs.
“Multiculturalism offers each of us the opportunity to have our traditions accepted, and viewpoints heard: it asks each of us to accept that others have equal rights”. [ii]
He advocated that multicultural policy is not just for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, but that its principles applied “equally to all Australians, whether Aboriginal, Anglo-Celtic or non-English speaking background; and whether they were born in Australia or overseas”. [iii]
The National Agenda for Multicultural Australia set out three essential principles: cultural identity, social justice and economic efficiency. The third being the one that strategically won over the Cabinet and public opinion. The policy set out that the benefits of a multicultural Australia in terms of the productive diversity of its citizens was greater than the costs of giving those citizens access and equity.
At a time when ECCQ was advocating at the federal level for a national equity program for schools and at the state level for ethnic language education and assistance, Bob Hawke, understood the power and benefit of celebrating and encouraging language education.
At the launch of the National Languages Institute of Australia in 1990, the Hon Bob Hawke said:
“Let us never forget this basic fact. Thanks to our immigration policies – policies that have brought to our shores people from more than 130 nations – and thanks too to our deliberate adoption of policies that foster pride in our multicultural diversity, Australia is uniquely endowed with the riches of many languages”.[iv]
When ECCQ’s founder and former CEO, Nick Xynias passed in 2015, the Hon Bob Hawke wrote in ECCQ’s EVOCA Magazine:
“It is a great testament to the Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland and the Ethnic Communities Councils in all states, and the tireless work by people such as Nick Xynias that today our society is one of tolerance and harmony”.[v]
Vale Bob Hawke, 1929-2019.
The Hon Bob Hawke was the Prime Minister of Australia and the Leader of the Labor Party from 1983 to 1991.