Australia - A Future
article was based on the statement written by the author in attending
the Future Perspectives Forum for Young Australians. The Forum is a
prestigious program organised by the Queen’s Trust, for 100 Young Adult
Australians selected throughout Australia each year. The 1996 national
Forum for Young Adult Australians will be held between the 7-13 July in
Melbourne this year. The author is a member of the Australian
Vietnamese Women’s Welfare Association and the Victoria’s Women
Council. She currently works as a Market Analyst for Melbourne
Convention and Marketing Bureau.
I believe Australia is a
great nation and that we, as Australians are very fortunate to live in
this country. Australia has a vast amount of natural resources and a
diverse and culturally rich human resource.
Our culturally rich human
resources comprise Australians (including the indiginous), new
Australians (those who came to Australia from the first fleet after the
second World War, predominantly from Northern and Southern Europe) and
newer Australians (those who came to Australia in the last three
decades, predominantly from Asia).
In terms of our natural
resources, Australia fares no less than other countries. In fact, in a
recent survey conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation
and Development, Australia was placed as one of the top countries in the
world in terms of its natural resources.
Indeed so Australia has a
vast amount of natural resources and pool of diverse and culturally rich
human resource. Yet however, we are slowly and steadily falling behind
in terms of world living standards and our ranking as a world economic
power is slipping. Why is this the case?
I believe the main answer
lies in the fact that as a nation we have not known how to utilise our
diverse and culturally rich human resources effectively. That is, we
have not taken an effective step in recognising the rich human
resource in this country and harness these resources into
Each year Australia
intakes a high number of migrants and refugees from both English and
non-English speaking countries. However, what we have failed to do is
to assist these newer Australians especially those who come from
non-English speaking countries, to settle in and effectively integrate
into the mainstream society.
One of the major barriers
in integrating into the society for these newer adult Australians who
come from a non-English speaking background, is in getting their
overseas skills, experience and qualifications recognised in Australia.
Even though Australia supposedly, has had a “sophisticated” immigration
history of over 50 years, the recognition of overseas skills, experience
and qualifications is still a very foreign practice in the Australian
workforce. As a result, these newer Australians face a major
disadvantage in the labour market, which is where real integration
As a result of not being
able to fully integrate into the mainstream society, they face
information disadvantage. In a fast-growing information-based
economy such as Australia, by not having the full access to information
available means that they would unlikely to be able to make informed
decisions. Undoubtedly by not being able to make informed decisions
this would have an ongoing impact on their economic well-being. The
result is in the Australian society, there exists an information
“underclass”, a challenging outcome for a country that has promoted
itself to the world as a just and democratic country.
The majority of migrants
and refugees who come to Australia look forward to the opportunities to
take part in building this country. Yet from the moment they set foot
on Australia, they are usually left on their own.
There are real limited
resources in areas that are vital to the integration process such as
orientation programs or services about the culture and society of
Australia. For those newer adult Australians who do not have the
opportunity to attend training or retraining programs, such orientation
opportunities are even fewer. The training room usually ends up at the
The result is a lot of pain
born and time wasted during the “integration” process. The skills and
enthusiasm these newer Australians first brought with them to Australia
rapidly decline. Their potential is largely not recognised. The
consequence is while we have spent a lot of effort taking in new labour,
we have yet to intelligently harness these human resources to build and
advance our country, especially in the context of a rapidly changing
world economy and labour market.
This has been a great loss
for Australia as a whole and will continue to be so, if Australia does
not recognise the problem and take the opportunity to solve it.
What Australia needs to do
now is to form a vision of where it wants to position itself in the
global market place. Hong Kong used to position itself as the financial
centre of the world in the Asian region. That might change after July
1997. Singapore has been pursuing its goal to be the electronic hub of
the world by the year 2005. Malaysia has its own mandate to achieve by
the year 2020.
Looking beyond the Asian
region, we have the United States, Canada, Japan, Germany, United
Kingdom, France and Italy who have positioned themselves as the powerful
What position in the world
does Australia have for itself? What position does it want to create,
take and work towards?
The world is now
borderless due to more effective use and implementation of information
technology and telecommunications. The transfer of knowledge and
technology is growing at a phenomenal rate. Businesses now transact in
many languages. The number of people traveling each year to other
countries, to get together for family, personal and business reasons is
increasingly rapidly. The servicing sector is the fastest growing
employment sector in the world and will continue to be so. Given the
above world trends, any country that wants to remain competitive and get
a head of the rest will have to know how to use its human resource more
intelligently and effectively.
I strongly propose we take
a look at the composition of our population and labour force and see how
we can turn this into a strategically competitive advantage.
There is a real and urgent
need for Australia to take its stand in the world. I believe by having
a diverse and flexible labour force is the answer. To achieve this
outcome from the diversity viewpoints however, we need to urgently
review the current process of assisting newer Australians to more
effectively integrate into the society. The recognition of overseas
skills, experience and qualifications in the labour market is of
particular relevance. From the flexibility viewpoint, Australia is
currently going through the process to achieve such an outcome. As we
all know, the Australian industrial relations system is currently under
By responding to global
trends strategically, Australia will have a better focussed and
motivated workforce working to an optimum capacity. This is necessary
as Australia now desparately needs to maintain its economic lifestyle.
Having a larger workforce that works to its optimum capacity will also
help Australia raising its national saving level, a macro economic
factor that will help persuade foreign investors to look at investing in
Australia more favourably. By having more fund to develop and/or grow
business this in turn will create more jobs. The Government will have
an increased revenue base through the PAYE (pay as you earn) taxation
system to fund its programs and services. Inevitably a number of other
benefits will follow by having a larger workforce working to its optimum
Ultimately, in achieving
the above outcomes Australia will not only remain competitive but will
be able to get ahead and become one of the leading nations in the world.
In having a vision, the
challenge of getting there will be fun and creative in itself,
especially since Australia already has abundant resources. What
Australia needs to do now is having the gut to determine a vision