News June 2012

Multi-Culturalism today – a small world

The 1st July is an important date to Torres Strait Island communities – it is the start of the ‘Coming of the Light Festival’, celebrated both on the islands and on mainland Australia.

In July 1871, the Reverend Samuel MacFarlane, a member of the London Missionary Society, anchored at Erub (Darnley Island) in the Torres Strait. He was accompanied by South Sea Islander evangelists and teachers. Dabad, a Warrior Clan Elder on Erub, defied his Tribal law and openly welcomed the foreigners. Within a few days, Nadai, leader of Dauan (Cornwallis Island), agreed to allow the missionaries to settle there. This acknowledgement of the missionaries was the acceptance of a change that would profoundly affect every aspect of life in the Torres Strait from that time onwards. It meant the end of inter-island conflict.

Without compromising their core cultural values, they have responded to their common experiences of paternalistic control by forging a new pan-islander identity as a united people. The Islanders were remarkably successful in absorbing Pacific Islander, Asian and European immigrants to create a tolerant multi-cultural society long before it became the norm in the rest of Australia, becoming a model of successful multiculturalism.

Torres Strait Islands have created their own syncretic culture that is distinctive, vital and enduring. When Islanders reflect upon their cultural heritage, they are often unaware of the many elements that have flowed into it and do not recognize their own genius as a people for choosing, adapting and elaborating new elements without compromising their generations-old core cultural values.

With a cross section of cultures, Australia is battling with its own core values for the next generation. No longer can we go back to the ways of the Indigenous people nor the colonial culture. But we can embrace them, developing a culture that encompasses both, with right moral and ethical practices.

Metamorphosoz is working to combine the different cultures, distinct traditions, various backgrounds – bringing them together to create something new, exciting and refreshing – to showcase the multi-cultural society Australia has always been with the rich history of the Indigenous people and the multi-facetted traditions of the Colonial, European and Asian settlers.

‘When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.’ (Viktor Frankl)


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