Political Approaches Of Australia And Japan To Multiculturalism

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Modern political approaches in correlation with the historical impact of imperialism and colonialism demonstrates a relevant influence on cultural diversity within countries. That is, the systematic control of an empire over other territories and individuals (Allatson 2019), facilitates a transfer of cultural ideologies, religions and political beliefs that inadvertently shapes a nation’s political approach and acceptance in relation to their ethos, standards and obligations concerning cultural, linguistic and religious diversity (T. Calma 2008, speech, 30 July) within a modern societal context. A thorough comparison of the history, culture and politics of Australia and Japan will accentuate this notion and reveal the multifaceted nature of multiculturalism. Upon examination, within the 21st century, Australia and Japan have long since shifted in opposite directions with their cultural focus. Despite 20th century expectations and emigrational policies from both countries calling for the assimilation of the population to a dominant ethnic and racial standard, Australia is now a successful representation of a multicultural nation (Human Rights Commission 2015) whilst Japan has preserved a predominantly monocultural modern identity (Ronzi 2014). This paper will draw together academic readings and historical events to offer an in depth analysis into imperialism and colonialism, and its subsequent relation to the disparity in cultural diversity within the nations of Australia and Japan. In understanding these varying approaches, the numerous intricacies and components behind the concepts of cultural diversity and multiculturalism can be identified.

Due to constantly changing and radical political approaches in Australia in relation to the integration of multiculturalism within the nation, the country has developed into an extremely diverse society of varying cultural and ethnic dispositions. (The Mckell Institute 2017) indicated a net overseas migration rise of 27.3% in 2016-2017, with a gain of 262, 500 persons, in comparison to 2015-2016. Additionally, in accordance to (Index Mundi 2018), Australia’s ethnic demographic includes groups such as German, Chinese, Indian, Italian and more, indicating a largely diverse composition. This heterogeneity can perhaps be linked back to a heritage of colonialism, as the British settlement in ways were the first immigrants in the land, setting the foundation to a country that would eventually adapt a liberal disposition towards immigration as a result of its history.

Prior to the European Settlement, the Australian continent comprised of 500 different indigenous groups, with up to 1 million Indigenous Aborigines inhabiting the land. It wasn’t until 1770, that Captain James Cook chartered the East Coast and laid claim for Britain. Consequently, there was the formation of a new outpost utilised as a penal colony for the first fleet. By the time penal transportation declined in 1868, over 160,000 individuals had settled in Australia (Australia 2018). The colonisation of Australia came with devastating ramifications for the indigenous Australians. To start, European evaluation concluded Australian land had potential for better use, which was justified under the contemporary British politico-legal thought. Thus, no definition for the status of indigenous people was established, leading to the facilitation of the legal fiction of ‘terra nullius, defining Australia as No Man’s Land prior to British occupation. Furthermore, the British imperial expansion was accompanied by deadly diseases, particularly small pox, individual renegades guilty of violence, abduction and sexual slavery and animals of cloven foot that depleted the environment and disrupted traditional food supplies. In the 10 years following the settlement, the indigenous population of Australia was estimated to have experienced a reduction by 90% (Australia Together N.D).

However, it was this early colonialization that set the foundations to the political and legal structures that would dictate Australian regulations and policies. The current Australian legal system, known also as ‘Common Law’ is based off the model inherited by countries influenced by British Colonialism9 (Oxford University Press N.D). This would come to pave the way for early human rights movements to lobby for the better treatment of indigenous Australians in abidance with the law, displaying the first signs to a culturally developing country with an increasing potential for multiculturalism.

It would be during the 1950’s that Australia began to receive backlash on their treatment of the indigenous population, with the London Anti-Slavery Society issuing threats to confront Australia’s treatment of its indigenous people before the United Nations (Australia Together N.D). In response to this amounting insistence for national action, the Federal Council for Aboriginal Advancement would be formed in 1958. The following 15 years saw the implementation of campaigns for constitutional change, equal wage, access to social service benefits and land rights.

In 1967, a referendum was held after years of campaigning to change the Australian Constitution. It debated the removal of two negative references to indigenous individuals, and would provide the power necessary for the Commonwealth to legislate for the Indigenous Australians. An overwhelming 90% of the population voted in favour of these changes, highlighting a positive shift in mainstream attitudes towards the indigenous population and again illustrating the growing cultural acceptance that would come to symbolise Australia in modern times. Eventually Native title would be recognised under the Mabo Judgement of 1992 (Maxwell-Stewart 2018), and by 1999, the Australian Parliament would pass a Motion of Reconciliation that reaffirmed the nation’s commitment to the cause of reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians as a priority for the country (Parliament of Australia N.D).

But despite monumental developments for indigenous rights over Australia’s history, immigration policies did not always reflect such progressive notions. Historically, Australian immigration regulations were exclusive and did not embrace cultural diversity (Henry 2013). During 1901, the Immigration Act was passed, placing restrictions on non-European immigration to Australia. This act and subsequent policies would come to be commonly referred to as the ‘White Australia Policy’. However, the White Australia Policy would eventually be applied to a lesser extent following World War 2. As outlined in (Nambisan ND) Australia was still a British Colony at this time (only gaining full independence after the Australia Act 1986), and consequently was expected to participate in war efforts, the early roots of colonialism rearing its influence yet again. But in joining the war, it became obvious to the country and its policy makers that Australia needed a significant number of immigrants to both defend the continent and support its growing economy (Ozdowski 2012) As a result, the number of non-European settlers would nearly quadruple during 1966 and 1971 (Munro 2017), and the dismantling of the White Australia Policy would finally pass in 1973, spearheaded by the Whitlam Government. Following this was the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, which served to protect multiculturalism and emphasise its political priority through the registration of certain acts of racial discrimination as unlawful within Australia (Department of Home Affairs 2017).

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Ultimately, multiculturalism shows its prominence in Australian history. It is a reflection of the country’s journey from British oriented foundations through to the reluctant acknowledgement towards the necessity of immigrant populations during war time to the end of ‘White Policies’ and acceptance of diversity into its liberal democracy. Australia’s multicultural success has been reliant on Australian society accepting immigration as a nation building project, only possible due to its colonial heritage. By now most political parties and the majority of the Australian public display acceptance towards the key concepts of multicultural policy.

In contrast, the political approaches in Japan with regards to multiculturalism and cultural diversity is quite limited when placed into consideration against Australia. The country remains predominantly homogenous in terms of race and ethnicity, with the final population statistic of the country comprising of a 98.5% contribution from ethnic Japanese people, despite a minor immigration population consisting of mainly Chinese and Korean foreign workers (World Population Review 2019). Associations between Japan’s imperial past with its current conservative approach towards cultural diversity can be constructed, the effects of imperialism often leading to the assimilation and disappearance of unique indigenous cultures that furthermore facilitated the elevation of one race above another. This generally stunted multiculturalism, and despite societal growth and changes expedited by the passage of time, it is possible that its imperial heritage remains rooted amongst the inner workings of its political climate to enable this absence of cultural diversity.

An investigation into the historical political state of Japan reveals a prominent imperial past dating back to the 1850s with the Meiji Restoration. This title refers to the political changes in Japan at the time that enabled the restoration of power to the imperial house in 1868. Emperor Mutsuhito – better known as Meiji in the future – superseded the Tokugawa bakufu, or Shogunate, to become the political centre of the nation. The establishment of equality with the West was a primary goal for Meiji Japan (Enclyclopedia Britannica ND). With this mindset of securing eminent, imperial power, Japan began its single-minded subjugation of Taiwan, Korea, the Liaotung Peninsula and parts of the Sakhalin islands following the infamous Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars. With the conclusion of these wars, Japanese leaders acquired free reign in Korea. Toleration towards Korean opposition at Japanese ‘reforms’ no longer existed as resident General Ito Hirobumi ordered the abdication of the Korean king and implemented treaties which forced a protectorate status upon the nation. By the death of the Meiji emperor in 1912, Japan had developed into the strongest imperialist power within East Asia and achieved equal status with the Western nations. This incredible pursuit of imperial power and the subsequent patriotism that demanded Japan elevate its nation to equal footing with the West is perhaps, a catalyst in the formation of a country with little leniency towards foreign cultural acceptance due to strict traditional values formed in earlier times. And though absent in its extremity and prominence, traces of these values can still be identified in the cultural political sphere of the current Japanese government.

In 2007, the education minister Bunmei Ibuki categorised Japan as “an extremely homogenous country.” And only eighteen months prior, Foreign Minister Taro Aso described Japan as having “one nation, one civilisation, one language, one culture and one race.” The most noteworthy aspect to these incidents was the largely absent controversial attention domestically, that is, these comments received little media coverage from the mainstream Japanese press. And whilst not the most radically offensive of statements, it is this casual acceptance of a monocultural mindset amongst political figureheads that reveals a deeper issue with Japanese culture in regards to diversity and multi-culturalism that can be attributed to an imperial past.

During the 1920s, following an economical shortage of labour in Japan, Koreans in search of better educational and employment opportunities capitalised by migrating to Japan. By the 1930s, there was a recognisable constitution of Korean social groups in certain Japanese cities. However, the Korean population usually received much lower income and wages than their Japanese counterparts, thus forcing the congregation of Koreans in ghettos due to poverty and discrimination. With the arrival of World War II, wartime shortages led to enforced migration. There was a collaboration between ethnic Japanese and Koreans to ensure the conscription of Korean men and women to be deployed in factories and mines. The Japanese government took over 700,000-800,000 Koreans to work in Japan during 1939 and 1945 and over 200,000 ethnic Koreans battled for the Japan’s empire. By 1945, the Korean population within Japan peaked at approximately 2 million.

Although Koreans in Japan had endured racial discrimination and economic exploitation even before the arrival of World War II, Korean ethnics were still recognised by the Japanese government as Japanese nationals. They were to be integrated into Japanese society through assimilation consisting of Japanese educations and the promotion of intermarriage. However, post war, the Japanese authorities redefined ethnic Koreans as foreigners and no longer counted them as Japanese nationals. Consequently, the term ‘Zainichi’ was formed, a reflection of the overall expectation that Korean residents in Japan were living on a temporary basis and would soon depart back to Korea. By 1945, Koreans were stripped of their voting rights. Then, in 1947, the consignation of ethnic Koreans to alien status was passed with the Alien Registration Law. Following this would be the 1950 National Law, which had Zainichi children with Japanese mothers revoke their Japanese nationality as only children with Japanese fathers would be allowed to preserve their Japanese citizenship. As of 1952, former colonial subjects – mainly Koreans – would be rendered stateless owing to the fact their homeland did not have recognition by Japan as a legitimate nation-state. Furthermore, there was the exclusion of ethnic Koreans from rights granted to non-nationals in the constitution following the war. So by 1945, employment policies excluded Koreans from all ‘Japanese’ jobs. (XXX REF). It is this imperial heritage and its subsequent rule that provided an opportunity for the application of discriminatory acts against Koreans, formed from attitudes constructed under imperial power that often pushed for the assimilation of other cultural groups. The identification of Japanese to be the superior ethnicity at the time lays the foundations to an absence of cultural diversity, acceptance and multiculturalism in contemporary times that is only possible with an imperial history which called for the elevation of Japan on a global level.

Overall, Japanese history displays an unfortunate absence of multiculturalism in comparison to Australia. Past actions built a homogenous society through the strict exclusion of all non-Japanese ethnics. A connection between these harsh traditional values instilled during imperial times and its difficulty to overcome with the current stagnancy in modern political approaches can be made.

In conclusion, there is a distinct disparity between the political approaches of Australia and Japan in regards to multiculturalism. Australian policies, built upon a history of colonialism, has come to embrace ethnic minorities, resulting in a nation of cultural diversity. In contrast, Japan’s political approach in relation to multiculturalism remains stagnant, its association with an imperial past facilitating the unique challenge of overcoming traditional values in the construction of its modern policies.

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Political Approaches Of Australia And Japan To Multiculturalism. (2021, September 02). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 27, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/political-approaches-of-australia-and-japan-to-multiculturalism/
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Political Approaches Of Australia And Japan To Multiculturalism [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2021 Sept 02 [cited 2022 May 27]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/political-approaches-of-australia-and-japan-to-multiculturalism/
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