Anyone who has spent time abroad is likely to tell you that being Australian can feel like being in the ‘cool group’. We have a reputation for being the fun, party-going, adventure-seekers, however in this week’s reading by Simon Marginson he adds a darker colour to this bright Australian exterior, claiming that Australians are in fact parochial, “trapped within an Australian-centred view of a diverse and complex world” (Marginson 2012, p. 2). Marginson examines this in relation to international students and criticises Australians for current practices, saying they “must change” (Marginson 2012, p.1)
I found Marginson’s notion interesting. While objectively this claim is valid, it must be questioned whether or not this is unique to Australia and is therefore subject to criticism. Surely a ‘diverse and complex world’ is likely to be viewed from a nation-centred orientation no matter what the nation. Individuals are enculturated within a nation and establish a particular worldview as a result. I would argue that the issues associated with international students in Australia stem from a relatively unchallenged ‘Australian-centred’ view.
A theme I discovered in Kell and Vogel’s 2007 article, was that limited relationships between Australians and international students were frequently attested to Australians’ cultural ignorance. Interviewees in the report expressed that “they felt that Australian students knew very little about their culture and countries of origin” and another explained that “Australians who had been out of the country were much easier to approach and were ‘a lot more friendly’ than those who had never left the country” (Kell & Vogel 2007, p.5). This aspect of Kell and Vogel’s research implies that Australian’s who had had their ‘Australian-centred’ worldview challenged by travel were more open to interactions and relationships with international students.
However this is not the ‘change’ Marginson calls for in his text. We cannot simply send every Australian overseas on a quest to better appreciate culture and therefore be more accepting and nurturing upon return. In an online article, Professor Julian Meyrick professes that Australia is “a country not without culture but without a sense of culture” (The Conversation, 2013). Australia does not enforce the learning of a second language in schools, it is a country with no immediate neighbours, and yet multiculturalism has come to define society. Meyrick is right – Australia is not without culture, and does not lack the potential for connection with international students, however to achieve this, Australians must be aware of the condition of Marginson’s so called “Australian-centred” (2012, p.1) worldview in order to overcome it.
Kell P & Vogel, G 2007, ‘International Students: Negotiating life and study in Australia through Australian Englishes’, Everyday Multicultural Conference Proceedings, Macquarie University, 28-29 September 2006, viewed 17 August 2014.
Marginson, S 2012, ‘Morphing a profit-making business into an intercultural experience: International education as self-formation’, Lecture delivered at the University of Wollongong, 21 February 2012, viewed 17 August 2014.
Meyrick, J 2013, Does Australia ‘get’ culture? The Conversation, 27 October, viewed 16 August 2014