Scholarly article on topic 'Advice to speak English in Australia'

Advice to speak English in Australia Academic research paper on "Sociology"

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Academic research paper on topic "Advice to speak English in Australia"



Copyright © SAGE Publications 2008 (Los Angeles, London, New Delhi and Signapore) 1468-7968

Vol 8(1): 68-101; 087020


Advice to speak English in Australia


The Australian National University

ABSTRACT This article addresses the issue of advice given to immigrant parents to speak English only with their children in Australia, as reflected in the Spanish-speaking community. The article shows that something that appears to be down to chance, i.e. whether this advice is given or not, has a social explanation. This social explanation is based on understanding several social variables such as the ethnic identity of the adviser and the year in which the advice was given, as well as social variables that define the individual who received the advice, notably, his/her physical appearance in the sense of how 'Caucasian' the migrant looks. Such analysis sheds light on the changing perception of migrants in Australia. It was found that, throughout the 1980s and 1990s, when there was an Australian government-sponsored policy of multiculturalism, there was an increase in the number of people being advised to speak English only. It is hypothesized that such increase is linked to the conflict and contest that any recognition of linguistic and social rights for minorities precipitates.

KEYWORDS advice to speak English only • ethnic relations in Australia • racial perceptions in Australia • Spanish speakers in Australia


In a radio interview for the programme 'Mornings' on Australia's ABC Classic FM aired on 8 December 2004 (Wendt, 2004), the historian Keith Windschuttle discussed his book on the White Australian Policy (Wind-schuttle, 2004) with his host, the journalist Jana Wendt. Windschuttle argued that the policy, which forbade the entrance of non-white migrants to Australia from 1901 to the mid 1960s, was, in reality, not racist. He defended the argument that the exclusion of foreigners was based on civic patriotism, not racism, and defended the policy as rational, and, for its time, progressive. In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, also promoting his

book, he described Australian multiculturalism as 'a form of ethnic separatism which is far more racist than anything being ascribed to the White Australian Policy' (Snow, 2004). Such 'ethnic separatism' included allowing and fostering the maintenance of migrant and Aboriginal languages and cultures.

Windschuttle is no stranger to controversy. He was an active participant in the so called 'history wars' (Macintyre, 2004; Macintyre and Clark, 2003) by claiming that the cruelties towards Australian Aboriginal peoples during the colonization of Australia were in reality fabrications of left-wing historians who wanted to shame their fellow Australians, sacrificing scholarly discipline to ideology (Windschuttle, 2002). Several people have written to refute Windschuttle's arguments (see Manne, 2003; Smithers, 2003; and Jayasuriya et al., 2003). Here, we will concentrate on another aspect of Windschuttle's arguments, which became apparent in the aforementioned radio interview. More specifically, we will scrutinize his assertion that advice given to migrants to speak English is not racist. The following transcript of a section of the interview provides insight into the general sense of Windschuttle's arguments:

Jana Wendt: I want to put the brakes on the discussion of the White Australia Policy for a moment, because I really want to get to that a little later on, but I just want to anchor us in today, in today's Australia, so, you paint a picture of us as a tolerant people. When we see outbreaks of racism, indisputably so, for instance recent attacks in Western Australia on Chinese restaurants, let's say, perpetrated by representatives, we gather, of extremist right wing groups, do you think that this kind of behaviour is on the fringe of our society, that it is simply not rooted in the mainstream?

Keith Widschuttle: Oh, very much so, and look, there's good evidence for that. The Department of Multicultural Affairs did a big research project in 2002, where they went looking for incidents of racism, they asked immigrants 'have you experienced racism?' and it's a big survey, not just a little, a small one which is unrepresentative, and they found that only 3 percent of people, mainly from Asia and the Middle East, had experienced any form of racism in Australia.

Jana Wendt: Three percent?

Keith Widschuttle: Three percent, which means that 97 percent had not.

Jana Wendt: Do you think that's realistic?

Keith Widschuttle: Well, that's the best evidence we have. And, I mean, I grew up in Belmore which was not a salubrious suburb, we had an aboriginal family at the top of our street, we had Chinese people around the corner, when I went to school there were Chinese boys in the class, I mean, some of them got on with the rest, if they were good at sport and the sort of things that boys appreciated, those who didn't, would not ... I mean, racism in my growing up was something that I never experienced . . .

Jana Wendt: Look, I remember back in the mid 1960s, and I am going to quote a personal story, only because I know, because I have heard from others

that it is representative of many other similar stories. I remember walking down the street with my father in suburban Melbourne, speaking in Czech, and being stopped and told not to speak that foreign lingo in this country. What is the basis, then, of that kind of remark, that sort of resentment, if not racism, do you think?

Keith Widschuttle: Well, obviously in your case it would not have been racism, it would have been, I guess, xenophobia, dislike of outsiders. All human communities have a dislike of outsiders. But the thing about Australia is that we've, as I said, always lived among newcomers, and merging newcomers into a community is never easy. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence of the kind that you say, but when you actually try to quantify it, and look at what's happened in Australia compared to other countries, I am talking comparatively, we have never had a racist political party, and the people who were doing the violence to the Chinese in Western Australia you talk about are pretty marginal people, they are not public figures, whereas most other countries, certainly in Europe, have had intellectual movements and political movements based upon keeping the country for the ethnic group that controls it, whereas Australia has always had what I call civic patriotism, that is, our loyalties have been to our democratic and liberal institutions rather than to an ethnic group.

(Wendt, 2004, my transcription)

The discussion then moves into academic definitions of racism, but later on, comes back to the issue of cultural intolerance:

Jana Wendt: But if you are a victim of something like this, if you are on the receiving end of abuse, for whatever reason, whether it is racist or because it is cultural intolerance, it doesn't make much difference to you what the reason is if you are the victim, does it?

Keith Widschuttle: Um, obviously not, no. But the story about Australia is that those incidents have been relatively low level, the anecdotes tend to get played up more than they are worth and my reading of the history of race relations in this country compared to almost every other country on earth that have had a large scale immigration programme, we have probably done the best of them.

(Wendt, 2004, my transcription)

In this article, I address the issue of advice given to immigrant parents to speak English only with their children in Australia, and attempt to identify any connection with race perceptions. Initially, I briefly review the Australian political context, and the political circumstances that encourage positions such as Windshuttle's. I then briefly review the history of the Spanish-speaking community in Australia, and consider some data that quantifies advice to speak English in a survey of this community. Finally, I analyse the data to show that there is indeed a connection between advice to speak English and racist attitudes.


The federation of Australia in 1901 is also linked to the subsequent migration policy of Australia, as one of the principal factors for federation was the demand for a white Australia in the last two decades of the 19th century (Encel, 1974: 32-4; Lowenstein and Loh, 1977: 4-6; Markey, 1982: 118-22; McQueen, 1986). Among the first legislative acts of the federal parliament of Australia was the Immigration Restriction Act, better known as the 'White Australia Policy' (Clark, 1987: 196-8). Until the mid 1960s, migrants to Australia not only had to be of the right appearance to enter the country, they were also required to assimilate quickly, and there was, in general, a paternalistic view of the migrant (Wilton and Bosworth, 1984: 85).

One of the most noticeable and consequently targeted signs of 'foreign-ness' was language. Teachers and members of the Good Neighbour Council (an organization funded in the late 1940s by the Department of Immigration to help migrants assimilate) advised migrant parents to speak English only with their children, regardless of the migrants' proficiency in the language. Throughout the 1950s, migrant students were consciously allocated to mixed classes to avoid the peril of using a foreign language amongst themselves. The assimilation of the children was a crucial test for the immigration programme. In other areas, public animosity forbade communication in foreign languages within public places. The foreign language press had to send copies of their publications to security agencies and to the Department of Immigration, because they were perceived to be maintaining unassimilable migrant enclaves (Ozolins, 1993: 36-78). Furthermore, interpreting and translation services were almost nonexistent, and communication in English often depended on migrants' children or relatives. Television was an exclusively English medium, and laws dating from the First World War precluded more than 2.5 percent of transmission time in foreign languages and all announcements had to be repeated in English (Clyne, 1991: 15-18; Ozolins, 1993: 36-78).

This environment provoked a lot of insecurity within the established immigrant communities, as witnessed by the text found in a card handed by the Australian Jewish Welfare Society to Jewish migrants when they disembarked in Melbourne in the late 1940s:

Above all, do not speak German in the streets and the trams. Modulate your voices. Do not make yourself conspicuous anywhere by walking with a group of persons, all of whom are loudly speaking a foreign language. Remember that the welfare of the old-established Jewish communities in Australia, as well as of every migrant, depends on your personal behaviour. Jews collectively are judged by individuals. You, personally have a very grave responsibility. (Cited in Elazar and Medding, 1983: 282-3)

Some of the migrant communities reacted with anger towards expressions of antagonism when they were required to stop speaking their language in public. In the 21 January 1954 editorial of the Italian language newspaper Corriere d'Australia, we found the following revendication of a migrant's (new Australian's) right to speak their language in public:

Too often we hear with contemptuous distaste and resentful dislike of flabbergasted new Australians rudely assailed and viciously offended and rebuked by untutored inhabitants of our crude suburbia, who in their coarse, Snake Gully's mentality, resent with ferocious intolerance their speaking in a foreign language (cited in Ozolins, 1993: 59).

But in another edition of the same newspaper the editorial urges migrants to avoid using Italian so loudly as to provoke clashes with Anglo-Australians (Ozolins, 1993: 59).

Between the mid-1960s and early 1970s, the fortress created by the White Australia Policy began, slowly, to crumble. By this time, there was mounting pressure from migrant groups, which had grown both in numbers and in organization, for a change of policy in the recognition of their qualifications, language rights and other needs, as well as for a change in their treatment by Australian authorities and Australians in general. The response of the Australian authorities in the mid-1960s was a relaxation of the strong assimilationist stance, which ideally required the Australian government and the Anglo-Australian people to ease the pressure on migrants to conform to the British model of society. Migrants could therefore make a contribution to Australian society without abandoning their cultures. A Committee on Overseas Professional Qualifications was established. The Department of Immigration began a grants-in-aid programme to facilitate the employment of bilingual community welfare workers in community agencies. The then 15 year period of residence for non-European migrants to be eligible for citizenship was reduced to five years. Adult English as a Second Language (ESL) classes recognizing the needs of migrants arriving with different levels of English were implemented. Migrant organizations were being recognized as legitimate interlocutors for government bodies for the first time. The ideological changes of this period, however, should also be seen in the light of the changing patterns of Australia's industrialization, which, at this stage of structural change, called for more skilled migrants. This led to relaxation of the White Australian Policy in practice, under the perception that Australia had become less attractive to European migrants because of changes in the world migration market, which flowed from European reconstruction and the end of McCarthyism in the USA (Bullivant, 1984: 54-57; Fagan et al., 1981: 38; Ozolins, 1993: 79-108). The education system, however, apart from the introduction of sporadic ESL classes for migrant children, and some rhetorical and cosmetic changes, did not make many concessions in response to the needs of migrant children,

where it was expected that children would absorb English and 'fit in'. This ignored obvious needs in relation to literacy and adjusting to a new educational system. A similar attitude could be found in areas such as health, welfare and access to union representation in the workplace. Australian institutions, in contrast with governments, did not embrace the integration rhetoric. They continued to define migrants as a social problem and responses to the migrant presence were conceived of as short-term adjustments to a passing need, to be resolved via the assimilation of migrants (Martin, 1978).

The ideological rhetoric was changed into an official policy of multi-culturalism in the mid 1970s. Multicultural Australia was adopted officially on the recommendation of the Review of Post-Arrival Programs and Services to Migrants, commonly known as the Galbally Report (Galbally, 1978). The report maintained that policy should favour social coherence against ethnic conflict, stressed the value of ethnic identity that did not compromise the democratic identity of the society or was not prevalent at the expense of society at large, and tried to establish policies to overcome the disadvantage of those who arrived in Australia without an adequate knowledge of English, mainly through funding of ESL classes for children and expanding the Adult Migrant Education Program to include more sophisticated English courses for new arrivals. The report also recommended the extension of ethnic radio and the introduction of multicultural television, facilities for civil servants to learn or improve foreign language competence, printing of social welfare information in languages other than English, the expansion of the Telephone Interpreter Service and the establishment of an additional Health Interpreter Service, the provision of financial aid for ethnic self-help schemes, and the establishment of an Australian Institute of Multicultural Affairs to engage in research and policy, and to give expert advice to the government.

Multiculturalism, as conceived by the Galbally report, was later both accommodated and attacked by all ideologies, but its more tangible and immediate achievements were undoubtedly the creation of a new ethnic-oriented bureaucracy. Ethnic Community Councils and migrant-based self-help schemes were given funds, including ethnic schools and other ethnic-oriented Saturday schools. In state schools, however, the allocation of resources and the implementation of initiatives depended on the particular situation of each school, in terms of the proportion of non-English speaking background children and of the attitudes of school principals, as at the state level there was a consolidation of the decentralized decision-making system initiated in the 1960s. This gave each school flexibility in the implementation of curriculum and policies, and significant latitude for school principals to decide on the provision of subjects in their schools, and, consequently, did not always result in the implementation of the policies (Bullivant, 1984: 57-71; Clyne, 1991: 213-16; Ozolins, 1993: 150-205; Singh,

2001). In the multicultural rhetoric, migrants (as well as their languages and cultures) were officially recognized as having a place in Australian society. Even the most assimilationist and anti-foreign politicians had to acknowledge migrant issues. Furthermore, verbal attacks on migrants, which were politically profitable only a few years before, became a political liability (Bullivant 1984: 54-57; Fagan et al., 1981: 38; Martin, 1978; Ozolins, 1993: 79-108).

In 1976,Vietnamese 'boat people', that is, people who sailed in precarious ships to Australia, arrived in Darwin escaping the fall of Saigon to the communist forces of North Vietnam, initiating a series of reconsiderations of immigration laws regarding refugees. Refugees were built into the migration programme, up to 22 percent of the total settler intake, mainly because of pressure from other countries who received boat people, such as Malaysia and Indonesia. These countries threatened to refuel and resupply all boats and send them on to Australia's north coast if Australia refused to share the intake of refugees from a war in which Australians were involved by helping the American forces. This initiated the migration of Asians to Australia in significant numbers that became noticeable in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In 1981, a Special Humanitarian Program was established for the entry of refugees, but later there was a progressive shift favouring family migration, that is, migration of people who had relatives in Australia, and later, skilled migration.

The late 1970s were also the years in which the push for a national policy on languages began to be coordinated. Language teachers, linguists, Aboriginal, ethnic and deaf groups submitted to the Prime Minister a request for the need of a coordinated national policy (Lo Bianco, 1990; Ozolins, 1993: 223-5). This resulted in a senate enquiry in 1982. The enquiry reflected long-standing issues in Australia's ideology about language. The committee's initial clarification was that such a policy 'would not devaluate English as Australia's national language' and 'would not benefit only segments of the community' (Ozolins, 1993: 219; Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts, 1984). After a period of consultation and subsequent stagnation, the Labour government Minister for Education, who was given the task of drafting implementation strategies, appointed Joseph Lo Bianco, an applied linguist and instigator of the state of Victoria's language policy, as a consultant. Lo Bianco redrafted the report supporting the goals of the senate enquiry, but including a stronger emphasis on education and maintenance issues, and with a series of more specific recommendations for policy, including budgetary issues.

The report had as its title National Policy on Languages (Lo Bianco, 1987) and had four principles: (a) English for all (stressing English as a Second Language rights for migrants and especially migrant children); (b) support for the maintenance and revival of Aboriginal languages; (c) a

language other than English for all; and (d) equitable and widespread language services. The National Policy on Languages represented the peak of the recognition of linguistic rights of minorities in Australia, and was a rare moment in which pluralistic democratic movements met a government elite willing to put into effect significant changes on the migrant policy front, and both attempted to re-imagine the nation state to accommodate Australia's cultural and linguistic diversity (Lo Bianco, 2001; May, 2001: 307-16). Soon, an Office of Multicultural Affairs was also set up as part of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, to mediate between the government and the ethnic communities. This consultative organism bolstered the power of the already powerful ethnic bureaucracy created by the Galbally report, discussed above (Jupp, 1984; Lo Bianco, 1990; Zappala, 1997:157-76, Zappala, 2001).

The increase in Asian migration, a reflection of refugee programmes and the implementation of the non-restrictive migrant policies of the 1970s, soon created uneasiness in the Anglo-Australian population. As a result, there were numerous debates on multiculturalism and the immigration programme. Jupp (1997a) estimates that these issues were aired in the popular press roughly every six months throughout the 1980s. Hage (1998) interprets these debates in anthropological terms as 'rituals of White empowerment - seasonal festivals where White Australians renew their belief in their possession of the power to talk and make decisions about Third World-looking Australians' (Hage, 1998: 241). The two most important of these immigration debates were initiated by Professor Blainey in 1984 and by John Howard in 1988. Blainey, a historian from the University of Melbourne, openly attacked the immigration policy, which he perceived as bringing too many Asian migrants to Australia. In his view, the country could not 'digest' these migrants without the creation of social tensions. Therefore, even with parliamentary support, such an immigration policy could not succeed when millions of Australians did not support it (Blainey, 1984: 164-70). He also criticized multiculturalism for emphasizing the rights of ethnic minorities at the expense of the majority of Australians, and for imposing tolerance on this majority through a variety of new laws (Blainey, 1984: 170-1).

Blainey's denial of pluralism and the legitimacy of different identities for Australians was accompanied by an emphasis on national unity (Markus, 2001: 49-81). In 1988, John Howard, the then leader of the Conservative opposition, began talking about 'One Australia', and calling for an increase in the skilled migrant component as opposed to immigration on the basis of family reunion. The controversy in the media, however, started when Howard voiced criticisms of multiculturalism, and expressed the view that Asian migration should be restricted. Blainey and Howard were severely criticized in the media, and perceived such criticism as 'censorship' (Betts, 1999: 277-300; Markus, 2001: 82-112).

The early 1990s saw the advent of dry economic rationalist approaches to government, and, even when the rhetorical support for the idea of Australia as a multiethnic, multicultural society, was maintained, language policy became much more restricted, and stressed some aspects of cultural differences as an advantage that could lead to economic returns, such as using language resources to promote exports (Clyne, 1998: 22-28; Lo Bianco, 2003: 23-25; Ozolins, 1993: 256).

Just four years after its release, the National Policy on Languages was transformed in 1991 into Australia's Language - the Australian Language and Literacy Policy, where the emphasis shifted to literacy in English, especially literacy oriented for labour market access (Department of Employment, Education and Training, 1991). The Minister of Employment, Education, and Training took particular issue with the goal that all Australians should learn a language other than English, which he considered unnecessary, and downgraded significantly the ambitions of the policy. The policy also distanced migrant communities from policy decision making and removed the emphasis on language services. Following a government report that examined the needs of languages for commerce (the so-called Ingram report), commercially relevant Asian languages were prioritized over migrant languages in the implementation of the new policy (Ingram et al., 1990). There was a strong community reaction against this narrowing down of the language policy, but the minister did little to dispel criticism. When questioned whether the change in the policy name from 'languages' to 'language' was espousing a monolingual future for Australia, the minister even expressed the view that Australia was in essence a monolingual society (Brock 2001; Lo Bianco, 1990,2001; Moore, 2001).

This signalled the beginning of a retreat from a commitment to pluralism that was only exacerbated in the 1990s and the early years of the 21st century. In part, this was caused by the increasing dependency of the newly created ethnic bureaucracy on government funds to survive. The co-option of such bureaucracy by conservative middle-class, Anglo-friendly spokespersons for the communities reduced, in the politician's view, the threat of the most militant 'ethnic vote'. The transition of multiculturalism from a policy to ameliorate migrant disadvantage and further cultural democracy into a 'spaghetti and polka' superficial celebration of cultural relativism was already completed (Cope et al., 1997; Kalantzis et al., 1990: 21-2). In the minds of the Australian public, however, the significant increase in the teaching of languages in public schools, which included compulsory learning of (mainly Asian) languages in primary school, coupled with official statements of integration with Asia, furthered their concerns about language policy (Jupp, 1995; Lo Bianco, 2001,2003; Martin, 2005: 62-70).

The media celebrations of the achievements of multiculturalism and tolerance, very common until the mid 1990s (e.g. Bowen, 1977; Grassby,

1974; Lowenstein and Loh, 1977; Phillips and Houston, 1994; Rado, 1991) turned in the late 1990s into gloomy predictions that there was a 'retreat from tolerance' in Australia (Adams, 1997). The press stopped condemning people such as Blainey and Howard, and the perception was that there had been a resurgence of racism (Hollinsworth, 1998: Chapter 9; Suvendrini and Pugliese, 1997). The most prominent cause for this gloomy vision was the advent of the One Nation Party, a populist movement led by Pauline Hanson, a Queensland Member of Parliament who wanted to put an end to the policy of multiculturalism, freeze immigration, reduce the proportion of Asians in Australia, end any special treatment for Aboriginal people, implement restrictions on foreign ownership and return to trade protectionism (Jackman, 1998; Jayasuriya, 1998; Jupp, 1997a, 1997b; Rose, 1997). After her first speech as a newly elected member of parliament, there was a significant increase in cases of racial harassment (Chow, 1996) and an increase in the voicing of racist attitudes on talk-back radio (Adams and Burton, 1997). One of the main themes in Hanson's populism is the belief that mainstream (that is, Anglo-Australian) Australia had been betrayed by politicians, the media and a new class elite who favoured migrants and Aboriginal peoples (Hanson, 1997; 100-6). In its first electoral test in Queensland in June, 1998, Hanson's One Nation party picked up 23 percent of the vote, winning 11 seats in the state parliament. In the federal election that same year, Hanson lost her parliamentary seat, and subsequently her movement imploded as a consequence of factionalism. The legacy of her opening of the Pandora's Box of racism, however, is still present in Australian politics.

At the same time that Hanson entered the political arena, a National-Coalition Conservative government, led by the same John Howard who expressed the need to scale back Asian immigration in 1988, took office. Howard not only refused to censor Hanson, but welcomed a new era of 'free speech'. He also asserted that the Australian government would no longer be dictated to by minority groups or political correctness, the latter meaning the censorship of discussions on 'difficult' topics, such as the supposedly high level of Asian immigration to the country (Kalantzis and Cope, 1997: 58-63). Other subtle and not-so-subtle messages included nominating four publicly identified critics of multiculturalism or mass immigration (including Professor Blainey) to significant advisory positions in his government, and dismantling the Office for Multicultural Affairs in the Cabinet and the Bureau of Immigration and Multicultural Research, stopping the provision of bilingual Aboriginal education and focusing language policy exclusively on literacy in English. This prompted a tide of discussions on these topics in the popular media, where it was interpreted that the orthodoxy had changed, and that it was now possible to attack multiculturalism, migrants and foreign language learning. A key feature of all these changes was the so-called 'revenge of the mainstream', a reaction against allegedly

privileged sections of Australian society such as Aboriginal peoples, Asian immigrants, academics, university-educated professionals and other purveyors and beneficiaries of 'political correctness' (Hill, 1998). It is in this context of 'free speech' that Windschuttle carried out his campaign to rewrite Australian history to get Anglo-Celtic Australians morally off the back foot and revendicate Australia's assimilationist policies.

Before looking at the survey data that forms the basis of this article, we need to briefly review the history of the Spanish-speaking community in Australia.


The Spanish-speaking community in Australia is relatively small compared with other migrant communities, but it is very diverse. According to the 2001 census, there were 93,593 people who reported speaking Spanish at home, of which 20,682, or 22 percent, were born in Australia (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1991a). Regarding the origin of Spanish-speaking migrants, there are five countries with around 10,000 nationals living in Australia: Spain, countries of the South American 'Southern Cone' (Chile, Argentina and Uruguay) and El Salvador. The relative size of these national communities, and their demographic evolution in the period 1971-1996 can be seen in Table 1. The 'Other' category in Table 1 is itself composed of several national communities. Those which had more than 1,000 members in 2001 are shown in Table 2. To understand the evolution of these national communities, a brief review of their history in Australia is necessary.

The first national community to arrive in Australia was that of the Spaniards, most of whom came under a migration agreement signed in 1958 between Australia and Spain. This was one of the last migration schemes signed by the Australian Government with a European country after the Second World War.1 Some of the migrants came under an assisted passage scheme up until 1962, when the agreement was interrupted by the Franco dictatorship in Spain. The agreement was re-established in 1968, but the flow of migrants was less dramatic than in the first stage. By 1966, there were 11,000 Spanish-born people in Australia, and there were almost 15,000 by 1971. Since then, the arrival of Spaniards has diminished substantially and was almost non-existent in the late 1980s, when Spain joined the European Economic Community (Cortes, 1988; Garcia, 1998: 22-3; Garcia and Palomo, 1986: 50-2; Grassby, 1983: 50-4; Morales, 1994).

After the Second World War, several circumstances kept migration from South America low. Apart from the White Australia Policy, which classified people from Latin America in the same category as Southern Europeans,

Table 1 Demographic evolution (1971-96) of the main Spanish-speaking countries

1971 1976 1981 1986 1991 1996 2001

Chile 3,691 9,919 13,963 18,733 24 ,154 23 ,820 23 ,420

Argentina 1,757 5,294 8,138 9,198 10 663 10 ,775 10 ,763

Uruguay 1,880 7,769 9,278 9,593 9 ,690 9 ,715 9 ,475

Spain 14,629 15,357 15,127 16,278 14 785 13 ,589 12 ,662

El Salvador n/a n/a n/a 2,103 8 830 9 ,865 9 ,696

Other 3,373 8,188 10,130 9,235 12 944 15 ,161 18 ,727

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, various Australian Censuses.

or as mixed races or non-Europeans, and consequently excluded them, additional factors made migration difficult. These factors included the high cost of travel between Australia and South America, and also the cost of travel to the very few Australian missions in South America, where South American migrants needed to go to satisfy the requirement of an interview with Australian officials before a visa could be granted. Most people arriving from South America in the 1945-67 period were British subjects (Anderson, 1979: 55-67).

There were, however, some non-British potential migrants in which Australia was interested. These were northern European refugees who had been relocated to South America - mainly in Argentina, Brazil and Chile -by the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration. This was the same institution through which most of the assisted passage schemes for European migration to Australia were arranged. In addition, these three countries (as well as Uruguay) had important northern European migrant communities, who had migrated to these countries from the 1860s. As Australia did not want to be accused of disrupting migration to Latin America, they imposed the condition that any northern European wanting to migrate to Australia from Latin America should be assisted to do so only after five years of residence in Latin America. The Special Passage Assistance Program was established in 1967 to bring in the more skilled workers and tradespersons needed at the time by Australian industries. The assisted passage was made available to South Americans, but was restricted to British Europeans in Central America and Mexico, as there was concern over the predominance of mixed races in this region. In 1968, Australia's first immigration officer to South America took office in the Australian Embassy in Buenos Aires to develop a flow of migrants from Argentina,

Uruguay and Chile. The Australian Trade Mission in Peru also began conducting interviews with potential applicants (Anderson, 1979: 68-75; Valverde, 1994: 93; Vernant, 1953: 595; Wolf and Patriarca, 1991).

In the mid 1980s, under the Refugee and Special Humanitarian Program, Salvadoreans (and also Nicaraguans and some Guatemalans) began to arrive in Australia in large numbers. The influx began in 1983 when the government of El Salvador asked the Australian government to resettle ex-political prisoners who had been given permission to leave the country under amnesty. There was at the time a civil war in El Salvador. Subsequently, the number of Salvadoreans in Australia grew considerably, as shown in Table 1. Salvadoreans are the only Spanish-speaking national community that came predominantly as refugees. They represent 60 percent of the Spanish-speaking population that came as refugees between 1982 and 1992. The other countries from which an important number of refugees came during these years are Chile (28 percent of Spanish speakers arrived as refugees between 1982 and 1992) and Nicaragua (6%). In numerical terms, Salvadoreans are today the fifth most numerous Spanish-speaking national group in Australia. However, the end of the civil war in 1994 resulted in some people returning to El Salvador. It also considerably reduced the arrival of Salvadoreans into Australia, with migration from El Salvador decreasing sharply from the intake level in 1991-92 (Adler, 1988d; Valverde, 1994: 91; Kipp et al., 1995: 23).

Table 2 shows that the number of migrants from Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico began to grow in the mid-to-late 1980s. As indicated previously, migration from these countries was restricted by the White Australia Policy, as Australian officials were very concerned with the 'mix of races' found in these countries. In reality, what concerned them was the fact that a substantial part of the population was of mestizo descent, that is, of Spanish and American Indian origin. There were also potential diplomatic problems that Australia wanted to avoid. The Australian ambassador

Table 2 Demographic evolution (1976-96) of the other Spanish-speaking nations

1976 1981 1986 1991 1996 2001

Peru 1,314 1,813 2,323 3,813 4,875 5,510

Colombia 1,060 1,289 1,687 2,269 2,670 4,329

Ecuador 878 906 1,006 1,103 1,242 1,325

Mexico 401 454 678 836 883 1,154

Venezuela 334 418 456 474 791 1,109

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, various Australian Censuses.

to Mexico advised the Department of Immigration that Australia could not limit its recruitment to potential migrants of European descent (as it was doing in South America in the late 1960s and early 1970s), without exciting Mexican protest (Adler 1988a; Adler 1988b; Adler 1988c; Birrell and Birrell, 1981: 69; The Bulletin, 1976).

After the White Australia policy was officially dismantled, migrants from all countries were allowed to apply on the same basis as independent migrants. This allowed migrants from all the Spanish-speaking countries to come to Australia, increasing the diversity of the community. The emphasis on family reunion migration during the 1980s and early 1990s, however, did not result in large national communities of the previously excluded countries. Family reunion facilitated the growth of the already established national communities, such as Argentineans, Chileans and Uruguayans. Other communities grew substantially only when there were special circumstances, as in the case of Salvadoreans. Moreover, refinements to the migrant application point system considerably shaped the type of migrants who were allowed to enter Australia if they did not enter as refugees or on family grounds. The requirements were for highly skilled professionals with a good knowledge of English (Brooks and Williams, 1995). This is the case for most Venezuelans (shown in Table 2). In the 1990s, there was an increase in the number of Venezuelans following the sharp deterioration of the Venezuelan economy. As there were very few Venezuelans in Australia before the 1990s who could claim relatives for family reunion migration, most of these arrivals were highly skilled migrants, as were most of the Spanish-speaking migrants who arrived since the mid 1990s as independent migrants.

Unlike the Spanish-speaking population in the USA, which because of their numerical prominence are the main target of the US English and English Only movements (Baron, 1990; Crawford, 2000; Hill, 2001; Schmid, 2001: 75-100), Spanish speakers in Australia have a relatively low profile among the many ethnic communities that reside in Australia. Like the Hispanics in the USA, however, Spanish speakers in Australia are militant about their language rights and they, in general, are language maintainers; that is, they transmit Spanish to their children (Martin, 1999; Santoro, 1999; Valdes, 2001). Members of the Spanish-speaking community in Australia were able to challenge in the courts their employers' imposition of English at work on two occasions. The first of such challenges was initiated in 1995 by 17 Spanish-speaking workers (most of them Salvadorean) of the firm Steel Line Doors in Brisbane who were being discriminated against. There was a range of mistreatments that included the imposition of English usage among themselves whilst on the firm's premises. After almost a year of legal battles, the workers were compensated and the court made the company's CEO publicly recognize that he was wrong in discriminating against them (Pantoja, 1995a; Pantoja, 1995b).

The second challenge was specifically directed against the imposition of English at work. In Sydney, a Chilean-born police officer was ordered to stop using Spanish by his shift supervisor during a private conversation with another Spanish-speaking officer on the grounds that the officer and his interlocutor were in Australia, and they should use English. The Chilean officer brought the police service to court and was compensated. On this occasion, the tribunal warned employers that it is totally acceptable for two workers to have a private conversation in a language other than English (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 1999).


Advice to speak English only represents one manifestation of attitudes favouring language shift to English or opposition to the use of languages other than English in Australia. It does not account for other forms of imposing or favouring the use of English that are never verbalized, or do not need to be verbalized. In order to understand this phenomenon, I will interpret the results of an Australia-wide survey of the Spanish-speaking community distributed in 1994-95. The data analysed here provide a snapshot of the sociopolitical environment before the move into Conservative politics in 1996 and the arrival of Hansonism in the same year (see earlier). This is important, as it was a time in which multiculturalism was still respected as official policy in the country and, theoretically, this was the time when official support for the policy, and for the maintenance of languages other than English, was still strong. Consequently, the results are not 'contaminated' either by the resurgence of racist attitudes voiced in the media or by the move to the right that the country has experienced since the conservative government of John Howard took office.

The survey had 483 responses, of which 436 will be considered.2 The questions that will be analysed in this article were originally included in the questionnaire to gauge the influence of the Anglo-Australian majority on the process of language maintenance of Spanish and/or shift to English or other languages by people born in Spanish-speaking countries.The wording of the main question was: 'Have you ever been advised to speak English only with your children?' There were also questions about the number of times a person was advised, the identity and nationality of the adviser(s), and the year(s) when the advice(s) took place. As part of the data collection there were also interviews in which information about advice to speak English was asked, and participant observation data gathered in 1993-95. Some of the analyses below benefited greatly from these qualitative sources of data, but cannot be presented here for reasons of space.

Table 3 shows the distribution of answers for the questions on advice to speak English only. As can be seen in the upper half of the table, less than a quarter of the sample answered 'yes' to these questions. Also, there is a high number of instances of 'no response' for both questions, which has to be accounted for. One possible explanation is that the questions are not relevant for some of the informants. We have a confirmation of this when we consider only informants who have children, shown on the lower half side of the Table 3. It can be seen that only a very small percentage of informants who have children do not answer this question. The right-hand side of Table 3 also shows that the percentage of people who report that they have received such advice rises to 30 percent when we consider only informants who have children. These figures by themselves contrast with Windschuttle's account that the experience of Jana Wendt of receiving advice to speak English was an exception or a low-level phenomenon, especially taking into consideration that the community in which this happened was the Spanish-speaking community, and not an Asian or Middle Eastern community. A closer look at the survey cited by Windschuttle, however, reveals that these results are not exceptional, and that Windschuttle is highly selective when citing statistics. Even when only 3 percent of respondents to the study chose to nominate that one of the things they disliked about Australia was that people were racist (Richardson et al., 2002: 18), about 46 percent of them perceived that there was 'some' or 'a lot' of racial discrimination in the country, and 24 percent perceived that there was 'little' tolerance of racial, cultural or national differences in Australia (Lester, 2005: 15; Richardson et al., 2004: 82).

Table 3 Answers to the questions on advice to speak English only




All respondents considered

No 229

No response 107

Yes 100

Total 436

52.5 24.5 22.9 100.00

Only informants who have

children considered

No 207

No response 17

Yes 96

Total 320

64.7 5.3 30.0 100.0

To further understand the phenomenon of advice to speak English, we must also consider who the adviser was, their ethnicity and in which year the advice was given. This information is provided in Figure 1. We can see that most of the advice was given in 1983-94, that the most frequent advisers were children's teachers, and that most of the advisers were Anglo-Australians.

We need an explanation regarding the predominance of 1983-94 as the period in which this advice was given to informants. These are precisely the years in which there was a state-administered policy of multiculturalism in Australia. With regard to the identity of the advisers, we have already mentioned that most of them were teachers. The category of teachers was subdivided into two categories: children's teachers (most of whom were primary school teachers), and migrants' English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) teachers, including teachers in the 'On Arrival' English classes for recent migrants organized by the Australian government. Other advisers included friends, relatives and workmates, and a category labelled 'other', which includes student counsellors, child carers, psychologists, speech therapists, paediatricians and medical doctors in general, nurses, parents of children's classmates, English class classmates, neighbours, Social Security officers, bosses, Commonwealth Employment Service counsellors, officers of the Australian Embassies overseas, judges in the Family Court, ex-spouses, and unclassified answers such as 'acquaintances', 'everybody', 'the ignorants', 'several people', 'over-adapted migrants', 'chauvinists' and 'all Australians'.

Regarding the ethnicity of the advisers, we have already seen that most of the advisers were Anglo-Australians, including four people described as 'British'. However, approximately 25 percent of the advice came from Spanish speakers and other migrants.

The distribution of the identity and ethnicity of the adviser is far from being randomly distributed, as can be seen in Figure 2(a). The majority of the teachers were Anglo-Australians and the majority of the friends were Spanish speakers. The rest of the advisers show different proportions of Anglo-Australians, Spanish speakers and people from other ethnic groups. There is a predominance of Anglo-Australians in all of the remaining categories, but we find that some 25 percent of relatives favouring a shift to English were Spanish speakers and 12 percent were from other ethnic groups, which amounts to 42 percent of relatives who favour a shift to English being migrants. Regarding workmates favouring a shift to English, some 40 percent of them were migrants, most of whom were from other ethnic groups.

Another dimension that affects attitudes favouring a shift towards English is shown by the year in which such advice was given. Figures 2(b) and 2(c) show that most of the advice was concentrated in the 1980s and 1990s, as was seen in the analysis of Figure 1. However, there is a difference

(a) Year in which the advice was given

Before 1976

1991-1994 39%

1977-1982 13%

1983-1990 35%

(b) Identity of the adviser




Children's teacher 36%

Teacher of English 11%

(c) Ethnicity of the adviser

Other ethnicity

Spanish-speaking 21%

Anglo-Australian (includes 'British') 74%

Figure 1 Year in which advice to speak English only with children was given, ethnicity and identity of the adviser

(a) Identity of the adviser by ethnicity of the adviser

100% 80% 60% 40% 20% 0%

Children's Teacher of teacher English


Relative Workmate Other

□ Anglo-Australian

□ Other ethnic

■ Spanish speaking

(b) Identity of the adviser by year advised

Children's Teacher of Friend teacher English

Relative Workmate

■ 1991-1994

□ 1893-1990

□ 1976-1982

□ Before 1976

(c) Year advised by ethnicity of the adviser

50 40 30 20 10 0

Before 1976




□ Anglo-Australian

□ Other ethnic

■ Spanish speaking

Figure 2 Identity of the adviser to speak English only with children by ethnicity and by year in which the advice was given

in the spread of the frequency of advice given in different decades. It can be seen in Figure 2(c) that whereas advice coming from Anglo-Australians and people from other ethnic groups is distributed throughout all the years since 1965, advice coming from the Spanish-speaking community is concentrated in the 1980s and 1990s.

Regarding the identity of the advisers, we can see in Figure 2(b) that advice coming from teachers and workmates is distributed throughout all the years since the 1960s (but is more frequent after 1982), advice from friends is concentrated in the 1980s and 1990s and that advice coming from teachers of English is concentrated in the late 1980s and 1990s. Given that there has been a migration of Spanish speakers to Australia since the 1950s, and that the implementation of ESL classes on arrival for migrants has been a feature of the Australian immigration programme since its significant growth in the mid 1940s (Moore, 2001), this concentration of advice on the part of the Spanish-speaking community and of teachers of English in the late 1980s and early 1990s requires an explanation. This will be considered in the following section.

Another important characteristic of the data being considered is that 25 percent of people who report that they have been advised to speak English only report two or more cases of such advice. This suggests that there will be a particular category of people who will be more likely to be advised than others.

Before exploring the social characteristics of those who received the advice, we must consider another obvious question. Maybe those people were advised because the level of English of their children was particularly low. Figure 3 shows how the command of Spanish and English of the informants' children varies in relation to the answers they gave to the question regarding advice to speak English only. We can see that the variation in the level of English for the children of those who reported that

6 = Excellent 0 = Very poor 6 t------—---------r

□ □

Average level of Spanish

Average level of English

No response

Figure 3 Advice to speak English only with children by children's average level of Spanish and English

they were advised and those who reported that they were not advised is almost identical, apart from a small difference in the lower extreme of the boxplot. The situation for the level of Spanish competency is very similar. There appears to be little difference between those who answered 'yes' and those who answered 'no' to the question on advice. This suggests that advice is not related to a significant difference in the children's level of English or Spanish. This is confirmed by an independent t-test, where there is no significant difference between those who were advised and those who were not, either in the children's average level of Spanish (t = -0.44, p = 0.66) or in their average level of English (t = -0.48, p = 0.63). We should bear in mind, however, that we are looking at the level of Spanish and English from the point of view of the time when the survey was distributed. It is possible that there was some difference between the groups regarding the children's level of Spanish or English competency at the time the advice was given. We have, however, no means of knowing if this was so. We can conclude, nevertheless, that such advice does not appear to have a direct influence on language maintenance of Spanish or on the child's level of English at the time of the survey, at least when we consider our sample as a whole with statistical tools. We can then return to the question we posed before: what are the social characteristics of informants and their children that can 'trigger' such advice, and what are the characteristics that do not?


In this section, I try to provide a social analysis of why advice was given to parents to speak English with their children. The analysis tries to explain the social characteristics of migrants that made advice more probable.

I will begin by looking at the children's characteristics and other social characteristics of the family, which directly impinge on how the children are perceived and classified in a school setting or other institutional settings. Figure 4 shows the projection of several children's characteristics on the space of triangular coordinates defined by the proportion of 'no responses', and of 'yes' and 'no' answers to the question on advice to speak English only with children. The variables considered are the ethnicity of parents, the country of birth of the informant's first child, the number of children in the family, the age of the first child when the family arrived in Australia, and the amount of Spanish used with parents.

We can see, in general, that most of the characteristics are placed on the right-hand side of the triangle, signalling that most of the selected characteristics will be described by their proportion of 'yes' and 'no' answers. The most salient exception to this pattern is the placement of those informants who do not have children. They are placed in the lower left angle, as they

are characterized by a lack of answers to the question on advice to speak English. We saw that this was the case earlier, in the analysis of Table 3.

Children's language normally used with parents clearly affected the likelihood of receiving advice, as expected. Parents who use Spanish predominantly with children are more likely to be advised than parents who use both languages (coded as 'bilingual'), and the latter are more likely to be advised than those who use predominantly English.

Cultural distance or perceived cultural distance seems to affect the likelihood of receiving or not receiving advice, depending on the ethnicity of the children's parents. When one of the parents is Anglo-Australian, the likelihood of being advised is much lower than in cases where the non-Spanish-speaking parent is of another ethnicity (that is, from other, non-Spanish-speaking migrant groups), which in turn is lower than in cases where both parents are Spanish speaking (coded as 'Hispanic' in Figure 4).

Another characteristic of the family that plays a role in determining the probability of receiving advice to speak English is the number of children. Families with one child are less likely to be advised than families with two children, who in turn, are less likely to be advised than families with three or more children. This could be simply an effect of statistical probability, as more children implies a higher probability of being advised because the parents will be in contact with more teachers and other people. However, it can also be because of another characteristic in the data: parents of larger

80% 60% 40% 20% .rrtmi»«!,.,

No response

Figure 4 Profile space:The space of children's characterisitics

families use more Spanish with children than parents of families composed of one or two children (Martín, 1996: 152). In addition, large families are rarer than families composed of one or two children in contemporary Australia, and are more common in migrant families than in families composed of Australian born couples (Australian Bureau of Statistics 1991b; 55). This would suggest that cultural distance (or perceived cultural distance by the adviser) is playing a role in the triggering of the advice.

The age of first child when the family arrived in Australia allows us to see the interplay of several social variables previously considered in another light. I first consider cases in which children are the offspring of parents who have arrived in Australia aged 12 or less, or who themselves were born in Australia. They are placed in the lower right angle of the triangle in Figure 4, that is, 100 percent of them answered 'no' to the question on advice to speak English. This can also be attributed to perceived cultural distance. Parents will be likely to sound Australian when they speak English or behave as Australians. Children will be less likely to speak to them in Spanish, and more likely to have had a great exposure to English.

The percentage of advice is also very low when the first child was aged more than 17 years when the family arrived in Australia. We also see some 18 percent of 'no responses' in this last case, suggesting that the question is felt to be irrelevant. In relation to age of arrival with respect to the remainder of the group, we see an interesting inversion in the progression of the ages. Families in which the first child was very young (less than two years old) when they arrived in Australia show the greatest percentage of advice received. This is followed by families whose first child was of primary school or high school age when they arrived. Then, at the lower level of advice received, we find families whose first child was aged between two and six when they arrived. The relatively high percentage of cases of children who arrived at school age is clear and expected from our previous discussion on advice given by teachers. To understand the pattern of the other two age groups, it is important to realize that if a child is of a very young age when he or she arrives in Australia, then the language he or she will speak is a very important issue to be decided. It is not surprising, then, to see that in these cases there is a very high proportion of parents being advised to speak English only. If a child has already begun to speak in Spanish, but is not of primary school age at the time of arrival, on the one hand his/her language is not an issue to be decided, because it has already been decided as Spanish, but on the other hand there is a possibility of having some exposure to English (especially through child care) before entering school. Thus, as we have seen before in the case of children of Spanish speakers born in Australia, this exposure to English at an early age would reduce the 'probability' of receiving advice to speak English only.

We end the analysis of Figure 4 by considering the country of birth of the informant's first child. This allows a division of families into two main

groups: those who came with children and those who came without children. We can see that when the first child was born in Australia, the proportion of advice ('yes' answers) is very low (less than 20%). This proportion increases a little for cases of families whose first child was born in Spain, Argentina, Uruguay or Colombia (all around 30% of advice). It increases again for families whose first child was born in Chile (some 42%) and El Salvador or other Central American countries (50%). It reaches its highest value for families whose first child was born in Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador (78%). Finally, we have families whose first child was born in Venezuela. They are characterized by a very high proportion of 'no responses' (60%). Only 20 percent of Venezuelan families were advised to use English only and 20 percent of them reported that they did not receive such advice. We can explain this pattern again in terms of exposure to English and Australian culture. Families that came with children were more likely to be advised than families whose children were born in Australia, because the latter would be perceived as having fewer 'foreign' traits and better English skills.

We can also understand the distributional pattern of countries of birth in terms of time of arrival of the national communities, and in terms of perceived cultural distance by the Anglo-Australian majority. Spaniards arrived in assimilationist Australia, when such advice was not necessary, as the structural forces favouring a shift towards English were official policy. At the other extreme, Venezuelans are very recent arrivals. As previously discussed, the majority arrived to Australia with pre-arranged jobs and already knowing English. They bypassed On-arrival English classes, job lists in the Commonwealth Employment Service, and in general, the migrant channelling process. Consequently, they had a lower chance of being advised to speak English only with their children (except at school). The pattern for the rest of the countries is not as clear as in the previous two cases. This is because another social variable exerted a significant influence, that of the children's physical appearance. As previously mentioned, the White Australia policy precluded the arrival of people from the Andean countries and from Central America on racial grounds, as immigration officers believed that there was a predominance of 'mixed races' in these countries. Policy also favoured Uruguayans, Chileans and Argentinians, based on a perception that the proportion of 'mixed races' was not so prominent in these countries due to European migration. We can suppose that the perceptions of immigration officers hold about race would be similar to the perception, for instance, that Anglo-Australian teachers hold. If this is so, then physical appearance would have a direct influence on the perceptions of cultural distance on the part of the majority group. Therefore, the less 'Caucasian' the children appear, the more likely it is that parents will receive advice to speak English only to them. This can explain the high proportion of advice given to parents whose children were born in

Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador, and the descending grading on the proportion of advice given for the rest of countries of birth.3 This is also confirmed by Figure 5, where we can see that the number of times people have been advised corresponds with the physical appearance of the children. The physical appearance of the child was calculated counting the number of 'Caucasian' grandparents that the children had, as gathered from the information about the informants' parents and informants' partners' parents' countries of birth.4 The correlation is also statistically very significant (Kendall's Tau = -0.191 p < 0.001).

The analysis of Figure 4 shows several important things. These can be summarized by saying that to receive or not to receive advice to speak English only is not random in social terms if we consider some of the characteristics of families who received such advice and those who did not. Externalization of Spanish language maintenance and externalization of behaviour that can be interpreted as lack of cultural adaptation will play a significant role in producing opportunities to trigger such advice. But physical appearance - that is, the perceived distance of the children from the Caucasian ideal migrant of the assimilationist era - seems to be enough to trigger the advice. This clearly links advice to speak English only to the racial characteristics of the migrants, as perceived by the Australian Anglo-Celtic mainstream. Without access to the opinions of those who gave the

Number of times O 2 or more □ 1 I None

None 1-2

Number of Caucasian Grandparents

Figure 5 Number of times the informant was advised to speak English only with his/her children by number of informant's children's Caucasian grandparents

advice, however, it can not be assured that advice to speak English only is racist. It can be based on prejudice or simply ignorance. But the results above have shown that if the phenomenon has to be understood socially, racial perceptions and symbolic violence towards ethnic minorities have to be included in the picture. MacLeod and Yates (2003) have shown that racist attitudes are more justified by Anglo-Celtic Australians the more those on the receiving end are perceived as 'other', and that such perceptions draw on an historical sense of time of arrival or closeness to the White Australian ideal in terms of fairness or knowledge of English. The probability, then, of finding a racist undertone on the motivations of those Anglo-Australians who are advising migrants to speak English only with their children are not negligible.

However, this does not adequately explain the advice coming from migrants. To understand why migrants would advise fellow migrants to speak English only, we should look at some additional data. Figure 6 shows the numbers in the cases of reported advice by the nationality of the adviser and the year of arrival of the informants (that is, of those who received the advice). It can be seen that the advice was predominantly given to people who arrived in the 1980s, that is, in the time multiculturalism was official rhetoric. As we have seen, this period was both the peak time for family migration and the years in which the Refugee and Humanitarian Program was in operation. Spanish speakers arriving at this time would have been less likely to know English well, and, unless they settled in an area where there were few migrants, they would have been at risk of taking the multicultural rhetoric at face value, because they would not have had a real sense of what the Australian mentality was. Consequently, both teachers of English and other migrants would have perceived them as being at risk of not making a serious effort to learn English, and would have advised them accordingly, just as Jewish and Italian migrants advised their fellow migrants in the assimilationist years. It is also possible that some established and 'adapted'

Before 1970

1971-75 1976-82 1983-87 1988-90 1991-94

Informant's year of arrival

□ Other ethnicity ■ Spanish speaker

□ Anglo-Australian

Figure 6 Number of times advice given to speak English only to children by ethnicity of adviser and informant's year of arrival in Australia

migrants may have felt threatened by the behaviour of new migrants if they openly and naively tried to enforce the multicultural rhetoric, risking the hard-gained 'acceptance' of other migrants in Australian society.


We can conclude our analysis of the advice given to immigrant parents to speak English only with their children by saying that such advice can be thought of as a reaction to symbolic changes in the place of migrants in Australian society during the multicultural years. The social meaning of the advice cannot be reduced to forcing a language shift towards English, which is presented as a primarily crude goal. Instead, it has a far wider meaning of re-establishing the balance of forces at the symbolic level, which the Anglo-Australian majority perceived as lost, especially regarding the popular image of multiculturalism during 1980-96. This was not related to the real aims of multiculturalism, but with a more immediate and less theoretical vision of multiculturalism as giving undue support to migrants (Hage, 1998: 20). Advice was more probable when migrants were perceived as 'deviant' from the image of the 'well-behaved' migrant that was predominant in the assimilationist years: a well-behaved migrant was someone who looked 'Caucasian', tried to adapt him- or herself as soon as possible, and spoke English to his or her children.

Advice came predominantly from Anglo-Australians, notably from children's teachers. But it also came from migrants and from teachers of English to new arriving migrants, when they perceived that new migrants might have been at risk of taking the multicultural rhetoric at face value. The more 'adapted' migrants also felt the need to advise other migrants to use English only with their children. Advice would be felt necessary when the 'adapted' migrants perceived that their place in Australian society was threatened by the excessively 'deviant' behaviour of fellow migrants.

The data presented here clearly refutes assertions that advice to speak English in Australia is unrelated to race perceptions and racism, and attempts to picture it as a benign consequence of the 'dislike of outsiders' by the tolerant Anglo-Australian mainstream, as argued by Keith Windschuttle in his interview with Jana Wendt, with which this article began (Wendt, 2004). It also shows that a high proportion of Spanish speakers received the advice, and anecdotes of being advised are not played up for more than they are worth. Such advice can be meaningfully linked to perceptions of race in Australia and racist attitudes, as the less 'Caucasian' children look, the more likely are their parents to be advised to speak English only with them.

Such advice cannot be explained either by a loyalty, on the part of the Anglo-Australians, to the democratic and liberal institutions of the country

against the perceived ethnic separatism of Australian multiculturalism. It rather seems to be a symptom of a struggle for social supremacy that ignores the no less ethnic character of Australia's ethnic majority (May, 2001: 25; Crawford, 2000: 10). Advice was more prominent in the multicultural years and this reflects the conflict and contest that any recognition of linguistic and social rights for minorities precipitates (May, 1998). The results of this article, then, allow a prediction, that the ascendancy of the white Anglo-Celtic majority in the years since John Howard's election in 1996 would have reduced the amount of advice to speak English only with migrant children in Australia, as the symbolic threat of multiculturalism has waned for the dominant ethnic group in Australian society.


I would like to thank Anna Piggin and Rebekah Marshall for their help in editing the English of this article.

1 In 1948, an assisted passage agreement with Malta was reached. This was followed by similar agreements with the Netherlands and Italy in 1951, with West Germany, Austria and Greece in 1952, with Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries in 1954, and Spain in 1958.

2 Forty-seven responses were discarded because they did not correspond to the sample population that was being targeted, or because they were too incomplete to be included.

3 The only country that would not fit this pattern is Chile, because, as we have seen before, there was a predominance of people of European descent among the first arrivals to Australia from this country. To understand why this is so, it is necessary to understand that, after 1974, the Chilean population in Australia (as in general the whole South American population) grew not only in number, but in ethnic diversity. Even when these indices are not always reliable, and have inherent racist tendencies, it should be pointed out that Esteva Fabregat (1985: 30-1) estimated the proportion of 'mestizos', that is, people of mixed Amerindian and Spanish descent, was 44 percent for Chile, and 8 and 9 percent for Uruguay and Argentina. This could explain the different percentages of advice for these communities.

4 This number was simply the sum of children's grandparents born in Spain, the UK and other European countries such as Italy and Germany. This is just a crude measure of physical appearance, as some of the people born in these countries may not necessarily look 'Caucasian'.


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MARIO DANIEL MARTÍN is a Senior Lecturer in Spanish in The Australian National University. Address: School of Language Studies, Australian National University, Canberra 0200, Australia. [email:]