CULTURE TEST: Migrant Parents and their Children

For some time now we have been contacted by the children of migrants wanting to talk about struggles within their own families over values.


There's been a clear pattern to the stories, young people caught between their parents' traditional cultural expectations and the lives they want to lead as young Australians. Generational conflict is nothing new but when it involves a culture clash it can rip families apart.

JENNY BROCKIE: In the light of a new Australian values test, migrant families speak out and welcome to all of you, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Remi, I'd like to start with you, you're 17, you have been in Australia since you were 5 years old, now you were born in Bangladesh.

REMI ISLAM: That’s right. Yep.

JENNY BROCKIE: Raised as a Muslim.

REMI ISLAM: Definitely, yep.

JENNY BROCKIE: You wanted us to do this program. You were the person who contacted us first about this program.


JENNY BROCKIE: About conflicts between migrant parent and their children. Why did you want us to do this program?

REMI ISLAM: I did this because I felt there wasn't enough coverage about the issue because whenever people talked about it they just talked about migrants and it stopped at that, but no one went further and said they have to put up with this even and with the children, the issues they have to face, no one talked about that. And it's an issue me and my friends we always talked about but we were frustrated because there was no avenue to solve that issue.

JENNY BROCKIE: Alright, so your dad's here, Aminul's here, what are the main differences between the two of you? What are the things you argue about?

REMI ISLAM: What would you think?

JENNY BROCKIE: Cultural differences.

DR AMINUL ISLAM: Well, I born and brought up in Bangladesh and that culture and the socioeconomic situation there is totally different here. So, Remi is growing in Australian context, so the social structure here, educational environment, everything is completely different.

JENNY BROCKIE: But let's talk specifics. Remi, what are the things that are the most difficult for you growing up in Australia with your parents with that background?

REMI ISLAM: I think things like if we talk about arranged marriages, there's a thing I don't agree with that but my parents do. I think that's an issue and just values in general. If I agree with something like, you know, that my parents won't agree with, say who I hang out with and how I do that, and freedom issues, independence, things like that.

JENNY BROCKIE: Okay. Aminul, do you expect to arrange Remi's marriage?

DR AMINUL ISLAM: Yeah, obviously because in our society, in our culture this is the tradition and what happened to me also. So obviously I believe that if my children follow the traditional I will be very happy.

JENNY BROCKIE: And Remi, can you understand your dad wanting to hang on to that tradition?

REMI ISLAM: I do, I do. I understand that but I also think input should be allowed into that and I don't think it should be completely their way.

JENNY BROCKIE: So what's going to happen here?

DR AMINUL ISLAM: In reality what happen, at this stage there is still at emotional stage, better say.

JENNY BROCKIE: But she's not going to be 17 forever, Aminul. What's going to happen when the time comes that you think she should marry someone who you choose and she wants to marry, you want to marry who you want to choose, Remi, you want to choose your partner?


JENNY BROCKIE: How are you going to work this out?

DR AMINUL ISLAM: She will take the education at the university level and become more mature. Then I believe she will realise more better than, at this stage and this is also happened to me.

JENNY BROCKIE: So you think she'll come around to your point of view?

DR AMINUL ISLAM: Yes, definitely.

JENNY BROCKIE: OK. Aminul, isn't it inevitable with Remi growing up in Australia, that she's going to absorb Australian values about things like choosing a partner, having grown up here and isn't that something in a sense that you have to accept as part of being here?

DR AMINUL ISLAM: As a sensible parent, definitely I agree because what happen when she will have enough knowledge or understanding to select her partner, and if we see that well, she's going well and there is no harm, definitely we'll accept it. But if something happened, something that we don't like at all which is contrary to our total custom or something like that, in that situation I will not accept that.

JENNY BROCKIE: What would happen then if you didn't accept it?

DR AMINUL ISLAM: If she agree and she go for that, and reality there is nothing to do and it. If we believe that this is sensible way we will accept. Otherwise we try to motivate her and we will try to explain her.

JENNY BROCKIE: Well here is another young Australian who contacted us wanting to tell his story, Caroline Ayoub caught up with him in Melbourne.


REPORTER: Caroline Ayoub

MOHAMMAD EL LEISSY: All my friends are Muslim, went to an Islamic school. One of the things I was sheltered from was television. We weren't allowed to have a TV. I'd come home and I'd go straight to the mosque. It was a very, very effective lifestyle, definitely with my parent's best intention, um, at heart.

Mohammad El Leissy has lived in Australia all his life. But up until two years ago he had little contact with people outside the Muslim community.

MOHAMMAD EL LEISSY: I knew I was missing something but it didn't really concern me that much until later on in life. I realised I kind of had to break out of that circle and that kind of bubble wrap. The first time I'd really been out of a very strict Islamic or Muslim circle was when I started working at the Queen Vic market. Before that I, you know, I'd been working in Islamic bookstores. When I got to the work at the market, that was when I guess I had to have my first interaction with people that weren't Muslim.

Well, let's catch up. What have you been up to?

When I first went to the market, people really standoffish. I remember the Anglo lady that worked across from me was very, you know, spend all day complaining about Muslim people to my face. But, as time went on, you know all the Anglo girls started telling me “You know, you're not like other Muslims, you're a nice Muslim.” I'd say “How many Muslims have you met?” And she'd say “Just you.” So I slowly got to change her perceptions of Muslims.

Mohammad's decision to step out of an entirely Muslim circle has not been received well by his father.

MOHAMMAD EL LEISSY: I guess the point of conflict is who I hang out with where am I eating, I guess, I guess what I do with my life. Mainly Muslim things. So prayer and my beard, that kind of hurt him a bit because he felt if I wasn't extremely Muslim in my appearance that that protection wouldn't be there. He would not believe that I could completely do all my religious obligations while watching a game of footy on Saturday at the MCG. My interpretation of the world is that I can balance those things.

Mohammad's father is an influential member in the Australian Islamic community and is well known internationally. He declined to be interviewed for this program.

MOHAMMAD EL LEISSY: I think the fear of the Western culture and that's portrayed in Hollywood and on TV, are things like drugs, alcohol, pornography, you know, fornication.

REPORTER: Have you ever been tempted?

MOHAMMAD EL LEISSY: I think everyone gets tempted. I mean, you know, it's what you see on TV, it's part of popular culture. But it's not something that I necessarily, have done yet.

Are your chips like fried in vegetable oil?

I can eat out and eat halal. I can have a night with my friends and not do anything that's completely, you know, un Islamic.

Do they cook them with the meat?

I think he feels that I will lose my Muslim identity and that I might do things like change my name to an Anglicised name. I might marry a non Islamic woman or something. For him he is an Egyptian Muslim and for me I am an Australian Muslim and he would like me to be an Egyptian Muslim.

MAN: His name is Momo, so everyone go Momo, Momo, Momo.

MOHAMMAD EL LEISSY: Just give me the mike.

Mohammad is also trying his luck at stand up comedy.

REPORTER: How did your father react to that?

MOHAMMAD EL LEISSY: I've actually been quite good at hiding it from him so this is probably not the best way to find out do.

You think Arabs are scary? No? I think they are. I think, I was walking down the street the other day and this Arab guy comes up to me and he starts screaming at me, this big Arab guy, this Muslim guy and he's screaming at me and he's swearing and he's getting all up set and I said “Just relax, Dad, it's alright.”

I don't know what his reaction would be but I don't think he would be really proud of what I'm doing.

JENNY BROCKIE: Well Mohammad, welcome, thanks for joining us. Your dad doesn't have a TV but I'm sure he'll hear about this, I'm sure he'll find out about it. How do you think he'll react when he sees that?

MOHAMMAD EL LEISSY: Well I mean to his credit, I hope he doesn't take it the wrong way. Obviously to come out so publicly wouldn't be the best I don't think he'll find that quite, yeah, quite well.

JENNY BROCKIE: But you obviously felt a need to tell your story publicly?

MOHAMMAD EL LEISSY: I mean I did want to express it but I don't want to discredit him in any way. I mean he is a good father and he does care about me.

JENNY BROCKIE: But there are obviously very extreme differences. I mean the way you've described the way you've been raised compared to the way you want to live your life now, it's very different, isn't it?

MOHAMMAD EL LEISSY: Well every parent seeks to protect their child and if they didn't they would kind of, they would put their parentness in question.

JENNY BROCKIE: But how do you think you will resolve those differences with your dad ultimately given that you've moved in another direction because you're living here, you've moved in a separate direction to the way he lives his life. You said he's an Egyptian Muslim and you're an Australian Muslim which I thought was really interesting.

MOHAMMAD EL LEISSY: Well at the end of the day obviously, um, I mean there will be acceptance at the end, there will be acceptance.

JENNY BROCKIE: Sandra, you're 22 and you have a Lebanese Syrian Christian background. You contacted us about this as well. You're moving out of home at the end of the year, why? Why do you want to move out of home?

SANDRA KAFROUNI: Um, it's not set yet but there are a few reasons. Um, firstly there's the practical reasons like transport, but putting that aside, um, there are a few, um, living at home I have to think about my parents and …

JENNY BROCKIE: What aren't you allowed to do? At 22, what aren't you allowed to do because of cultural difference?

SANDRA KAFROUNI: To put it simply, basically when my parents were growing up in Lebanon or Syria, there was no going out. That wasn't something they did. For me things like, you know, socialising a lot, I mean I love going out and socialising with people. Mum, my dear mum, she won't go to sleep until I'm tucked into my house. So I do…

JENNY BROCKIE: I can relate to that.

SANDRA KAFROUNI: Yeah, so I mean I do have a curfew and ..


SANDRA KAFROUNI: Yeah, like I turn into a pumpkin at midnight and yeah, so things like that.

JENNY BROCKIE: So you feel it's restrictive?

SANDRA KAFROUNI: Yeah, it is restrictive but just like anyone, I want to kind of explore my independence and make a start to make a few more of my own decisions as an adult.

JENNY BROCKIE: Habib, can I ask you how you feel about what you've heard Sandra saying?

HABIB KAFROUNI: She's right. I mean she's right, she's a good girl. I mean she wouldn't do anything, you know, to upset us. But the thing is, like she said, I mean she's allowed to stay outside until about midnight, right, because only reason her mother won't sleep before she gets in.

JENNY BROCKIE: But she is 22.

HABIB KAFROUNI: For me, for my side, I am flexible, right, I mean I can't sleep, if she can't sleep.

JENNY BROCKIE: So you're just blaming her. That's what you're doing, you're saying it's not me, it's the mother. What does mum say?

HABIB KAFROUNI: I have to be a judge between those two. I have to be a good judge. So she can stay after midnight and so she can stay up until midnight.

JENNY BROCKIE: Okay, it's mum's turn. Come on, what do you say? When you hear Sandra say that, that none of her friends have those kind of rules.

IBTISAM KAFROUNI: I trust my daughter very much and I know she wouldn't do anything wrong but I worry so much when she's out of people, of drunk people, of people on drug might do something to her, hurt her or harm her.

JENNY BROCKIE: Just quickly, Sandra.

SANDRA KAFROUNI: Can I say quickly I think it's because my parents didn't grow up here it's all an unknown world to them. And if they, I mean they're out of their context of growing up where if they had grown up here they'd know that yeah, there might be alcoholics and drugos out there but they'd know how to deal with it but they just didn't have that experience of growing up.

JENNY BROCKIE: Huda, what about you, you're 22, you have a Muslim Lebanese background and you also contacted us. Did you have clashes with your parents when you were growing up here?

HUDA HAYEK: Yes, I did, I just wanted to fit in with my Australian friends and I think that I did but my parents, I guess they wanted me to be more associated with the, um, the culture of Arabs but I was never around that because in our area where I grew up in Perth, there were no Arabs and so I was never interacting with those so I couldn't possibly have those values or those, that cultural influence if I wasn't around it.

JENNY BROCKIE: Omar, you're Huda's older brother, you're 34, what was your upbringing like compared to hers in the family.

OMAR HAYEK: Um, I actually think Huda had it a lot easier than I did. I was the ice breaker. I really raised some hell in my youth and I think I did wear my parents very thin a lot of the time.

JENNY BROCKIE: How did you deal with that? How did you deal with that as the ..

OMAR HAYEK: Okay, initially it was just outright revolution. Um, there was no negotiation. It was going to be my way or no way at all. They were old school the way I perceived it. That's how they were raised and that's how they wanted to bring their children up. They didn't know any better so I can't disrespect them for that.

JENNY BROCKIE: What's your relationship with them like now?

OMAR HAYEK: It's improved. I wouldn't say it's the way I'd like it to be. We still don't see eye to eye on many issues but, they are my parents and I respect them for bringing me into the world and bringing me up.

JENNY BROCKIE: Now you got married as part of your way of changing your life, didn't you?

OMAR HAYEK: Certainly did, yes.

JENNY BROCKIE: And Huda, you got married too and everything changed a bit again when you got married. How did it change?

HUDA HAYEK: As I said where I grew up in Perth there wasn't any Arabs and there weren't, well I was never associated with many Muslim Arabs and then when I got married and moved to Melbourne, my husband was very cultural and his family's very cultural as well and all the people around us in our area are Lebanese and Muslim and then I found it difficult to blend in with them even though I was a Lebanese Muslim.

JENNY BROCKIE: And what about things like, you wanted to go to university, what happened then when you wanted to go to university?

HUDA HAYEK: You can tell this story.

FADEY SOUIED: I wasn't really happy with my wife going to university when we got married. Me, I believe that a woman, before she gets married she should, you know, finish off all that stuff, university, et cetera. Me personally, I believe when you get married, it's marriage, you know, you move on with the marriage kind of life, you know, have children, um, you know, start building your future together. And all that other..

JENNY BROCKIE: Huda's smiling here.

FADEY SOUIED: Yeah, yeah.

JENNY BROCKIE: So how was this resolved, Huda?

HUDA HAYEK: I went to university.

JENNY BROCKIE: And how did you feel about that, Fadey?

FADEY SOUIED: At the start it was a bit, I wasn't very happy at all. There was a lot of problems over it but after a while I started to relax a bit, you know. I let it go. I've seen the benefit out of it.

JENNY BROCKIE: Carmel, you're a social worker, you deal with the children of migrants in Victoria. How common are these sorts of conflicts we've heard about tonight.

CARMEL GUERRA, CENTRE MULTICULTURAL YOUTH ISSUES: Very common. I've been practising sort of working with young people for over 25 years. I haven't done it as much most recently because I now manage an organisation that does it but the issues of intergenerational difference between families who are migrants, refugees to Australia is very common. I mean these stories are very similar to when I was working with young people of kind of Greek, Turkish, Italian background in the kind of 1980s. So I think the themes are really common.

JENNY BROCKIE: And some of the things sound like oh well that's just generational conflict but it's more than that, isn't it?

CARMEL GUERRA: Yeah, I think it's very difficult for adults to adapt as quickly as young people. So the young people are adjusting and expecting the parents to come along. So I think the parents are really struggling.

JENNY BROCKIE: Well in a moment we're going to talk about the Government's new Australian values test in the middle of all this. Fadey, just before the break you said that you didn't want Huda to go to university, yet one of the Australian values that this new citizenship test has is that people have to sign up to the idea of equality of men and women. Now would you have been prepared to sign up to something like that?

FADEY SOUIED: Yeah, definitely, yep, yep. I'm.. equality, I'm in for that all the way. I mean, you know, in a marriage you have to be equal. But my culture, I believe my culture is more of an Islamic kind of culture. I'd prefer to stay on that line and it doesn't, it doesn't say it's wrong for a wife to go to university, that's not a law, but my expectations, me as a Muslim, getting married, was to get married, have children, settle down, um, and like I said, build my future from there.

JENNY BROCKIE: Huda, what do you think?

HUDA HAYEK: I think Australian values are universal values. So having a fair go, isn't that what everybody wants to have? Like no matter where you come from, like freedom of speech, isn't that.. doesn't everybody have to right to talk, things like that. So although Australians we've assigned ourselves these values, it doesn't mean that, um, it doesn't mean that they're special to anybody in the world. And I do think the media does give it to the Muslims a little bit. I think that sometimes people stand up and say things and that's not representative of all Muslims and, um, yeah, and so they show a side to us that's not necessarily, yeah.

JENNY BROCKIE: Teresa Gambaro, you're the Assistant Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, the Prime Minister has said that migrants have to integrate and embrace Australian values, is this new test that's coming in designed to address some of the situations that we've heard about earlier tonight?

TERESA GAMBARO, ASST. MIN. IMMIG. AND CITIZENSHIP: Well I think just from listening, I think what we've had is agreement on what those values are and I've just been listening to the audience, equality of men and women, democracy, a fair go, mateship, helping others when they need help and that's really what this values test is focussing on and I think it's a good thing and it will create a socially and cohesive society.

JENNY BROCKIE: Well you've just released an ad, we might just have a look at part of that ad now, it's been released this week.

ADVERTISEMENT: Australia's introducing a citizenship test. It's a way of making sure that people becoming citizens know about Australia and understand the responsibilities and privileges of committing to our way of life. Things many of us take for granted like democracy, mutual respect and equality of opportunity and the values we share like free speech and a fair go.

JENNY BROCKIE: Teresa, what happens if you fail the test?

TERESA GAMBARO: Well, you can sit for the test as many times as you like as long as you pass 60 percent and that's a pretty generous pass rate. If you're over 60, you don't have to sit for it. If you're under 18 you don't have to sit for the test. If you have say a mental disability, are unable you don't need to sit for the test as well. So it's .. you can sit for it as many times as you like and there certainly is no limit.

JENNY BROCKIE: Remi, what do you think about the Australian values test?

REMI ISLAM: I think it's a weird way of trying to filter out the people they're trying to let in. To me I don't think these issues would change if the people passed or failed a citizenship test. I don't think it can quell the problem at all.

JENNY BROCKIE: What do you think would deal with some help deal with some of the issues that you find difficult?

REMI ISLAM: It's very hard to say because it's really .. it's based on morals and culture and that's really hard to change within a person. So I think just gradual, seeing just gradual change and to see that changing is not necessarily a bad thing. So sometimes, you know if I choose to be a little bit more Australian than my parents want me to be, to see that maybe that's not necessarily like the most negative thing. Maybe just feeling that.

JENNY BROCKIE: Aminul, what do you think about the test?

DR AMINUL ISLAM: It is a new introduction into this migration system and it's a migration in this country is a long process and every time the government authorities are going to introduce something with changing the system or process and improving the system. So overall I believe in, I agree that this will help a lot.

JENNY BROCKIE: You think this will help? You think it will help?


JENNY BROCKIE: So would you sign up for that?


MAN: Can I ask a question?


MAN: Why is it that the test is now. Why not before?

JENNY BROCKIE: Teresa would you like to respond to that?

TERESA GAMBARO: Every country in the world has introduced a citizenship test. I don't think it's unreasonable for people who are wanting to become citizens to know a little bit about the country and its history and from when people, people come to this country to when they become permanent citizens is four years. So you've got actually four years to read a resource booklet and understand what Australian values and history are so that you have a better understanding of it. I don't think that's unreasonable to and someone spoke about integration before. People have got to want to be citizens in their heart. There is no doubt about that. But I've been to many citizenship ceremonies where people don't even make an attempt to sing the national anthem and that's very discouraging to me as an Australian.

JENNY BROCKIE: Everybody wants to say somebody. Quickly Huda.

HUDA HAYEK: We're talking about Australian history but have we talked about the non white Australian history? Have we talked about the Aboriginal?


HUDA HAYEK: What about their history, why don't we talk about that? How come that's not part of our culture?

TERESA GAMBARO: Well can I say to you in the resource booklet you will see it's published and online now. You will see that there is, there is an indigenous history is covered and the history of Australia, so you're quite correct.

JENNY BROCKIE: A couple more comments. Emma, yes.

EMMA DAWSON, CENTRE AUST. STUDIES, MONASH UNI: The problem with the test isn't the words that the Assistant Minister's saying all sound very reasonable but when you drill down I think people realise that what's actually being attempted is to define Australian culture by defining who isn't Australian or what isn't Australian.

JENNY BROCKIE: Alright, but Emma, is there not, is there not when you listen to some of the stories and you hear the stories tonight, is there not an argument for saying there are some things that we stand for in Australia, there are things that are important fundamental principles that people should understand when they come here and perhaps those things are to do with..

EMMA DAWSON: Absolutely, and as Huda said they're universal human values. I think both she and Fadey showed that they don't see any conflict between those values and their own cultural identity. If we can stand up and say human values such as respect for one another, equality under the law, freedom of speech, acceptance of parliamentary democracy, universal but mateship, talking about diggers, talking about things that are really rooted in that old white male Australian lingo, that is consciously excluding people, including me.

JENNY BROCKIE: Alright, quick comment here, yep.

MAN: I disagree. I don't think that there is universal values. I think that's the fallacy of Western culture that they're so arrogant to believe that everyone has individual rights and such and such. Other cultures practice group right, some cultures are much more patriarchal than others. We've seen this today. The evidence is the cases that we've covered so far some cultures are clearly more patriarchal than others and their culture has been a barrier for them to integrate. I come from a Hispanic background. My culture isn't as patriarchal as the ones that have been mentioned today. So that was not a barrier for me to integrate, in fact I understand what Australian culture is.

JENNY BROCKIE: Can I ask you when you mount that argument, it's a very interesting argument where does it lead? Do you believe in the idea of a citizenship test, of stating some sort of values?

MAN: Well I've seen the sample test, sample questions from the newspaper and that's a pretty poor way of asserting Australian values because that's what the test is about, it's about asserting Western cultural values in Australia which is a Western country. So these questions asking when federation was, these things aren't going to transmit what Western culture is. You read John Stewart Mills, you read Voltaire that's what you understand what Western culture is and it's not universal.

JENNY BROCKIE: Janette, what about you, you and your partner Eelin are originally from Malaysia and you've just recently signed up both of you to become Australian citizen, haven't you? How would you have felt sitting this test?

JANETTE HOE: Oh, I wouldn't have wanted to do it that's why we tried to get into it as quickly as possible.

JENNY BROCKIE: Why wouldn't you want to do it? Because you don't subscribe to the values?

JANETTE HOE: Because I don't know what Australian values are. I mean if you ask me what Australian values, we were talking about this on the way here. It's like I don't know.

EELIN CHEAH: And even if I asked some of my Australian friends, they don't know either which is really interesting and I totally agree with, you know, some of the audience over there, it is a universal theme, mateship, fair go, equality, that's something that's practised in every other country.

JENNY BROCKIE: Janette, your parents are Christian and you clashed with them over being gay. How much did that clash have to do with culture and how much I had to do with religion, do you think?

JANETTE HOE: I think a lot has to do with religion. Eelin's family comes from, they're not Christians but they accept me like a daughter in law. So I feel as though, um, a lot of what my parents are practising in their Christianity forbids me to have a woman partner. Like my dad has actually said to me “I don't condone that sort of relationship” and I still have conflict with mum over this, over and over again and she often brings out, topics from the Bible about how wrong it is for, people of same sex to be partners.

JENNY BROCKIE: Because there's a big picture question here, isn't there, of who yields, in a sense, in any culture, who yields some of their values or in any religion who yields some of their values in order to accommodate others. Zlatko, what do you think of that?

PROFESSOR ZLATKO SCRBIS, IDENTITY POLITICS, UNI. OF QLD: I'm really pleased that we raised some other issues as well because it's not only ethnic values, cultural values, cultural values based on ethnicity that are a source of friction or tension within families. So I'm really pleased that we raised that issue. I was just wondering the question about citizenship, citizenship test, it would be very interesting perhaps to hear from her, to reflect on how her life might have been different had her parents passed this citizenship test.

JENNY BROCKIE: Teresa, would you like to answer that?

TERESA GAMBARO: Well look, my parents came from southern Italy. They ran a number of corner stores and supermarkets and they integrated very, very well. We're looking at a time now that was 50 years ago and 50 years ago Australia wasn't the economy that it is now and we had a lot of migrants learning English on the factory floor and many of my friends' parents worked in Terazzo and tile factories and didn't need to have an understanding of English. But what this is about is encouraging people to learn English.

JENNY BROCKIE: But would you parents have been able to come here? Would your parents have passed this test and would they have been able to come here?

TERESA GAMBARO: You're talking about a different time and let's just put this in perspective. 50 years ago is a different time to what it is today and I'm sure they would have, if they were told they had to read a resource booklet. My parents actually went out and learned English and embraced the Australian way of life very, very well. So if they were told that that's what they had to do they would have embraced it. So I don't think they would have had a problem. A few people are fearful about this test and I just want to reassure people that it is not a frightening, daunting prospect that people imagine it to be. And we're one of many countries in the world that have brought a citizenship test. The UK has one. The United States has a test, Canada has a test and UK, so I don't know why this is causing a lot of hysteria were it really doesn't, and we'll support people in every way possible. If people do fall through the cracks, can I just say this, if there are groups that fall through the cracks we will look at those groups and help them in every way. This is about becoming Australian citizens and we want to encourage people to become part of the Australian family.

JENNY BROCKIE: Insight is talking about generational conflict in migrant families and the whole notion of Australian values and I know a lot of you have a lot more you want to say. Rita, you're Greek Orthodox and you're married to Amer here, who is Pakistani Muslim. How did your family react when you said you were going get married?

RITA MANESSIS: Shocked, horrified, they felt betrayed, um, I guess it was not something that they really expected to happen. Um, yeah, they..

JENNY BROCKIE: Well, it was more severe than that, wasn't it? You had no contact with them for how long?

RITA MANESSIS: My father I hadn't, my father wouldn't speak to me for about three years, three and a half years. My mother I did have contact with but it was quite difficult.

JENNY BROCKIE: Mary, why did you react the way you did?

MARY MANESSIS: Because our religion is fundamental to our culture and tradition and of course we felt betrayed and that we didn't teach her the religion well.

JENNY BROCKIE: Now how did you resolve it?

MARY MANESSIS: I'm, at the beginning I tried and I hoped that it will end but then I realised that it was a deep feeling between those two people and I said well, let's give time, time will tell if they will last. I was hoping to be truthful, I was hoping that the love wouldn't last, but it did.

JENNY BROCKIE: That's extraordinary, that seems extraordinary that you actually hoped that they'd break up.

MARY MANESSIS: Yes, yes, at the beginning I did. But then I respected that because I married because of love and I know love. I respected love as well.

JENNY BROCKIE: Amer where has this left you, you have your own daughter now. Now who's 10 months old, how is that daughter going to be raised?

AMER MALIK: Well it's funny because I'm Muslim and she's Christian and we have developed a new term. I actually mentioned it last week and we call it Mustian meaning she's half Muslim and half Christian. So I've done, when a child is born, you know, we do certain things in terms of prayer and so on and when Christians like Orthodox they baptise their children and so on and so forth so we've done both of them. Now what I'm hoping is when she grows up hopefully she can learn about the Greek culture and the Pakistani culture and I've been raised in different countries myself, learn the languages, hopefully be trilingual and she can decide what she wants to be, maybe Australian, that's what we're talking about.

JENNY BROCKIE: Now we invited you tonight to tell this story because it's a great story of resolution but you've also been putting your hands up all through this discussion wanting to talk about the test. I don't know what your view of the test is.

RITA MANESSIS: Quite frankly I think it's rubbish. I find it offensive for two reasons. One, it assumes that migrants haven't been contributing to this society to begin with and suddenly the migrants that have been coming over the last five years aren't contributing to society. So now we have to test them on values as if you can test how strongly somebody believes in a particular value.

JENNY BROCKIE: But this is a test for people applying for citizenship.

RITA MANESSIS: But secondly, most importantly, I guess, it is just stating what values are, not how much you believe in that particular value, how much you practise that value. I guess when I think about the Australian Government and when it says that it values a fair go, and the way this government treats asylum seekers and people like David Hicks, I mean where's the fair go? Where's the practice of that particular value? Are we just saying we believe in these things without practising them.

JENNY BROCKIE: But this citizenship test has been supported by both parties. This is not just a Government initiative this is something supported across the board.

RITA MANESSIS: Unfortunately.

JENNY BROCKIE: And Emma, you're a member of the Labor Party and the Labor Party has supported this too.

EMMA DAWSON: Yeah, unfortunately and it's not something I agree with and I've made that feeling very clear to everybody I know in the Labor Party and I think that there's a reason for that and that's that both sides of politics in Australia, since race became such an issue again in this country in the mid 1990s with the rise of Pauline Hanson and so on, they're just too scared, no one wants to touch this issue with a 10 foot pole except Insight and SBS and the that to me is really sad because Australia had been a successful multicultural nation and I think a big part of the reason for that was that there was an element of a two way street in the Australian understanding of multiculturalism for a long time, that we weren't saying okay, we've got a set culture here, we know what we're all about, if you want to come you sign up to it. Now what we've seen here in the audience, and this is a great example of it, is that resolving cultural tensions and cultural issues in a family, and I was pleased to hear the Assistant Minister say she wants to welcome everyone to the Australian family, well the way families resolve these things is through compromise and meeting each other halfway.

JENNY BROCKIE: That's fine if they can compromise. I'm going to get on in a moment to some situations where, you know, there are some lines in the sand here and I think it's really worth talking about some of those. Anne Aly, you have an Egyptian Muslim background. You grew up in the '70s and you had very serious conflict with your parents over their attitudes to you as a young woman. Now you send your boys to an Islamic school, why?

ANNE ALY: I wanted them to have a sense of community like I grew up not knowing any Muslims and for me it was about feeling different all the time and I didn't want my children to feel different all the time. I didn't want their religion to be a focus of their difference.

JENNY BROCKIE: And do you agree with all the values they're being taught now?

ANNE ALY: No, I don't, no, I don't. We have conflict about some of those things. I think, I think that there's a growing trend to have more focus on the superficial outward kind of practices of Islam.


ANNE ALY: Such as wearing hijab, growing beards, those sorts of things and that's not the kind of Islam that I grew up with. And I, I recognise that for my son the hijab is much more a part of his daily environment than it was in my daily environment growing up because my mother never wore it. Whereas now his grandma wears it, his aunty wears it, all his cousins wear it so he sees that a lot more often than I do and I know he thinks I should wear it but I don't feel ready to wear it and I don't feel that I need to wear it for my religion.

JENNY BROCKIE: Adam, what do you think of your mum's attitude to these things?

ADAM RIDA: I think she's entitled to have her own attitude.

ANNE ALY: Thank you.

ADAM RIDA: But I mean.

JENNY BROCKIE: But you want her to wear the hijab?

ADAM RIDA: Well I mean that's what I believe personally. I've never ever forced her to. I never have, I never had a reason to. I rarely ever argue with her really on Islamic values. Looking at some of the examples tonight I'm quite grateful that I've had parents who have been very supportive and have shown me and I've agreed with them on a lot of things. So I don't think that we argue a lot compared with what I've seen tonight.

JENNY BROCKIE: Emam, you work in migrant women's health in Western Sydney, we've been talking tonight about a lot of issues that are very interesting and obviously very difficult within families but what about at the extremes, what about when we do see, how do some of these differences manifest themselves at the extremes?

DR EMAM SHAROBEEM, PSYCH., IMMIG. WOMEN’S HEALTH: It's definitely going to mental health issues. The basic things I see every day, mental health problems happens between the second generation and the first generation. I see women suffering from depression, going in to drugs just to be able to cope with their children and the pressure coming from the children and also I see children, youth, teenagers going into mental health, going into mental disabilities because of the conflict and the gap.

JENNY BROCKIE: And are there practices that you see that you just find completely unacceptable and that you don't think should happen or be part of?

DR EMAM SHAROBEEM: For example, the female genital mutilation is still happening, it's still practised here in Australia in some areas and even with all the campaigns we're doing with some community, we still see the practice happens and it affects a lot of women and a lot of, um, young women and their ability to see themselves and their sexuality.

JENNY BROCKIE: And how do you deal with that? How do you deal with that when you see that in families.

DR EMAM SHAROBEEM: We have definitely series of campaigns happening around western and south western areas and Health Department is doing a lot, but still the one to one contact and the effect on each family by talking in group situations and/or on different cases on one to one cases. I think that's the only way we can deal with it and also translating materials and talk to women and their families about the effect of such a practice.

JENNY BROCKIE: Because there are lines in the sand for everybody, aren't there? There are things we just say are not acceptable. Yes.

CARMEL GUERRA: Jenny, I think a really important step is to basically educate and inform the leader, the adults, the adult community members of our communities about what is right and wrong and I think that that's often what we forget to do, say this is not allowed in Australia, that it is law and often I think that's the approach we should be taking is saying there are some things where you draw a line in the sand and say, you know, violence against anybody in your family is unacceptable. And often that, you know that, can be universal as wel, I think there's a lot of misconceptions about people take their religious practices to an extreme for their own benefit and that really in Australia it has to be stated really clear and we should be informing and educating people about that.

JENNY BROCKIE: Anne, I wonder as a Muslim mum of teenage boys do you worry about radical Islam?

ANNE ALY: All the time, all the time. I worry that, like, I wouldn't worry if, um, my son grew a beard, I wouldn't worry, you know, if he wants to practise his Islam in his way, I would be very supportive of that, if he started coming home and wearing a beard and doing his, you know, going to mosque every day and whatever, I wouldn't worry so much. I might, you know, sit down and have a bit of a chat with him, but I wouldn't worry. If he started talking politically, if he started talking, um, as a victim, if he started talking about, um, you know, Australia hates us and, you know, in terms of a binary of Australian and Muslim, then I'd worry.

JENNY BROCKIE: Adam, what do you think listening to that?

ADAM RIDA: I don't think she has anything to be concerned about really because I think that growing up in Australia I've grown with the Australian culture, I watch Australian TV, I have Australian friends and, um, I personally would never think about being radicalised because I just personally believe it's wrong.

JENNY BROCKIE: Mohammad, you're nodding your head.

MOHAMMAD EL LEISSY: It's kind of funny, I'm kind of on the opposite end here and I think there is always a fear that your children will become extreme in anything. I think with me there's maybe a fear that I'll become an extreme bogan, you know, and while that is a valid concern, in some ways, that is the concern and for me it's trying to balance my Australianism with my Islam and I think it's the same here with this family.

JENNY BROCKIE: You'd do a lot less damage being an extreme bogan, I'd have to say. Mustapha you've been doing a lot of work with young Middle Eastern men in south western Sydney. Behind a lot of what we talk about is fear of radical Islam, is it a reasonable fear for people to have?

MUSTAPHA KARA ALI, BUILD. IDENT. AND RESIST. RADICALISATION: Look, the bottom line we are talking here amongst a bunch of articulate people that can express themselves, whether parents or whether young people. However, the problem remains that, um, in a less articulate world, more disadvantaged world where there's less services that are reaching those young people, they are confused and it is this atmosphere of confusion which unfortunately there are extreme elements on the fringe of society that will tap into these disadvantaged pockets, if you like, and will try and recruit towards their own agendas and this is what we have been seeing for the last year in working with young people where we conducted a study of over 200 people talking to them and their families and unfortunately there is a serious issue. So it's not very hyped, it's hyped up sometimes in the media but it is a realistic problem that needs solutions and needs services out in the suburbs.

JENNY BROCKIE: And do you think in this context that something like an Australian values statement or an Australian values test will help?

MUSTAPHA KARA ALI: Absolutely not. Why? Because we're on the grass roots again. These people hardly read books, um, the place where they mostly get their values, mostly get their information is the Internet and the Internet is something that is a monster of its own that the government is not really doing much about. They're trying to act as gatekeepers for those that are migrating into the country but however, what do we do with all those disadvantaged pockets that are getting on the Internet, getting access to certain books, certain literature at times which the Government is doing nothing about? And this is where the real concerns are as opposed to migrants coming into the country.

JENNY BROCKIE: Carmel, just getting back to migrants coming into the country though, as well, are there particular groups that find it more difficult to integrate into Australian society than others, in your experience?

CARMEL GUERRA: Um, yes, I'd probably say the groups that look the most different tell us, the young people we work with, so obviously a lot of the, um, refugees we've taken in from Africa most recently have said that they've felt very unwelcomed at recent times, but there are also the second and third generations Lebanese young boys that we work with in northern Melbourne who also say that they're feeling very alienated and disconnected and they've been born here.

JENNY BROCKIE: But that's saying their feel alienated and disconnected. I wonder whether there are some cultural practices or some groups with particular cultural practices that find the adjustment more difficult than others, are there?

CARMEL GUERRA: I think those that have come from non urban settings definitely do. So those cultures that are unfamiliar to living in a Western world. And secondly, I think those groups who have been unfamiliar with concepts, you know, of Western society, certainly do as well.

JENNY BROCKIE: Teresa, I'd like a final comment from you.

TERESA GAMBARO: Look, we've talked about a lot of issues. The Government's spent a lot of money on integrated humanitarian settlement services to help people integrate with English language tests, with finding accommodation. We talked about marginalised Muslims, we've spent $35 million over four years on a national action plan and in the midst of all that, you know, people were talking about a citizenship test. As I said earlier, you have to really want to be an Australian citizen in your heart, and I know many of your audience members said that and I don't disagree. You've got to want to do it with all your heart and not give it lip service but I don't think it hurts to know a little bit about the country that you're going to and understand some of its history rather than, you know, find out through informal sources. So we're not the last country in the world, I think, to introduce a citizenship test and I think it's a wonderful country and if people understood that having an understanding of the values, understanding a bit of the history to become part of the Australian family I don't think that's an unreasonable ask.

JENNY BROCKIE: We are going to have to wrap up and I'd like to go back to where we started. Mohammad, in the middle of all of this you're just trying to get on with your life basically. Do you think you will be able to resolve the differences you have with your dad ultimately?

MOHAMMAD EL LEISSY: Yeah, I think they're pretty much resolved. It's the standard situation that all families, and it crosses cultures, it crosses religions, with me it's about religion but for someone else it could be about politics or something else and I think there will be acceptance and I think my father's tried his best and I've learnt a lot from him and I'm go on with my life.

JENNY BROKCIE: Do you think your parents are likely to change?

MOHAMMAD EL LEISSY: I wouldn't want them to necessarily. I think people should have a choice in the way they live their lives and we should not force our ways on to other people and I'd have no right to do that to my dad.

JENNY BROCKIE: Alright, just final word, Remi. You suggested the show, we've ranged across a lot of territory tonight, do you think you'll resolve these issues with your dad?

REMI ISLAM: I think when the time comes we'll see a meeting point and as he said, like when I grow older obviously he'll start to think that yes, I've developed these viewpoints over a time and they just haven't happened radically. So I think there will be a time for reconcile.

JENNY BROCKIE: Do you agree, Aminul?

DR AMINUL ISLAM: Yeah, good girls and finally what I want to say, it is not for my Remi, for all the children here, we migrated, we left our culture behind and we're here for their future, for the betterment. So it is our expectation that they will be better position here, support that, it is a family compromise, personal compromise what it is so we hope for the happiness it is essential.

JENNY BROCKIE: There's a lot of territory that we could have dwelt a lot more on this evening and I'm sure we'll do a lot more programs around some of the issues that we've only just touched on tonight. But thank you all very much for joining us and sharing your personal stories and Teresa Gambaro, thank you very much too for joining us from Canberra, it's been great to have you with us as well. Thank you everybody.

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