Ethnicity and culture in Australia. A perspective of core values

Australia can be considered as a complex linguistic and cultural laboratory in which the ethnic reagents are still relatively “fresh”, their strength not being diminished by time and the assimilationist pressures of the dominant group, as was the case in the United States. . For this reason, it is interesting to consider the recent interventions on American Ethnic scenario that were published on Altreitalie and check that may have relevance in Australia and for the concept of ethnicity in general l .
In a comparative study of the sector, Conzen, together with other well-known American scholars, dismisses the concept of “primordial” ethnicity by perceiving it as “ancient, unchanging, contained in the blood of the group, in the soul, or in the nebulous past”. Equally rejected is the “instrumental” meaning, which pays little attention to the cultural substratum of ethnic identity. On the contrary, the American authors are in favor of a more political interpretation of ethnicity as a tool for the pursuit of group social and economic interests. The latter interpretation does not diminish history or culture, but emphasizes a more changeable and fleeting aspect of ethnicity, since it is “constantly reinvented to cope with changing realities, both within the group and at the2 .
At least in some ways, such an approach fits in with our perception of ethnicity in Australia, with the important difference that the ‘changing realities’ in Australia can hardly be described as causing the invention of ethnicity, but rather as responsible for reinterpreting ethnic heritage as it is modified to meet the current needs of the group within Australian society. The word “invention” would seem to imply that, in any case, a virtually new ethnic phenomenon is arising, instead of having all the processes closely linked ñ by culture, myths or history ñ to previous generations and, ultimately, to those that might their “primordial” origins be defined. Our point of view,3 .
In reality, the concept of tradition needs further exploration, since the ability of society to develop, and to maintain itself in moments of crisis, can be linked to the strength of its distant heritage. The works of intellectuals such as Ossowski and Znaniecki 4they show how trust in the past not only ensures social stability but also provides the basis for new initiatives and cultural growth. In this regard, the elasticity of Australian society is attributed to the continuity of the maintenance of the European (and Aboriginal) heritage, while the interaction occurs according to a wide range of variables – some coming “from within” the same pluralist society, while others they reach the country by spreading from various external sources. It follows that an elastic society must be considered a society in which tradition is the reflection of several inheritances, while it is creatively modified in response to the needs and aspirations of the present generations 5. Such a perspective is very similar to that of Conzen and the co-authors although it presupposes a greater level of continuity in the transmission of ethnic cultures, so that it can never be invented ab initio .
The revisionist assumption starts from the assumption that migrants bring with them their cultures and heritage which, in contact with the host society, go through a series of modifications that can explain the changes in ethnicity. The concept of invention, however, goes far beyond this, postulating their “appearance”, “disappearance” and “reappearance”. While ethnicities in America may have gone through “periods of flowering and decline” in the form of their expressions, in Australia many ethnic groups have not yet lost or, at times, greatly changed their core values ​​which remain similar to those of countries of origin 6 .
From this perspective, it is the “core values” of culture – be it language, religion, family structure or some other aspect of ethnic heritage – that act as the hallmark of a particular ethnic group. Their persistence, at least among a number of members of ethnic groups in Australia, contrasts with Alba’s idea of ​​European ethnicities merging into a common Euro-American mega-group, against a relatively small (albeit in phase of growth) 7 . The idea that Italo-Australians, for example, can maintain this kind of “authentic” ethnicity only by maintaining their family values ​​as central and, to a lesser extent, linguistic ones, distinguishes this particular approach from the8 . The differences between these two interpretations are partly due to theoretical reasons, partly to the recent nature of the settlement on the Australian continent.
The issues taken into consideration cannot be resolved by making everyone happy, even after the exhaustive debate that appeared on Altreitalie . Unlike in the natural sciences, in the sphere of cultural studies we are not in possession of a particular paradigm, in the meaning proposed by Thomas Kuhn 9. Consequently, in analyzing the concept of ethnicity, we cannot expect to reach a consensus on all the complex issues at stake, since they concern the sphere of feeling, as well as that of the intellect. If scholars still cannot agree on what “intelligence”, “human aggression” or “social class” means, we cannot expect here to resolve the questions posed by the concept of ethnicity. However, to say that the question of ethnicity in Australia or America is complex, which is directly related to human consciousness, which has changed over time, should not prevent us from trying to clarify the subject. It is really difficult to avoid some of these questions, in both countries, as they reverberate directly in current debates about the ethnic makeup of new migratory flows, and the question of “which” Australians or Americans should make decisions about “our” future. In this regard, it must be clear who is meant by “us”, that is, those who are considered the “real” or “right” Australians or Americans (only Anglo-Australians and Americans or even ethnic minorities?).

The Australian ethnic landscape

In the Australian case, the identity of the new arrivals from Europe needs clarification. Were they immigrants or conquerors? Conquerors, more than immigrants, have a habit of imposing their cultures on the conquered, instead of adapting themselves to the existing population. In Australia it was the English language of the newcomers that established its dominance over Aboriginal languages, or those few that remained of the original 230 “languages ​​of Australia” and its approximately 600 dialects 10 .
However, it is unlikely that most Australians today, even those who have resided in the country for several generations, wish to be associated with the ‘lineage of conquerors’. And if they are not of indigenous Aboriginal ancestry, they usually recognize their immigrant origins, some of which date back to the ninth or tenth generation. In presenting the Australian bicentennial celebrations, the prime minister reminded Australians that “we are a nation of immigrants” and expressed his belief that at the beginning of the third century of Australian history, we are facing “one of the most remarkable experiments in the formation of a nation never attempted in history » 11. Such a recognition of the country’s origins testifies to an openness to the world, which implies that Australians do not come from a single ethnic stock, and that to fulfill the destiny of the nation they must draw on their diverse ethnic heritage.
The issue of ethnicity in Australian society can be approached from various angles – according to origins, identity, politics and culture. Price’s origin tables show that the percentage of British ancestry in the population, which includes a large number of populations of Celtic descent, remained at the level of 90 per cent until the massive immigration of non-British Europeans after World War II. when it began to decrease until it reached three quarters 12. The percentage of other ethnic groups has changed over time, with an increase in the number of Italian Australians going from less than 1 percent in 1861 to 4 percent in 1986.
However, Price’s statistical processes are not related to the way of self-perception of today’s Australians, nor to their way of thinking or acting. Furthermore, people of “mixed” origin, ie descendants of different nationalities, are assigned to different ethnic categories through the computerization method of “percentage origins”. This means that, for example, someone with an Aboriginal parent is considered to be 0.5 percent Aboriginal – although they can “feel” completely Aboriginal. It follows that the classification through “origin” must be supplemented by one based on “identification”, or self-perception of persons with respect to a particular type of ethnic background, and subsequently it must be verified whether this association is reflected in types of “particular ethnic activities”,
The identification of Australians with their land, which even many first generation immigrants share with the Aborigines, does not prevent a strong sense of attachment that many of them have for their country of origin. Attachment to symbols, such as flags, emblems, kilts, or characteristic silver or wooden artifacts, plays an important role in the shaping of ethnic identities, both of majority and minority groups, but any enthusiasm that surrounds them tends to fade , and even identity itself can appear a nebulous concept, unless it is anchored to some deeper basis. In this regard it should be noted that while some Australians of British descent openly boast of their origins, a growing number do not recognize a dependence on Great Britain. Nonetheless, they generally lead their lives in ways that are not an Australian invention, but that more or less echo the cultural heritage of their British ancestors and their former empire. In this way they, often unwittingly, make many aspects of their British past active, albeit in modified form, and yet can be considered simply “normal” Australian. Likewise, it has taken some time to appreciate that many Australians of Italian descent may also wish to maintain, adapt and modify aspects of their heritage for use in Australia. However, there is a growing recognition that such adaptations have not produced any significant negative effects in political, cultural or economic life, but rather have contributed to social elasticity and its diversification. This position was clearly expressed by Malcolm Fraser when he spoke of these policies at the time he was prime minister (1975-83).13 :
My government wanted to emphasize to the Italians, the Greeks, or the people of Vietnam, or anywhere else, that they were carrying something special – not just a body, not hands, or feet, but a mind, attitudes, a part of their history, a knowledge of their own language and culture, which would have been invaluable to Australia. Because they merge, and feed, and create something that over time becomes unique to Australia.
While the British contribution can clearly be seen in the structure of Australian institutions, both political, economic and in the field of education, the population comprises around two million bilingual Australians (or one in seven over five years) who use some other “community” language at home, at work or in religion, but who still speak and consider English valid for wider communication in society. Such additions to institutions of English origin are considered increasingly compatible with diversity, and matrices of growth opportunities through cultural exchange. It is this cultural sharing that can provide the key to the development of14 .
A few years ago Joshua Fishman 15he stated that many children in the United States “are not ashamed” of being “ethnic Americans”. He affirmed his ability and his right to express his Americanity in a Jewish way, in the same way that others can prove their Americanness in an English, Irish, Italian or Spanish way. The question now being discussed in Australia is the extent to which it is possible to be Australian in the Italian, English, Greek, Polish and so on – that is, depending on the complex ethnic origins of modern Australians. According to this idealized version, the Australian identity can be compared to a ray of light which, when refracted by a prism, turns out to be composed of a series of different colors, which put together give a light.

The vault of common values

This image of diversity in unity clarifies some of the main themes of the “ethnic debate”, since it refers to the need to “share” implicit in the concept of “Australian”, and to the meaning of “ethnic change”, which reflects the different cultural baggage of immigrants who have continued to pour into the country since 1788, as well as those of Australian aborigines. A dynamic balance emerges between the vault of common values, on the one hand, and the specific values ​​of particular ethnic groups, on the other 16. This process of cultural interaction can lead to a gradual modification not only of the various ethnic values, but also of the same vaulted structure through the inclusion of cultural elements by more than one ethnic group. This interpretation agrees with that of Conzen and co-authors 17 when they write that the American experience involves: ‘a process of syncretism by which many of the ethnic cultures were incorporated into the shifting definitions of what made an American such and what it meant to be American. Although it does not correspond either to Anglo conformity or to the melting pot assimilation models , the interaction of the main stream ethnoculture with the side streamit caused important changes in both.
The processes of intercultural exchange between different ethnic groups also imply a phenomenon of cultural renewal within the value system of each group, since the heritage is valued by the younger generations as relevant to their current needs. These two processes, namely that of the interaction between cultures, and the regeneration within each culture, overlap, so that the meaning of each heritage is established in the light of the cultural contributions of the other groups involved in the interaction process. However, the consequent division and adaptation of inheritances can only take place when freedom of choice and individual participation are guaranteed. This represents the essence of cultural democracy which at all
The emphasis on individual choice agrees with Conzen’s focus on the “active decision-making process” of immigrants in the “renegotiation” of their traditions, and reflects the postulate that the process of adaptation and sharing can only be understood when related to individuals. involved in renewal, interaction and further cultural development. It is initiated by individual members who build their “personal cultural systems” by reinterpreting and modifying the legacies that have been passed on to them by family, school and other socialization agencies. This modification can be either the result of the members’ scientific and / or artistic creativity or cultural inputs from external sources, including the legacies of ethnic groups other than one’s own. If more than one inheritance is available in a society, so some selection process is inevitable according to the aspirations and needs of the various members. Subsequent changes in the personal cultural system of individuals can in turn reflect on the system of the group, in which case the same vault of values ​​is subject to transformations and possible extensions18 .
It follows that the picture of ethnicity cannot always be conceptualized through the metaphor of the vault as a static construction reminiscent of the Roman arch, but rather as an “umbrella” that can be opened and adapted to admit new values ​​and redefine old ones. . In this way the changes occur within the structure, which comes to reflect more than one type of inheritance, and to personify the living traditions of the whole society. This process is not yet sufficiently advanced in Australian society, in particular in relation to those aspects of culture that touch most directly on the values ​​of the majority group. Misunderstandings about the nature of bilingualism have made it more difficult to cultivate other languages ​​due to fears that they could “harm” English.
It is recognized that if the Australian vault or umbrella were to remain exclusively British in origin, this would imply a virtual complete assimilation of all other ethnic groups, making them adapt to the model of the dominant group. On the other hand, there is fear of an excessive extension of the “umbrella” through the inclusion of too many different elements because this could cause possible tears and a social fragmentation along separate ethnic lines. Australian policies in recent years have tended to reject the first of these alternatives, and to warn against the other. It has gradually been recognized that, although some levels of assimilation are inevitable, different groups assimilate at different times. Furthermore, some aspects of a culture are adopted more readily than others, and this again depends from group to group, according to its particular ethnic values. Even within a particular ethnic group there are, of course, variations in the extent of the assimilation process between individual members.
The failure to accomplish assimilation through a ‘pressure cooker’ in Australia is partly due to the lack of willingness, or even the mere inability of minority members to shake off the former culture and, in part, to the different levels of acceptance by the dominant group, even in relation to those who promoted assimilation. The failure of assimilationist assumptions paved the way for the idea that elasticity in a pluralist society is best pursued through the development of a variety of cultural activities within a framework of shared values.
Over the past two decades, many of these values ​​have been identified – including our democratic tradition, individual freedom, economic pluralism and the English language – as common values ​​for all Australians 19 . It has been pointed out that although many of these shared values ​​derive, at least in their most direct form, from the legacy of the majority of British origin, after some modifications they have finally become the preserve of all groups 20 .
The model of a dynamic balance between the range of country values ​​and a multiplicity of ethnic values ​​has been so universally accepted that it has become part of the common lexicon and the language of official relations, although the dynamic way in which sharing can be linked to ethnic cultural diversity is not entirely clear 21 . The clearest formulation is probably that of the former prime minister, Malcolm Fraser, according to whom “multiculturalism is about difference not division – it’s about interaction, not isolation. It concerns the ethnic and cultural differences inserted within a framework of common central values ​​that allow them to coexist on a complementary rather than competitive basis ” 22 .
Unfortunately, this clarity of purpose, reaffirmed in the Lo Bianco Report on National Policy on Languages, has failed in some recent official declarations, in particular those coming from the new Department of Employment, Education and Training. His working document (“The Green Paper”) is faithful from the title, “The Language of Australia” (in the singular!), To the minister’s vision of a multicultural but equally monolingual Australia. To make matters worse, the term ‘literacy’ means English literacy 23with the implicit assumption that learning other languages ​​besides English does not involve the acquisition of language skills, or that there is no influence of the child’s first language. The White Paper, issued after a public debate (mostly contrary to Deet), still bears the title Australia‘s Language (1991), even if it no longer considers Italian a foreign language!

Core values

At the official level, therefore, there are uncertainties regarding the benefits of ethnicity as agents of cultural change and vitality within Italian society. One view that has gained ground, however, is that in order for Australia to thrive in the Asian Pacific regions and compete successfully in world trade, it must unleash its multilingualism and multiculturalism potentials that have been held for too long. within ethnic families and clubs. In order to achieve this, Australia must take advantage of ethnic cultural interaction to foster creativity. It was TS. This observation suggests that there is almost always some degree of tension between the value systems of various groups. Such tensions (more than open conflicts) can, in fact, prove positive by focusing on the availability of options, when individuals can afford to be eclectic and select those values ​​that seem most appropriate to them to meet their needs.
An interaction leading to creativity presupposes a “certain level” of cultural survival. The persistence of a culture depends on numerous factors, including the ability of the cultural heritage to interact successfully with new inputs both from within (in a multicultural environment) and from without (through dissemination from other sources). The result of this interaction reflects the level of overlap and mutual compatibility between the different cultural values ​​involved in the interaction process. However, the extent to which a culture survives depends on the transmission of “core values” which are considered of significant importance by group members 25 .
From this perspective, cultural values ​​cannot be seen as an amorphous or random jumble which, in the case of a given group, may include an ethnic language, national dances, music, particular foods, religion, family structure, arts and crafts. political organization or activism, the educational system, traditional methods of folk medicine, and a sentimental attachment to the homeland or region that culminates in a concept of territoriality. The point of view adopted here is that the various elements are not all equally important in identifying individuals as members of a group; and that some elements may be altered or even lost, without affecting the stability of the group. While, there are other cultural aspects that are of fundamental importance for their continuous use and integrity, so much so that they can be considered the cornerstones around which the entire social and group identification system is organized. The removal of these hinges, through forced “modernization” or assimilation to the dominant group, would lead to the collapse of the entire building. Hence the concept of a “fragmented” or “residual” culture (declared “inauthentic” by Fishman and Nahirny would lead to the collapse of the entire building. Hence the concept of a “fragmented” or “residual” culture (declared “inauthentic” by Fishman and Nahirny would lead to the collapse of the entire building. Hence the concept of a “fragmented” or “residual” culture (declared “inauthentic” by Fishman and Nahirny26 ) whose primordial elements have been reduced to scattered fragments or residues 27 , once its original hinges have been removed and replaced with cultural values ​​that originate from the colonizing group, dominant or majority.
As long as they form the backbone of the group culture, core values ​​act as identifying values ​​that symbolize the group and its members. It is through core values ​​that social groups can be identified as distinct cultural communities. The group’s loss of its core values ​​leads to its disintegration as a community perpetuating itself as an authentic cultural entity across generations. On the other hand, the survival of values ​​exclusively among the most “traditionalist” members, and the at least partial denial by others who have not activated these legacies and assimilated to the values ​​imposed / assumed by the dominant culture, can cause a ideological conflict between “nativists” and “assimilated”.28 . It should also be noted, however, that if core values ​​still survive at least among some members, these individuals can act as role models for the “renegades” and help them “return” and activate at least some aspects of their ethnic heritage. At the same time, the “assimilates”, thanks to their contacts with the dominant group or groups, can, in times of crisis, come to the aid of more traditional members whose position in the enlarged society may be more vulnerable or whose country of origin may be threatened.
It was supported elsewhere 29that cultural groups differ in the extent to which they give central importance to their languages ​​of origin. One may, for example, be an Irish nationalist and at the same time be unable to speak Gaelic. Similarly, there are people in Australia, as well as in many other countries around the world with a highly developed sense of their Jewish identity who, however, speak neither Hebrew, nor Yiddish, nor other languages ​​or dialects of a Hebrew matrix (va noted of course that today in the state of Israel itself there is little doubt that the Hebrew language can be a central value). The conflict over central linguistic values ​​is not a reason for ethnic fractures in Lebanon, while religious ones are.
There are, however, other cultural groups that have always stressed that language is the main cultural vehicle and consider it their greatest defense against assimilation. In this regard, it is enough to mention Polish, the Baltic languages, Greek or the use of French in Quebec. The same applies to ancient ethnic minorities whose members are citizens of countries that officially or nationally adopt other languages, but whose cultural identity is rooted in other native languages, as in the case of Catalans and Basques in Spain 30 . of the Frizoni in Holland or of the Bretons in France.

The core values ​​of Italians in relation to other ethnic groups in Australia

In any discussion of the nature of core values ​​in a particular culture, it is important to remember that more than one core value may be involved, and that a hierarchy of relative importance can be established between them. Thus the Italian language is undoubtedly one of the central values ​​of Italian culture but, at least among peasant immigrants from Italy and their descendants, the importance of the family as a cultural value can transcend that of language 31 . In contradiction to the Anglo-Saxon emphasis on individualism, autonomy and independence, the ethos of the Italian family has shown that it is based on a collective vision and on the mutual interdependence of its members 32. Thinking about the US case, Vecoli, for example, argued that the loyalty that the southern Italian family asked of its members was “so exclusive (…) that it prevented membership in other social institutions” 33 . In his experience, the Italian ethnic tradition “rewarded family solidarity at the expense of individual advancement.”
In some ways a similar situation prevailed in Australia, due to the particular nature and timing of Italian immigration, when the new arrivals brought with them a variety of regional legacies, with a large majority speaking almost exclusively the local dialect. The acceptance of the family as a priority has been reflected in the lower concern on the part of many Italian-Australians for the maintenance of Italian in its literary form, as opposed to an oral “familiar language” for daily communication within a group restricted social. The latter can take the form of a “purified dialect” or a “mixture” of Italian and English, which can be either a dialectal base on which English terms are superimposed,34 .
Due to the size of the ethnic communities in question, Italian ethnic schools in Australia have been relatively few and sparsely attended, when compared to those founded, for example, by Greeks and Ukrainians, many of whom retain their mother tongue not simply as a convenient means of family communication, but as a central element of their cultural heritage. To a certain extent this can be explained with greater frequency, starting in 1970, of the teaching of Italian in “normal” schools, both state and Catholic. The Italian language is also poorly supported by the church, since, despite the religious support to the Italian community from the Scalabrinians,35 .
Despite the lack of such structural support, the role of Italians in maintaining the ethnic identity of immigrants should not be underestimated. As Kinder points out, “in addition to constituting a lingua franca among Italians who speak mutually incomprehensible dialects, (it) became the linguistic expression for what Italians believed they had in common and discovered that they distinguished them from other residents of Australia” 36. The extent to which members of minorities perceive their cultures as “distinct” from those of others, and in particular from the dominant majority, can be conceptualized as the “ethnic tenacity” of the group in relation to the cultural context in which it finds itself. To a certain extent, the “diversity” of the Italian-Australians was maintained thanks to the perception of the differences in value that appeared greater, both in social life and in linguistic discourse, compared to, for example, Dutch or Australian Germans 37. The feeling of being in a certain way “separated” from the Anglo-Celtic majority has favored the “ethnic tenacity” of the Italians, thus their core family values ​​are still strong, while those based on the language have been positively influenced from the official policy of multiculturalism and its application to the school system, including some universities 38 .
Australian census data show a steady trend as first generation Europeans said they ‘don’t’ know their mother tongue. Indeed, the uniformity of the transition to the English language, as the data on the major ethnic groups in all the states and territories of Australia show, is in line with the empirical findings obtained from the study of the Australian scenario 39 . Data from the 1976 census show that Australians born in Greece have the lowest dropout rate (3 percent), while the Dutch are the most frequently switched to English among all groups with a rate of 44 percent. in the first generation. The Italians, the Yugoslavs, the Poles,40 . In the 1986 census 41 the same rate of linguistic erosion was maintained, both for first generation immigrants (Greeks 4.4 per cent, Yugoslavs 9; Italians 10, Poles 16, Maltese 26, Germans 41; Dutch 48) and for their children. Those who have parents with the same linguistic background also show the loss of the use of the language of origin in the same order (Greeks 8.7 per cent, Yugoslavs 18; Italians 29, Maltese 59, Germans 73; Dutch 85). Those who come from “mixed” marriages are subjected to greater linguistic erosion (Greeks 41 per cent, Yugoslavs 65, Italians 71, Maltese 86, Germans 85, Dutch 92).
However, the limitations of such census data need to be understood. For example, just as the Yugoslavian linguistic grouping is artificial, also for Italian it does not differentiate between the language and the dialects, nor between the extended or restricted use of the language in question. At best, such data can give indications of the ethnolinguistic vitality of a language, but not of its meaning as a central value of a culture. With all these reservations it is nevertheless remarkable that the self-declared hierarchy of linguistic erosions of the languages ​​in question has been maintained through generations and over time.
An empirical study of the language used in the homes of Catholic secondary school students in southern Australia showed the same order of ethnic groups, except for the Greek-Australians, absent from the sample because of the Orthodox religion. The data showed that Italians and Poles made the most use of the ethnic language (88 percent and 85 percent), followed by the Germans (70 percent) and the Dutch (65 percent). A similar order was observed in relation to support for the teaching and learning of ethnic minority languages. Again about two thirds of the Poles and Italians interviewed were in favor of teaching the mother tongue at school. The German-Australians were somewhat less enthusiastic, while the Dutch were a ‘42 . According to data reported in 1991 by the Department of Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, among those born in the Netherlands over the age of five, 98 percent spoke only English at home, as opposed to 15.2 percent of those born in Poland 43 .
Another recent study on the use of the language among Italian families, particularly from the Veneto, reflects the sociolinguistic complexity that existed in Italy at the time they emigrated, mixed with the interference of Australian forms of English 44. While the mother tongue of the parents in most cases was the Venetian dialect, they had also been exposed to standard Italian through the national school system. Their knowledge of standard Italian depended on the number of years of formal education they had received and the opportunities they had had to practice it.
Communication between various family members often involved the use of Australianized forms of English. Such an Englishman was the main vehicle of conversation that children used among themselves and when speaking to their second generation Italian-Australian companions. Sometimes English also entered the Italian language of parents and other older family members and their friends. In this way the linguistic heritage of the older generations, which often represented the main living contact with some form of Italian for their second or third generation descendants, was indeed activated, but endangered by the growing interference of the English language.
A study of attitudes towards the Italian language by the same group of students revealed a wide spectrum of responses and evidence of an assessment of Italian in positive or indifferent, rather than negative, terms. More than a third could be considered “assimilated” (not practicing any form of Italian) but, even within this group, the students were positive or indifferent in their assessment of Italian. A quarter of the Italian respondents fell into the category of “oral bilingualism”, which mainly referred to their use of the Venetian dialect, while they gave positive evaluations of Italian. Almost half of the group in question could be classified as bilingual in Italian and English, and the majority rated the mother tongue positively.
The bilingual group had enjoyed the benefits of the Australian government’s multicultural policies which had made it possible to introduce the Italian language in a good number of Australian schools as an equal subject to French and German. The position of the Italian language in Australian schools is complex, since (unlike, for example, modern Greek or Polish) it also attracts people of Anglophone background. Consequently, Italian is often treated as a “foreign” language, while the descendants of Italians prefer to consider it in terms of a “community” language, which requires a different approach both in methodology and in the cultural contents of education.


Studies on Italian culture in Australia continue to be surrounded by uncertainty as to the extent to which the Italian language represents a sine qua non for the survival of the authentic Italian identity in Australia. Our research seems to suggest that language played a subsidiary role to the family, even for the first generation of immigrants, who spoke more fluent dialects than anything else but did not show the same missionary zeal for learning the standard forms of their own. language, as the Latvians, Ukrainians and Greeks did 45. Although Italian has received more support from the Australian school system than the languages ​​of other minorities, recent studies by Camilla Bettoni, Kinder and others have come to the conclusion that ‘it would appear that Italian is not in too much condition. rosy in Australia (even if) the level of contamination and passage to English is not as advanced as in the Americas » 46 .
This linguistic situation quite daunting, when combined with the persistence of ethnic identity in general did take into account some Australian authors the invention of ethnicity hypothesis Conzen et al 47. However, it would seem that, from the start, Italian ethnic loyalty did not focus so blatantly on language, as in the case of other cultural minorities. One possible conclusion is that the Australian experience simply accentuated the relative value priorities of the Italian family over language. While current attempts to maintain the Italian language may prove insufficient to secure its future in Australia, our research agrees with that of Bettoni and Lo Bianco 48according to which the embers of Italian linguistic competence (mainly dialects) are still burning (sometimes strongly) in the family and in associations. With proper education support from the Australian government and Italy itself, the flame of the language can be rekindled in its standard form, a feat that Australia is still capable of but is already at beyond American possibilities.
The interest that Italians in Italy have for Italians in Australia, and the perception of their native country’s concern for the “other Italy” overseas, has undoubtedly helped to maintain central Italian values ​​in Australia and cast a positive image of Italy as a whole in that country. The ever increasing popularity of Italian among Australians of all origins increases the consideration of Italians in the country and can thus help the maintenance of Italian cultural values, albeit in considerably different forms, when compared not only to the culture from which they were originally traits, but also with the changed cultural scene of Italy today. The improvement of Italy’s position in the world, and the recognition of the strength of its economy,
It is more likely, however, that for the majority of Italian Australians, the Italian language will continue to play a “second violin” role over extended family ties. This situation cannot be interpreted as the invention of a new type of Italian ethnicity, but rather as an increase in attention to those aspects of culture which, since the beginning of their settlement, Italian immigrants have considered more valid than others


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