Graduation ceremonies a celebration of Australia’s cultural diversity

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One of the joys / delights of being a university chancellor is presiding over graduation cermonies.
As students receive their testamurs they are greeted not just by enthusiastic clapping and cheering but at the University of Western Sydney, over which I preside – and as a reflection of the increasing number of Arabic, Indian and African background students – ululating.
The linguistic and cultural attributes of Australian students can help to create new opportunities for trade and commerce.
The great majority of those in the audience, whose children are the first generation of their family to enjoy university, recognise the magnitude of the achievement and the possibilities it represents.
By creating an institution open to all students of ability, no matter what their background or family circumstance, Australian society is continuously revitalised.
Around a third of the domestic students who attend UWS come from families that speak a language other than English at home. The second languages of most of our bilingual students are Arabic, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Mandarin, Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Tamil, Filipino/Tagalog or Korean. Increasing numbers of our students come from the Pacific islands.
We need to stop thinking about this archetypally Australian process of migrant settlement in terms of barriers of language and discrimination. Migrants (and refugees) bring entrepreneurial drive and ambition for their children.
Young people brought up in two cultures possess an additional asset that can enhance their educational qualifications in business, law, medicine, nursing, teaching, engineering or community work.
The key is to unlock through education the aspirational energy that exists. Equally important, we need to recognise the cultural skills and family ambition that graduates from diverse backgrounds can bring to building a stronger nation. The students who shake my hand are the future face of Australia.
Peter Shergold, the former secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, is now Chancellor of the University of Western Sydney.

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