What can we learn from Australia’s diversifying cities?
Of the highly developed countries, Australia is the most multicultural. Over one quarter of all Australians were born overseas and this number seems to keep growing. Australia continues to attract people from around the globe, especially from across Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Australia understands the importance of this and thus focuses on its role as part of the Asia Pacific region, rather than just focusing specifically on the more similar neighbor, New Zealand. The result is that Australia has two of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, with people, languages, foods, and more from near and far. On the other hand, while Sydney and Melbourne keep diversifying, the rest of the, primarily less urbanized, parts of the country have a different perspective.
It goes back centuries. As the US became independent Australia became the new destination for British migrants. But the location of Oceania, on the exact other side of the world from England, led to a different reality. Centuries later, Australia, though geographically similar in size to the continental US, has way below 1/10th as many people, the vast majority of whom are concentrated in just a few cities, and mostly Sydney and Melbourne. But Australian multi-culutralism is very different from America's racial diversity and melting pot metaphor.
Sydney and Melbourne are incredible places to explore what modern multiculturalism can look like. The extremes in Australia, combined with similar history to the US, make for an incredible environment for Americans to think about different versions of diversity. Down under we will taste some of the diverse foods these cities have on offer and get a feeling for the lifestyle and neighborhoods that define these places. And of course, along the way we can take in the amazing sights of Sydney Harbor, peruse the laneways of Melbourne, shop at Queen Vic market, and even try some local grown spices on a rooftop farm.
Sydney is Australia’s largest and most iconic city. Starting our Australian journey in “the Harbour City”, our group will immerse ourselves in the different neighborhoods, organizations, and communities that make Sydney so cosmopolitan.
From an exploration of the historic Rocks district to a home-style dinner with fresh local herbs in Thai town, the different districts of the city will come alive. We will travel by train, bus and ferry around the city paying a visit to the famous Sydney Opera House and passing over and under the famed Harbour bridge.
We will get out of the center to visit the beach areas and the stunning seaside neighborhoods as we walk along the coastal trail starting at Bondi beach. Here along the coast we can also get a taste for one of the great equalizers in the country as we see families enjoying the sun and the sand.
Melbourne, the world’s most liveable city is also Australia’s fastest growing place: Melbourne absorbs the largest share of immigrants in the country. As more and more people move to the city, it’s identity continues to evolve. With progressive leadership and a deep connection with multiculturalism, Melbourne is the perfect place to continue our trip.
We will start our time in the core of Melbourne. We will dig into the local markets, like the famous Queen Victoria market in the center of the city as well as some of the humongous Asian food markets around the city. We will visit some of the different neighborhoods right in the CBD and have a fun Asian fusion dinner at one of the cities coolest restaurants, and an Italian feast at one of the oldest. We will get lost exploring the street art, amazing cafes, and cool shops of the many laneways in the city and pay a visit to some of the diverse urban farms.
We will also take a day trip out towards Churchill and Phillip island to explore how rural life contrasts with lifestyles in the cities, and specifically learn about the connection to the American Civil War. After dinner we will also pay a visit to the famous nightly Penguin parade to see the fairy penguins return to nest on shore.
In Melbourne we will explore the changing neighborhoods and get into some of the coastal communities to learn about and try some amazing coffee in St. Kilda, the best Avocado Toast you’ve ever tasted, and even a visit to the Brighton Beach Boxes.
In Melbourne (and Sydney) we will also connect with a variety of organizations, and even government representatives, who are exploring issues of multiculturalism for the city and helping to support the different communities. These meetings can be shaped based on the specific focus of the trip we decide on.
In addition to spending time in Sydney and Melbourne, we can add a stop in Canberra, the capital of Australia to explore the topic of migration or multiculturalism from a governance perspective. If we stop in Canberra we can also add a road trip and visit other less urban parts of the country to explore the contrast between multiculturalism in cities versus rural areas more deeply. In Canberra, We can focus specifically on broader discussions regarding refugees and migration at the national level.
There are lots of different approaches and lenses we can apply to this trip that will shape the experience to your needs. From a specific project or problem you are considering at your school or organizations, we can tailor this itinerary to align with the specific issues and skills you want to explore.
In addition to focusing on cultural diversity, we can also approach Australian growth from an urbanization/design perspective and think specifically about inclusive design and economic diversity as well. Melbourne in particular as the world’s most liveable city is a spectacular place to explore future ideas of urban planning.
In addition to topic focuses, there are other cities and destinations we can suggest, like heading to Brisbane in Queensland, or even a visit to Uluru to deepen our understanding of Aboriginal history as well.
While we think Australia is an incredible destination for high schools and students, groups of all ages can have a spectacular experience while confronting questions about the future of multiculturalism in their own organizations and home cities.