For much of the time, people have assumed that Australian society was quite monocultural – that only since the second world was has large-scale immigration pushed this nation towards multiculturalism. It has been assumed that each ethnic group was monocultural, when in reality they were culturally diverse.
The following papers on Brisbane and region indicate that local society was to some extent multicultural from the beginning of settlement. There was, however, a dominant British culture which by and large imposed its will on ethnic and other minorities, the outcome being discomfort, distress, detention and death in many instances.
On the other hand, Brisbane was over the years proven to be a welcome home and an economic base for various peoples, including the British and ‘southern’ species, who have migrated here to better their lot. They in turn, have benefited Brisbane in many ways.
Though not intended to address this issue as a whole, there papers survey or explore selected aspect of Aboriginal and ethnic life, relations and experience in the past. Like other BHG collections of papers, they derive from talks given at several seminar: on Aboriginal culture and European contact in the Brisbane region, in 1985 (Part 1 below); on Brisbane as a multicultural society, in 1986 (Part 3); and on aspects of pre-Separation Brisbane, in 1987 (Part 2).
As we approach the Australian bicentennial year, we might well reflect on the nature of our local society, its past development, its present ethnic and cultural mix, and its future form. It our aim is to achieve a tolerant, pluralistic, multicultural community – in other words, a just society – there is much to understand and a long way further to go.
Though hardly a complete treatment of Aboriginal and ethnic Brisbane, this collections of preliminary papers might help in this regard.