This week, Leadership Ballarat and Western Region 2019 (LBWR19) participants were privileged to hear from a range of speakers on the topic of cultural diversity in our community and broader region.
We discussed the "cultural iceberg", which proposes that culture has two main components: surface culture - which sits above the water - and deep culture, hidden beneath the surface.
When people meet those who come from different cultures, it is easy for them to make assumptions or judgement about that culture without seeing the full structure.
So, what should we as community leaders do to avoid making assumptions or early judgement?
We must respect the diversity of our city and region.
We also discussed the difference between a multicultural and intercultural city.
A multicultural city is one that contains several cultural or ethnic groups, whereas an intercultural city is one where diversity is deemed to be the norm and is a place where there is communication, interaction and exchange of knowledge between diverse cultural groups.
Ballarat is striving to create an inclusive intercultural community that celebrates its diversity, rather than segregating and judging it.
LBWR19 participants believe that this intercultural community can achieve a turnaround of the cultural iceberg, and lead to a better understanding - and greater acceptance - of those from different cultural or racial backgrounds.
The day was beautifully catered by a local social enterprise called A Pot of Courage - a fine example of the Ballarat district's intercultural status.
The content of the program was confronting, with a lot of emotions shown on both sides of the panel.
We undertook the "privilege walk" experiment, where we were all given new identities to role-play, and asked questions which sometimes challenged our unconscious biases.
At the end of the experiment, those who had stepped in to the lead turned around to see what had happened to the less privileged in our community; they were simply left behind.
This raised the question of whether we are doing enough to help those who really need it to achieve equity in the community.
How can we, as community members and leaders, help those who were left behind?
As a prereading to the day, all of the LBWR19 participants watched the documentary Is Australia Racist?, hosted by Ray Martin.
This documentary explored the role and effect that media and politicians can have in building the general public's unconscious and conscious biases, through the framing of issues by way of the language used.
The use of terms like "illegal immigrants" in lieu of "asylum seekers" is an effective tactic in building these biases.
The term "illegal immigrants" is used to shift opinions in the general public, to suit what those people in power want us to believe.
In cases like this, we as community leaders, without power or authority in some instances, need to show leadership to lead change.
As a community, we need to stand up and call out those who think this is OK. Most of the time, such judgments come from ignorance of the many cultures within our communities. It is our duty to educate those who do not know about the struggles many people from different backgrounds go through every day.
We drew on personal anecdotes from our guest speakers to discover the ongoing and sometimes brutal discrimination these people face every day, to the point where they no longer feel comfortable dressing, acting or even speaking in their true accents because they have been racially discriminated and abused for doing so.
As a community, we need to stand up and call out those who think this is OK. Most of the time, such judgments come from ignorance of the many cultures within our communities.
It is our duty to educate those who do not know about the struggles many people from different backgrounds go through every day, especially when those struggles have taken place in Australia.
Australia's past can no longer be swept under the rug. We need to embrace and accept our past atrocities to be able to work together so we can all take equal steps forward, and no-one gets left behind.
Jack Miller and James Westbrook are Leadership Ballarat and Western Region 2019 participants