Serving the Pakistani community in Australia: Pakistanis quest for integration with dignity in a multi cultural society

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By Attaullah Khan & Zeenat Bibi

The latest Census of 2011conducted in Australia recorded that there 30 221 Pakistan-born people living in Australia with an increase of 77.8 per cent from the 2006 Census. The 2011 distribution by state and territory showed New South Wales had the largest number of Pakistanis with 13 382 followed by Victoria (9187), Western Australia (2521) and Queensland (2357). According to the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship The main languages spoken at home by Pakistan-born people in Australia were Urdu (21 911), English (3074) and Pashto (1411).

There are still number of Pakistanis trying to get into Australia for perusing studies or careers. More than thirty thousand population of Pakistanis living Australia mighty have some problems because of cross-cultural and environmental differences.

It includes finding accommodation with suitable people, most of the times they prefer to live with other Pakistanis. If it’s a family, then they face real difficulty to find housing with other families or separate homes. For students finding odd jobs it’s also very hard as they lack communication skills or have no knowledge of lifestyle. If some are professional, then they don’t have local experience so they also face difficulty in finding a career and ending up doing odd jobs.

Syed Muhammad Aqeel Tahir hails from Lahore. He settled in Australia in 2005 and since then he has been serving in his capacity to the people not only Pakistanis but others across Australia and Pakistan.

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Syed Muhammad Aqeel Tahir hails from Lahore, he settled in Australia in 2005.

“My journey started as one-man engine when I arrived in Australia in 2005, it struck out while helping colleagues and fellow students, lending a hand wherever it was possible. It was then thought over that a platform should be, where people of different communities could come together and interact with each and seek help, which will further fill out the gap in between cultures. Today we stand as “Australia-Pakistan Youth Association Inc.” known as Australia-Pakistan Club “told Aqeel.

Upon interrogating about the current swing of Islamophobia across the globe, that should Pakistani migrants be worried about? the Pakistani born abruptly replied with a big NO, Pakistani migrants should not be worried as mostly people here accept you as you are. They don’t bother about religion and don’t judge someone for religious beliefs. Here people respect each other and love to be friends. There is a very small number of people who judge people for their religion or their race but they are like salt in flour, he added.

Majid Khan, Pakistani journalist and lecturer of documentary production and journalism at National University of Modern Languages, in Islamabad perusing his PhD at RMIT University, in Melbourne, Australia, told that he is on student visa and had no difficulties getting his visa. “In Immigration cases people face a lot of problems, the biggest of all is lack of information or education”.

When Asked whether he faced any problem in Australia he argued that he has been in UK for over two and a half years. He was acquainted with Western values, which made it easier to adjust in Australia”. But those with language barriers and less exposure outside their own country will surely find it hard to get integrated in Australia.

Aqeel Tahir told that their association main mission is to bring together the communities & bridge the gap between different and diverse cultures with a message of peace & harmony.

He further elaborates that prompting youth welfare (for all), multi-cultural activities, supporting talent from all diverse culture’s internationally, help in organizing cultural & traditional events at a larger scale and integration of communities through social events.

His work includes helping people from Pakistani Community and other communities. He and his team provide help such as accommodation, employment guidance, charity work, community work, educate members with laws and rules, student support and promote businesses which can particularly benefit Pakistanis.

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According to the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship The main languages spoken at home by Pakistan-born people in Australia were Urdu (21 911), English (3074) and Pashto (1411).

As acknowledgement of his contribution he has been awarded with ‘Power of Peace Award 2016’. Even before this individual feat, his association had secured appreciation for its work by the Honourable Prime Minister of Australia Ms. Julia Gillard in 2013. In the same year, he was awarded with Community Services Award by University of Management and Technology, Lahore.

He and his colleagues have been instrumental in their support to the flood affected people in Pakistan in 2010 through provision of tent hospital and have also been involved in other initiatives in Pakistan.

There is another organization named Pakistan Association of Australia (PAA), which was founded over 40 years ago with the aim of representing the Pakistani Australians, PAA has been a platform, voice and a medium of communication for Pakistani Australians from all walks of life. The Association has emerged into a platform that has voiced and provided assistance to issues faced by Pakistani Australians.

Abbas Rana president of PAA told that their aim is to establish cultural harmony amongst the communities living in Australia. “Being the flag bearer of multiculturalism we have upheld our cultural values while integrating with Australian multicultural society. Over the years, Pakistani community in Australia has grown. We as an organisation continue to be a platform and voice for Pakistani Australians in today’s multicultural Australia”.

The association also engages enlightened Pakistani intellectuals to interact and communicate ideas for the development and prosperity of Australia as well as Pakistani community.

We would like to acknowledge the research and interviews conducted Eliza Beck & David Delmenico and their contribution to this article.

Photo courtesy: Muhammad Aqeel Tahir

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