Last week I was invited to lunch with senior Indian journalists who were visiting Australia at the behest of the Australian Government, to assess the reality of the violence confronting some of the Indian students.

As an Australian Greek, I tried to allay their fears of institutional racism, as I believe, that on the whole Australians are not racist.

Yes, there is racism, and yes, some Australians are racist regardless of their own cultural background.

Australia has a racist past but now we are a multicultural nation.
“You’re better off as an immigrant here than in many EU nations” I emphasised to them.

“Once you’re a citizen, regardless of what anyone calls you, you pay taxes and you can assert your rights,” I added “that’s the greatness of the new world, no castes, no ancient hatreds, no religious sectarianism.”

They agreed and went on to highlight that Indians where “more successful in the US” while a young female journalist pointed out how much I look like her uncle.

Over 200 years of migration and settlement, and now around 500,000 new arrivals every year, have created a palimpsest of cultures making Australia a ‘successful multicultural’ nation as government literature would say. We are without dramatic cultural fractures.

The most important challenge that needs to be addressed is the relationship between all Australians and Aboriginal Australians.
As a republican, I think things will be better once “we get rid of the Union Jack from our flag” I said.

At that point a fellow Greek and a senior government spokesperson said, “Many people have died over that flag, don’t forget that.”

The comment was poignant. Many gave their lives for the freedoms we, cherish here and for their flag. Equally, many of those that fought in the First and Second World Wars came back convinced of the need to assert our status as Australians, not members of the British Empire.

As a republic with a new flag.
During Australia Day many young people enjoying themselves were wrapped in the Australian flag – not a bad thing. A little nationalism is ok.

But, I felt queasy when I saw a drunk young man wrapped in an Aussie flag roaming Plenty Road, Preston, screaming, “Aussie Oi Oi Oi, f-cken Aussie Oi Oi Oi” at every Asian, Indian, or non-blond Aussie he saw.
The ugly scenes from the 2005 Cronulla race riots flashed in my head, when then prime-minister John Howard said, “I do not accept there is underlying racism in this country.”

My seven-year-old son was also scared, “Dad let’s go!” he said, but we stayed true to our course and when we walked past him, he chanted, “Aussie Oi Oi Oi” but nothing happened – he was just having fun in the end.
The Australian flag has in recent years become a barrier to total inclusion, it is not the unifying herald it should be.

National flags need to unify all citizens, regardless of culture, language and political persuasion.

The Union Jack represents the unity of Great Britain and the freedoms British people enjoy.
The Union Jack though on our flag still signifies our once colonial status and represents a specific cultural and linguistic group, not all Australians.