Elements of cultural identity
Culture is not static but dynamic and changing, and family cultural values will also change from generation to generation. For example:
First Generation Australian
These families are the first people who have come to live in Australia. These families may struggle to adapt to an entirely different culture and may find strength and support from the familiarity of their home language and traditional practices. They may seek the company of families of similar cultural backgrounds until they have begun to settle and feel at home in Australia.
Second generation Australian
These families are the children of first generation families. They may still be bilingual and function successfully in mainstream society while continuing to live out specific cultural practices at home.
Third to fifth generation Australian
These families are the children of second plus generation families. They may have lost the ability to read, write and speak their home languages. However, there is still strong evidence to suggest cultural values, cultural identification, lifestyle and behaviours are retained through to the fourth and even fifth generation after migration.
Taking on dominant cultural practices
Families who come to Australia will all have different ideas about how much of the dominant culture they choose to practice. For example:
Experiencing the lifestyle and learning the language
Some families will come into Australia knowing that they will only be staying for a short amount of time. During their short stay they may want their children to experience the Australian lifestyle and learn English, whilst choosing to actively maintain their home language, customs and cultural practices.
Some families who are new to Australia and plan to live here permanently may want their children to learn English quickly and they may actively embrace and participate in all Australian community and cultural activities. They may be concerned that their children’s accent could cause them to experience prejudice. They may believe that assimilating into the new culture is the only pathway to opportunity to provide belonging and security for their children.
Some families who are new to Australia may want their children to learn English and learn how to live within this new environment but may also want to hold onto their own traditions, language and cultural practices. They may find security by holding onto familiar cultural practices during times of change.
Because families are diverse it is important that early childhood educators learn about the unique cultural needs of the families that are currently participating in their programs. It’s important to continually update this knowledge for each new group of children.
Read more information about acculturation in Acculturation: Living successfully in two cultures (Berry, J 2005)