A million miles to … acceptance

Jasmine Elliott, a senior in high school, is the incredible founder of a media project called The Million Miles Project. We were fortunate to sit down with her and hear her opinion on diversity.

Here’s what she had to say:

“Everyone is a little different. This difference isn’t a hindrance to society, and it’s certainly not an issue that should be plaguing our newspapers, or preventing our politicians from making humane decisions regarding the treatment of refugees.

Diversity isn’t an issue I’m passionate about; it isn’t even an issue. Diversity brings strength to society, but we can only be strong in diversity, if we accept it. Difference is the only thing we have in common and it’s time to celebrate it.

I’ve had the privilege of meeting and working with so many young people, with diverse backgrounds, beliefs and passions, all united by motivation to make a difference. Whether that’s at the YMCA Queensland Youth Parliament, the National Youth Science Forum, UQ Young Scholars, headspace Youth Reference Group…. the list goes on. But a lot of young Australians, and Australians in general face barriers because of their culture and their beliefs- barriers that should never exist.

I was born in Australia. I was baptised as a Catholic shortly after I was born. So why am I passionate about this? As Martin Luther King Jr. summarises, “an individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” These issues of acceptance and belonging (or lack thereof) don’t affect me, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do something about it- as a young person, I have the obligation to make a better future not only for myself, but those around me.

For many people, migrating to Australia only touches the surface of the intangible distances which can exist: between you and your previous residence; your family; your culture; and belonging in a new society. This new society doesn’t know who you are, or the fantastic skills and stories that you bring with you.

So, how do we – as Australians – showcase this?

Jas with volunteers
The Million Miles Project out in the community (2017). Credit: Jasmine Elliott

Mainstream media isn’t helping. When was the last time you watched the news and saw a positive story regarding multiculturalism, rather than just the fear of the unknown?

The present and past has been riddled with individuals and groups, who state that ‘multiculturalism isn’t good for our country’, or ‘cultural diversity is eroding the real Australian culture’. The White Australia Policy still existed less than 45 years ago, and it’s time to prove that we, as a country, have moved on from discriminatory attitudes and fear of what should be giving us courage.

Think about it.

As movements such as Brexit arise in other countries against immigration, it is essential to highlight the undeniable benefits of individuals and families making diverse contributions to society.

To say that multiculturalism is negative would be reflective of the entire Australian culture, in general. Put simply, multiculturalism is great. In fact, 2016 Census data showed that almost one in four Australians were born overseas, and 43.1% of people have at least one overseas-born parent

Whether it’s the vast array of Indigenous Australian cultures present in Australia, or the arrival of numerous other cultures post-settlement, Australia is a multicultural country.

We need to let culturally and linguistically diverse Australians know that they belong.

This is where the Million Miles Project comes into play – and that’s why I launched this project last year at the age of 15. It aims to close this distance, and help diverse Australians feel at home. We counteract the negativity of mainstream media by highlighting the infinite positive aspects of cultural and religious diversity.

The Million Miles Project is a media campaign that consists of short videos, stories of the obstacles and triumphs associated with moving to Australia, and general messages about the strength diversity gives us as a nation.

But, I need your help… I want your suggestions; your stories to share and prove that cultural diversity is one of Australia’s greatest assets.

If you wish to share or lend a hand, please email: themillionmiles@gmail.com or check out our Facebook page here.

How far would a million miles be for you? Is it travelling 40 times around Earth’s circumference, or does it signify the journey we have to travel for everyone to be accepted in our society?”

 

 

 

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