Blog: Insight into Insight

Insight Associate Producer Christine El-khoury blogs about her experience working on this week's show, Culture Test.


Don't forget to leave your comments here

The Culture Test

There are moments when life feels like a minestrone soup bubbling away in a pressure cooker on a kitchen stove.

All the different ingredients have to come together to make a meal. When the time is right, and the meal is cooked, the lid comes off and the steam escapes with a whoosh.

One of our guests, Sandra Kafrouni, a vivacious 22 year old from Brisbane gave me that analogy (I may have embellished slightly for the sake of creative expression) after the recording of tonight’s program – Culture Test.

The show provided an avenue for generations of migrant families to let off steam; to discuss the inter-generational conflict, the clash of values, common in the homes of migrant families but rarely talked about publicly.

Tune in and you’ll hear that staying out at night socialising with friends is a big no-no for Sandra’s parents, Ibtessam and Habib. Sandra, who was born and raised in Australia knows why.

She says, “it’s not part of the culture” and that’s a serious source of pent up frustration. So much so Sandra wants to move out of home. What? Before she’s married? Can she do that?

It’s through the microcosms of families like Sandra’s that we examine the government’s new citizenship test and Australian values. Can you be Australian and still maintain cultural norms from your homeland?

Is a midnight curfew for your adult daughter a sign of failed integration? What about arranged marriages? Would that pass the test?

While it took weeks to co-ordinate and convince families to bare all about their clash of values, they did so with humour and humility.

There was even some very positive resolutions. Ibtessam Kafrouni took my hand at the end of the show and whispered a little something in my ear. Sandra, I think you’ll be very pleased with what she said.


Remember to have Your Say on the issue here We'll be publishing your comments throughout the week.

Ms Sandra Sondreal

Brunswick, Australia

Three weeks ago I took the oath and become an Australian Citizen.

I pledged "… my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey."

I took this seriously as did the 90 candidates along side me who promised the same.

The 'citizenship test' negates the importance of this pledge. It's very existence insults the integrity of would be applicants of not taking the oath seriously. Why should anything else be required?

To me, the act of taking this oath said it all.

Mr Stenning

Sydney, Australia

I can sympathise with Mr D C of Caboolture in Queensland Post further down.. who wished people with poor language skills good luck. Think about it.

How difficult is it to to do well well on a cultural test without a competency in English commensurate to the task?

On the other hand people cannot learn English in Australia without being exposed to the complex social tasks demanded by the culture.

The 1951 Immigration Act that established Australia's post war Immigration Program was dovetailed with the Immigration Education Act which provided free English language classes to all migrants.

Australian society is a living,culturual dynamic and as such it defies definition. Time is of the essence of cultural change and every individual contributes to the dynamism of that change. To manufacture a cultural test in 2007 is to take Australia back to pre 1951 and, in an historical sense, un-Australian.

Mr Armin

Perth, Australia

Australia's migrant population is still vastly European. The 2006 census exemplifies this by evidencing that the dominant country of origin of migrants in that year was the UK following by New Zealand and South Africa. Muslim migration into Australia is still comparatively low. Now given that your show was on 'Migrant stories' one would think that the sample audience would represent this migrant make up of Australia. Unfortunately it did not which detracts from the show’s credibility.

Whilst watching the show I noticed a large number of Muslim migrants, clearly over representating the Muslim population in Australia. Furthermore, towards the end of the show issues such as radical young male muslims and the hijab were discussed – how predictable!

I understand that these topics are ‘more sexy’ but please you could have given better credit to Australia warm multicultural society.

Ms Anon

I was disappointed that the show did not explore in any depth, the issue of intergenerational conflict.

Most seemed to be bogged down in the citizenship test. Personally I don`t see what the problem is with the test. It is pretty inoccuous and as the minister said, you can do the test any number of times so it does not force anyone to adopt our values or exclude them from Australia if they fail the test.

I think it is just to let people know that they expect new citizens to respect the values that are in place.

I was concerned that that young man had not had any exposure to non muslim Australians and that by going to work at the markets he incurred the wrath and disapproval of his father.

Ted Bjorem

Gold Coast

Being Australian is not about curfews or parent/child relationships.

These are timeless issues all families face. Is not being Aussie about knowing why this Country is so good we wanted to move here? And about keeping it that way? Knowing history and how the place works a vital part of that.

Some people may not like the idea, but I feel it will create greater respect and appreciation for our adopted land.

Mr Anon

Sydney, Australia

I found offensive many of the comments from studio guests where they demanded in effect that we must adapt and accept their cultures and belief systems. Sadly not enough people are prepared to stand up and defend our very real Australian culture and traditions which go back through a thousand years of British history.

(I would prefer my details are not publishes)

Ms Sue Kozianski

Sydney, Australia

I would like to speak up in support of the lady whose daughter has the curfew because her mother can't sleep until she's tucked up in bed.

This is not a cultural issue!! I feel the same way. There's nothing I can do about it. Sons or daughters, if they're out I can't settle properly. I might doze but if i haven't heard them come in and it's 2 in the morning I'll be worried that they're OK and totally unable to sleep.

I am not an overprotective parent. I am more than happy that my children are now all adult and are free to run their own lives. I trust them and know they are capable moral people.

So I'd be happy if it was related to this lady, that I completely understand where she's coming from!


Sue – Anglo Australian!

Ms Sue Bloom

Sydney, Australia

Congratulations on producing one of the most relevant and well presented current affairs programs I have seen on television for a long time.

The effects and advantages of programs like this give hope to us all. Anything that challenges cross cultural barriers and encourages understanding and empathy between communities is to be applauded.

This is in contrast to the divisive resentment motivated rubbish which is permitted to be circulated in the general media.

Perhaps you could do a show on the Australian government's commitment to global human rights for the next show?

Ms Jaye Newland

Bundanoon NSW, Australia

It is my personal opinion that we are all equal, and deserve to be treated as such.

I do not know the national anthem, I am not patriotic, because of the current government's treatment of asylum seekers, and Aboriginals.

And also because of the government's support in the Iraq war.

Mateship refers to white anglo males, ignoring females and indigenous peoples.

Mervyn Couper

Perth, Australia

Congratulations Insight of your Cultural integration of Migrant families program. It was wonderful to see SBS run a topic that was Initiated by an articulate young Australian.

I believe Australia's success in our intake of migrants was very dependant upon the concept of a multicultural Australia, where all people are welcomed and helped in every way.

I am a 76 year old Australian born grandfather, and I believe the people with the better set of values are more often the parents of the migrant families. We should looking much more closely at Australian culture as it is today and doing everything we can to support those good migrant parents who do not want their children become changed to the many bad aspects of the Australia we have become.


Caboolture, Australia

I was raised totally in Australia from the age of six. I was not required to complete a test when I was made a citizen of the only country in the world that I wish to belong, I just took the on line test to see how I would fair. Floral Emblem on the Flag, Famous Australian Cricketer, Which one of these is a responsibility for Every Australia Citizen, Which one of these values is important in Australia, What is a Bill?

For what it's worth, I understand I cannot change something that is law; however I do have a voice on behalf of my Australian beliefs. I did find 2 of the other questions not easy to understand and had to read them twice each. Good luck to all the people with not so good language skills.

Regards, a proud Australian.

Mrs Anonymous

South West Sydney, Australian First Generation

I watched your program and was disgusted with the majority of the audience. Most are hypocrites that are using Australia for benefits of a better life. If you go to any Country, be prepared to change your lifestyle.

Isn't that why they come here in the first place?

My father came from the Soviet Union as a POW. He taugh us that we have to be Grateful and Honour the Countries Laws that we live in.

Before he passed away, Dad even wrote a poem and a letter to the Immigration Minister, who replied that more people like my dad should come here.

Mrs Horn

Perth, Australia

Wow! I am a teacher in an IEC school. I am surprised at the resentment of the new citizen test.

The idea is not to fail people but to teach them about our history thus far in an attempt for them to understand the wider community. New immigrant students get this opportunity within school but their parents don't. It is a bridge. Not an insult.

Ms Anon

Sydney, Australia

I would like to congratulate insight for providing such an interesting and constructive program.

I am of British ancestry generations removed. Between my husband’s extended family and my own we’re like a mini united nations. Some of our stories exemplify the diversity and complexity of cultural and migrant experience even within one family.

Keep up the good work. We think it's a really good thing for Australians of different cultural backgrounds to have such opportunities to tell their experience so we can all really appreciate the commonality of the human experience in the areas that matter most. Once again – great show.

We could have watched for much longer and were curious as to the stories of people in the audience who didn't may not have got a chance to speak.

In relation to the citizenship test: I find it hard to understand why many of the participants on the show find it insulting and feel that it suggests migrants are considered to have not contributed to this country. I struggle to see the link to contribution.

Mr George Said

Seaholme, Vic, Australia

I am a Greek that was born in Egypt. I speak Greek, Italian, Arabic, French and English.

I am a cultured person and I have a cosmopolitan culture that suits me fine. Should I throw away my uniqueness for something called Australian?

I have no intention of sitting for the Australian culture test; neither do I expect anyone sitting for mine. Incidentally many Australians would fail my test. Let’s not be racist. Diversity, within the laws of this country, is a healthy condition when there is respect for each other’s choices. It is our human right to choose how much, and when, we wish to change.

Mrs Natalie Stubbings

Brisbane, Australia

As a migrant I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to live in this country.

When we came to Australia we were housed in a migrant hostel, where everybody was treated equally. We were not made aware that the "Muslim" kids were any different; in fact Muslim is not a culture!

It is a religion and why do these migrants have to be known as Muslim Australians, most of them were born here, I identify myself as a proud Australian.

I think the migrant test is a fantastic idea, hopefully it will make people realise that this is a fantastic place to live and we should all be forever grateful to be allowed to live here.

Mr Alan Raby

Hobart, Australia

When did you ever see so many moist eyes among participants, including the Government Deputy Minister, in a current affairs programme? This programme shows how, despite a Coalition government trying to use the Citizenship test as a way to play the race fear card, that the people — so representative and articulate in this show– can so movingly argue the case against.

(Spoken by an Anglo-Saxon migrant on behalf of the multicultural people of Australia)

Ms Ann Withers

Mid Nth Coast, Australia

Thanks SBS, lets keep this debate open, make it a regular issue to discuss the issues surrounding culture… that of identity and politics.

Mr Chin Bong

Melbourne, Aus

In regards to citizen test, first of all, I really doubt it will improve the integration process. It is annoying that we have to be judged for wanting to be a citizen.

I really wonder if a locally born Australian will be able to achieve a proper grade?

Moreover, I believe Australia is country which is born due to migration, thus culture and values should be ever changing, not predetermined.

Mr George Clemments

Cairns, Australia

We are all Australians and all we need to do is say G'day

Mr Mackenzie

Sydney, Australia

Everyone in the audience needs to go home tonight and jump on the computer and check the Australian government website that has the sample questions of the citizenship test.

If you can answer the question about cricket, you are all Australian

I`m born and bred Ozzie but do all Australians care about cricket? You tell me.

Mr Dan McLuskey

Mackay, UK

It was very interesting to observe that the show started out discussing citizenship and values in general, and across all cultures, but very quickly it turned almost totally into a discussion about Islam and Moslems in Australia.

Mr Craig Dixon

Tathra, Australia

I am a white Christian raised, on the ocean, Australian. I do not believe in God.

Australia is a lucky country, to be able to benefit from all the different migrant backgrounds, should be a wonderful thing. We all seem to want the same things.

Health, wealth and happiness for our family.

We are a multicultural country, is it not about time we put race, creed and religion behind us and live as one.

One world, one race, human. An Australian test? As long as you agree to that and can speak English, should be enough.


Canberra, Australia

As a 'white Australian' (just a description), I find the citizens test insulting to those born in this country and those wishing to come to the country.

The test questions are 'knowledge' based and do nothing to determine our values respective of global values. Whether a kangaroo and an emu appear on the coat of arms is not an Australian value!

Why not ask when the woman first gained the right to vote? Why not ask what 'Terra nullius' means and what it means to the original residents of this land?

Tom Hall

Sydney, Australia

I found tonight's show on the culture test quite disturbing,

The reason for this was the debate in itself was a discussion between Muslims and "others" and their attitude toward Australian values.

The show clearly displayed the general attitude of Muslims being indignant when required to take the test for citizenship. I did not see any Aboriginals, Scots, English, Chinese, Argentineans, Canadians, Russians, Israelis or representatives from other religions such as Catholic, Hindu, and especially Jewish religion.

I thought the show was biased and not well presented and had a strong anti Australian culture sense about it.

Mrs Roogaya Wilson

Sydney, Australia

Watching Insight tonight topic being 'The Culture Test'. This is a first for me to become vocal about these issues or any issue outside my home.

All fairness to every one who spoke their mind.

Many points and view were expressed but I am still confused as to what is really the issue.

The Minister said that the Australian values must be met in order to what?…. Be an Australian? What are these values she speaks about? Do I have these qualities? What about my neighbours, as far as I know they are Australia, they look like it. They have blonde hair and blues eyes. Speak English very well (every now and then use the Aussie slang). And have lived here for many years.

I have been here since I was 9 months old.

Australia is all I know. I went to school here I worked here and I eat, breathe and live here. Yet I too am a Muslim, Australia -South Africa. My parents have brought us up in the most appropriate way i.e.: respect myself and respect each other.

After watching your show I feel very “alienated and disconnect"

Am I a 'real' Australian? What is the Australian culture?

I would like to know what are the Australian values that is spoken about in point form.

Mr Tony Nina

Sydney, Australia

My name Tony Nina and i was present at the show.

I was the individual with the Hispanic background and talking about Western Culture. If my parents were able to attend the show perhaps Jenny may have focused on my assertions of being an integrated Australian.

However, there appears to have been no concerted effort to search out integrated families to balance out the show. Observing from your last name I cannot help but believe that you have a more personal investment to use the media to present your loop sided leftwing views.

As far I as I could tell I was the only person who offered a contrast. It was me that highlighted that UN human right are not universal.

Ann Willis

Everyone is being very politically correct.

It is very simple to see that most countries whose system of government was Christian based have greater freedoms and prosperity then those who haven't.

This should be protected. It's easy – look at the countries of conflict and poverty – are they democracies like most Western Countries and what countries are taking these people in? We lucky westerners need to help more and stop listening to media rubbish about racism.

Mr Mario Simeone

Melbourne, Australia

Why don't we do screen for 'good citizens', rather than 'Australian citizens' – Australia has to be one of the best examples of a multi-cultural society , so lets continue to encourage the best ‘good’ people from all over the world – ‘good’ being, broadminded, tolerant, understanding, compassionate, community minded etc…

Mr Malcolm

Sydney, Australia

I am a naturalized Australian with an Assyrian background, my religion is orthodox. I am proud of my heritage but more proud to be an Aussie!

I am puzzled about some peoples presumption that "Australians are all a bunch of one eyed racist monsters". It is an insult & untrue!

What is wrong with being an Aussie anyway? What is wrong with learning about your adopted Country? Nothing at all I say, you should be bloody proud! Any migrant should be proud, should be honoured, should be thankful to be asked to share their culture with us, as we would like to share our culture with yours! I am an Australian and proud to be one.

We give you the freedom to build your Church`s, Mosques and temples yet you are still not satisfied! Why?

All immigrants should be grateful for the right to live in this great land of ours!

Mr. AC

Brisbane, Australia

Multiculturalism is an internationally admired aspect of the current broad nationalized Australian society. It would be a policy of social regression to implement racist policies of the past like the White Australia Policy. Australian citizenship tests that reflect overtly white Australian culture and values only create a climate of racism and exclusionism. It is interesting to note how the International community perceives this culturally selective citizenship policy.

Mr Eddie Clynes

Woodford, Australia

To try and define what it means to be "Australian" is inevitably racist because most debate on this issue is premised on the assumption that if you live in this country you have to be, feel, act, think, like whatever an Australian is. It`s inevitably some stereotype.

I live in this country. I was born in England. I don`t feel particularly English, nor do I feel Australian. Many who live here have strong attachments to their original homeland. Is this a crime?

I have a sense of fairness and so do millions of others around the world. I have a sense of justice and so do millions of others.

Let`s grow up a little and stop claiming exclusive rights to all that is positive.

We live in a world, not on an island.