The ‘bamboo ceiling’ in Australia is real

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There is, however, one obstacle about which I’m not so sure of, which we have been reminded by saturation coverage in the media this week. It is one that in recent times has become very real indeed for one particular sub-set of our Asian-Australian community: Chinese-Australians.

The current environment of hyper-anxiety in some quarters about baleful Chinese, and particularly Chinese Communist Party, influence is making it harder than it has ever been for Chinese-Australians to aspire to leadership positions, or indeed any position at all in fields that are seen as even remotely security-sensitive, not least in the public service.

It is an environment that bears no relationship to the objective evidence we have that such influence as has been sought, in our universities, politics, public administration and elsewhere, has been of a minimal and marginal nature. And it is one which utterly misrepresents the reality of the overriding loyalty which Chinese-Australians have always had to this country and will continue to have. It’s an environment of anxiety and fear that has to stop, and stop fast, or we will all be diminished by it.

The bamboo ceiling is an issue on which we have ducked and weaved and dithered for too many years. The Asian century is off and running and we have in our midst a fantastic community resource with which to take maximum advantage of all the opportunities it offers.

Gareth Evans is Chancellor of The Australian National University and a former foreign minister of Australia. This is an excerpt from his welcoming address on Thursday to the Asian-Australian Leadership Summit, co-hosted by ANU, Asialink and PwC.

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