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Book: Don't Go Back To Where You Came From

European governments are declaring multiculturalism a failure, with many conservatives in Australia hastening to agree. But is a multicultural approach to integration and diversity really as destructive as critics say? Have we been too quick to declare its demise? Don't Go Back To Where You Came From makes the case for Australian multiculturalism.

Offering an unflinching and informed defence of cultural diversity, Tim Soutphommasane shows that multiculturalism is more than laksa, kebabs or souvlaki and that it doesn’t automatically spell cultural relativism, ethnic ghettos or reverse racism. In fact, multicultural Australia has been a national success story.

* Winner of the NSW Premier's Literary Award 2013 (Community Relations Commission Award)

* Don't Go Back To Where You Came From was shortlisted for The Australian Human Rights Commission's Human Rights Literature Award 2012

Advance praise:

"The best explanation and defence of Australian multiculturalism – in theory and practice – I have read: cogent and concise; worldly and wise."
— Robert Manne, La Trobe University

"It’s time Australians learned to brag about what makes us world class. Tim Soutphommasane has written a timely reminder of why our version of multiculturalism works better than most."
— George Megalogenis, (formerly) The Australian

"Tim Soutphommasane describes how immigrants have transformed the building of the Australian nation. This talented young Asian-Australian gives voice to a distinctively Australian patriotism."
— Penny Wong, Minister for Finance and Deregulation

"Well worth reading. We are a multicultural society. We should be proud of it."
— Malcolm Fraser, Former Prime Minister of Australia

"A vital contribution, the spark that will ignite a fresh and much-needed debate about Australian multiculturalism."
— Shaun Carney, (formerly) The Age


"Don't Go Back To Where You Came From ... is an absorbingly written love letter to Australian multiculturalism, encompassing its history and an elegant argument for why it works better here than anywhere else in the world."
— Miriam Cosic, The Australian

" ... a timely study of multiculturalism in Australia ... Don’t Go Back to Where You Came From presents strong research in an intelligent and accessible manner ... From the philosophy of multiculturalism to present-day community successes spliced with cultural-intolerance horror stories, this book is an excellent study of an often controversial issue."
— Bookseller & Publisher Magazine

"This is a timely and well-written review that includes deep consideration of one of the most vexed current problems in Australian politics ... a calmly argued [work] ..."
— David Christie, Newcastle Herald

"Tim Soutphommasane, defender of a multicultural society, is primarily a nationalist ... this fact that should make Don't Go Back to Where You Came From palatable to a wider audience. ... In this accessible primer, a first-generation Australian born in France to Chinese-Lao refugees starts a conversation integral to who we are."
— Caroline Gardam, Courier-Mail

"What makes Don’t Go Back To Where You Came From especially resonant is that Soutphommasane is the son of refugees....His study, which is both a history of the massive demographic changes that have overtaken this country and also a manifesto for placing multiculturalism at the very heart of national life, makes a vital and timely contribution to the Asian Century debate."
— Nick Bryant, The Interpreter (The Lowy Institute)

"Is multiculturalism as a concept in crisis? Some commentators and politicians would have us think so ... However, as Tim Soutphommasane points out, Australia presents a very different story ... We have a history of celebrating our failures. Surely, it is time to recognise the triumphs."
— Fiona Capp, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Canberra Times

"A thoroughly captivating read, Soutphommasane presents an unflinching, raw and carefully constructed narrative of Australian multiculturalism ... an in-depth and fascinating study into the dramatic changes that have shaped Australia’s ethnic and cultural composition with minimal social disorder ..."
Sonia Nair, www.rightnow.org.au

Judges' citation in NSW Premier's Literary Award 2013:

Tim Soutphommasane’s Don’t Go Back to Where You Came From is a timely and vital intervention in the discussion around multiculturalism in Australia. It makes no apology for its agenda; it is, as the introduction announces, ‘a defence of multiculturalism grounded in liberal political philosophy’. An Asian Australian academic who has become an erudite social and political commentator, Soutphommasane is amply qualified for the task. His voice is lively but composed and lucid as he gives a comprehensive tour through his subject and mounts a compelling case for cultural diversity. He doesn’t gloss over difficult issues like migrants’ civil responsibilities, their right to retain their culture, or the conflict between liberalism and patriotism, but navigates them with panache and wisdom.

In positioning Australian multiculturalism in the regional and global contexts, Soutphommasane not only showcases Australia as ‘an international exemplar’ but also reveals how transnational flows of people and ideas are rapidly changing what multiculturalism means. Don’t Go Back to Where You Came From is much more than a handbook to Australian multiculturalism. It is an honest, balanced enquiry, an engaged and enlightened survey of multiculturalism in practice.

In a time when multiculturalism is being put on trial in Europe, Soutphommasane creates a compelling case in its defence, a cogent argument for civic involvement in its continuing narrative. It is a book that will make those who embrace cultural plurality passively think deeply about the complexities and challenges of inter-ethnic and cross-cultural exchange, and persuade the sceptics and critics to take a second look. It is a must-read for all and merits a place in the school curriculum.