I've now been in Griffith for just under a week. What are my impressions of the place?
Griffith is a very multicultural area - and I mean VERY multicultural. No one culture here represents more than 50% of the people.
White Anglo Aussies probably make up around 25% of the population.
Aussie-born Italians make up around 30-35% of the population.
There is a very large Sikh population from India, which means that turbans are in vogue. There is also a small amount of Indian Sikhs from Fiji.
There is a large population of Tongans and Samoans.
Quite a number of Afghan refugees also live in the town - with a sizeable amount coming here via boats which landed on Christmas Island, Ashmore reef and so on.
The reason why there are so many different cultures here is because Griffith is one of the few places in Australia which has a demand for unskilled labour. Agricultural workers to pick grapes and fruit are in demand. As a result, unemployment in the town is around 3%. This means that there is actually a comparatively small population of people needing direct welfare assistance. This is obviously a good thing, and I suspect that the crime rate is relatively low for this reason. The fact that so many people have jobs also means that racial tensions between minorities is not so pronounced.
One teacher here has told me that he is surprised at the lack of single parents in town - obviously many kids at my school come from familes that have both a mother and a father.
Historically, the Italians control the town. It's at the point now where Australian-born Italians make up the largest ethnic group - but from my own short research it is obvious that this group is now completely "Aussified" - both parents and the kids I teach seem to be Australian born. Most Italian-born Italians are the grandparents.
It's this influence that has driven Griffith's religious culture. The area is pretty much dominated by Roman Catholicism, with only a small amount of protestant churches. There is no Christian school in the town, which means that Christian parents have a choice of either the government schools or the catholic schools.
From what I can gather, there are only two evangelical churches here - the Presbyterian church and the Baptist church. The Uniting church is reasonably liberal in its theology but it has a large and thriving evangelical movement amongst its islander church. Apparently the Griffith Uniting Church was evangelical back in the 1970s but has since then gone downhill. The Anglicans are "more catholic than catholic".
The Charismatic movement here has impacted the Roman Catholic church in some way, although I'm not sure to what extent. There are a number of Charismatic groups that are associated with the Catholic Church in some way. Pentecostals are here as well in the form of an AOG church and a Foursquare gospel church, but neither of these churches seems to dominate either.
The bell's rung... back to class. More soon.