Multiculturalism, Religion and Social Peace in Australia.
Australian multiculturalism has been successful in managing diversity. However, given the new complex realities we live in, it simply cannot continue unchanged. Two key reforms are needed at macro and micro levels. The former will be at the level of a federal legislative act and the latter would require a tectonic policy paradigm shift.
As terrorist events seem to be occurring on a regular basis (witness the recent explosions in Manchester), it is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture when it comes to diversity policies in multicultural societies. The ensuing debates about the possibility of social cohesion and intercultural coexistence go to the heart of everyday living in multicultural societies. It is from this perspective, that I would argue, as I did in my submission to the government Select Committee on Strengthening Multiculturalism, that re-calibrating existing legislative frameworks is long overdue and that indeed other nations such as Canada have already done this as early as 1988. And even in Australia some states have taken the leadership on this matter such as the Multicultural Victoria Acts of 2004 and 2011.
Though social cohesion and intercultural understanding are not only the responsibility of government and indeed nowadays these agendas almost unavoidably, involve all sectors of society. However only governments can legislate for the typeof society we hope to be, and this can best be done throughlegislative acts of the federal parliament that provide an unequivocal statement and a binding vision for how our shared community can be nourished, supported and promoted.
Recent research has shown that most Australians form their views about public issues from mainstream news outlets, social media and political discourse. While it is heartening to report that despite the propensity of media to focus on negative stories, a majority of Australians still hold positive views supportive of migration and diversity in general terms. Less heartening, is the fact that these views and attitudes are rather negative, and disproportionately so, when it comes to certain communities in particular Australians adherents of the Islamic faith.
It is precisely for these situations where minority groups are targeted unfairly by media and political discourse that a federal act about the multicultural fabric of the society is indeed needed. Such a statement about diversity and inclusion enshrined in a Parliament Act can go a long way towards ensuring that no individuals or communities will be socially excluded or culturally denigrated because of their linguistic, ethnic or religious backgrounds.