Connecting theory to research in the ongoing debate about 'multiculturalism'

This blog reproduces an interesting article/interview with Deakin Media coordinator Sandra Kingston about our recent national symposium on multiculturalism (held on 6 July 2012).

‘Nice in Theory: conference asks is research playing a part in multicultural policy making?’

A national symposium to be held at Deakin University this Friday will examine whether there is a disconnect between government policy surrounding multiculturalism in Australia and academic thought and if so what needs to be done about it.

The symposium, hosted by the University’s strategic research Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation, will act as a precursor to the 3rd Annual International Symposium on Multiculturalism to be held at the University in November.

“Multicultural policy in Australia has constantly evolved in response to community needs and social change since the late 1970s,” Centre Director, Professor Fethi Mansouri said.

“This ability of multiculturalism in Australia to evolve ensures that it remains robust and relevant as well as providing a model for other countries to emulate.

“The resilience of multiculturalism was exhibited at Australia’s first UN Forum on Social Inclusion by the Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation in October last year.

“But there is a perceived disconnect between academic research and current policy and Friday’s symposium will look at where the current thinking is and where intellectual thought is going and also what the respective agencies think about the policy/research mix.”

Professor Mansouri said each of the agency speakers – Dr Hass Dellal Executive Director of the Australian Multicultural Foundation, Carmel Guerra, Chief Executive Officer, Centre for Multicultural Youth, Mr Warren Pearson, Assistant Secretary, Multicultural Affairs, Department of Immigration and Citizenship and Mr Chin Tan, Chairperson, Victorian Multicultural Commission – had a different perspective.

“We want to know how they view the current state of knowledge generation in this area,” Professor Mansouri said.

“Are we providing the understanding they need and the empirical evidence they require to undertake their work and move this important agenda forward, at a time when there appears to be a global swing against multiculturalism in a number of émigré societies.”

Professor Mansouri said a presentation by Professor Gary Bouma from Monash University, outlining the recent 2011 census findings and the changing shape of religious diversity in Australia, would also provide food for thought.

“Ultimately at the end of the symposium we are hoping to have a good picture on the current state of play with regard to theory as well as empirical insights on multiculturalism in particular the management and governance of cultural diversity, inter-ethnic relations, racism and anti-racism strategies, and issues of social justice and inclusion,” Professor Mansouri said.

“All of these are critical areas in the debate on multiculturalism and will form a platform for our forthcoming international symposium in November 2012.”