Doing diversity in Australia: time to revitalise multiculturalism

Multiculturalism in Australia is alive and well, but needs recalibration if the country is to live up to its reputation as a multicultural success story, according to a Deakin report.

Researchers from Deakin University’s Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation (ADI) have found that, while there is general public support for and celebration of minority cultures in Australia, there is also acknowledgment that this awareness does not translate to equitable social inclusion and meaningful intercultural engagement.

ADI’s “Doing Diversity Project” examined the current state of multiculturalism in Australia through stakeholder consultations and a large survey of the public’s understanding and attitudes towards multiculturalism.

“Around 64 per cent of survey respondents reported that Australia was a successful multicultural society and 68 per cent considered cultural/ethnic diversity as a fundamental positive characteristic of Australian culture,” said ADI’s director, Alfred Deakin Professor Fethi Mansouri.

However, a sizeable majority of participants in the multicultural sector (75 per cent) and the wider public (51 per cent) reported that multiculturalism, while positive for society, needed refocusing and reinvigoration.

“This view appears to be formed from a lack of clarity on the meaning and ethos of multiculturalism among the general public which is a reflection of the focus of current policies,” Professor Mansouri said.

“While multicultural policies provide room for self-expression and belonging among minority groups, they have been limited by their exclusive focus on cultural minorities, leaving members of the dominant culture outside their radar.”

Through the project the researchers also examined intercultural dialogue as a way of tackling the challenge of engaging members of the dominant culture alongside members of minority groups.

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