Chain Reaction Foundation
INSPIRING INNOVATIVE CITIZEN ACTION

Multicultural Australia Is Here to Stay, But Let’s Not Rest in Our Push for Social Cohesion

by Margaret Bell | September 19, 2016

While Europe is thrown into turmoil by increasingly draconian legislation, a resurgence of extremist groups, and the gradual sniping of mainstream politics, Australians are declaring multiculturalism a success.

Last year, the Scanlon Foundation published the results of its survey, which showed that 86% of Australians agreed with the statement that “multiculturalism has been good for Australia,” while 76% said that immigrants should not be selected on grounds of race or religion, despite the immigration hysteria gripping Europe and the USA.

All in all, the report made for positive reading, and highlighted the very best elements of a cohesive and multicultural society.

Australia’s Unique Position

This is important, because Australia is not like most other countries. For starters, a staggering 26% of Australians were born overseas, while 46% of citizens had one or more parents who were born overseas. Unsurprisingly, immigration contributed 60% to Australia’s net population growth in 2013.

However, we should be under no illusion here. Our society is strong, our society is positive, but our society is not perfect. Despite the estimated $10bn that migrants have contributed to the Australian economy in only 10 years, and despite wide-ranging public support for a multicultural Australia, there continues to be a loud and boisterous call of dissent.

The Dangers We Face

Statistics released in 2013 found that 20% of Australians had encountered race hate speech at some point in their lives, whether aimed at them or at someone else. This is despite the outlawing of such behaviour under the amended Racial Discrimination Act of 1995.

Around 18% also stated that they had been directly discriminated against on the grounds of race, origin or religion, while 10% of Australians said that they believed in the superiority of certain races over others.

It is this kind of dangerous mindset – and these kinds of saddening and disturbing incidents – that we as a society must combat if we are to build on the progress we have made. We cannot hold back; we need to continue to make a positive effort towards cohesion across all sections of our society. Australia is richer as an inclusive society; we can make this happen.

Positive Steps

It is spiriting to learn that success for achieving social cohesion is a case of keeping up momentum. Since its launch in 2012, more than 200 companies and organisations have joined Racism, It Stops with Me; a campaign aimed at stamping out racial prejudice, while over 86% of Australians support measures to combat racism. These are steps in the right direction, and it is important to keep up the pace.

There is a spirit here, and that spirit is Australia. It is not encumbered with definitions regarding religion, race, or place of birth. Instead, it is an attitude, a spirit of community and togetherness, a desire to be something more than an individual, and to contribute something towards the greater good. This is the sense of belonging that the majority of migrants gain upon arrival in Australia, and which – according to The Ipsos Mackay Report – continues to grow and strengthen over time.

We are moving in the right direction; let’s keep going.

Margaret Bell, AM - Founder and CEO of Chain Reaction Foundation.

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