Multiculturalism in Australia

Australia ranks as the fourth largest country after the U.S., Canada, and Brazil for immigrant settlement. As the only continent with a multi-ethnic population to be governed as a single political entity, Australia could be considered a ‘laboratory' for multiculturalism, due to the way it has managed its relations with a wide degree of ethnically diverse immigrant groups. The government officially supports and encourages a multicultural Australia, and is committed to ensuring that all citizens have the opportunity to be active and equal participants in society. Australian multiculturalism recognizes, respects, accepts, and celebrates cultural diversity. It embraces the heritage of indigenous Australians, European settlers, home-grown customs, and the cultures of the diverse range of immigrants intent on making a new life within the country. The government's aim is to build upon its success as a culturally diverse, accepting and open society.

Australia has a non-discriminatory immigration policy. It allows entry for permanent residence of people with close family ties in Australia, workers with capital and business expertise, or the skills, qualifications or other qualities needed in Australia's social infrastructure. Other applicants are accepted under refugee and humanitarian programs. Official recognition of Australia as a multicultural society means that settlers moving to the country are welcome to keep their own culture, language and traditions, although this is provided that they do not conflict with existing Australian laws and basic social values. This vision is reflected in four principles that underpin multicultural policy:

- Responsibility. Every Australian national has a civic duty to support the basic structures and principles of society which guarantee the country's freedom, equality and enable diversity.

- Respect for each person. Every Australian has the right to express their own culture and beliefs and has an obligation to respect the right of others to do the same.

- Fairness for each person. Every Australian is entitled to equality of treatment and opportunity. Social equity allows everyone to contribute to the social, political, and economic life of Australia, free from discrimination.

- Benefits for all. Each Australian benefits from productive diversity, including the economic dividends arising from such.

As a result of its immigration policy, Australia is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. Until World War II, immigrants to Australia mainly originated from Great Britain, with very limited numbers also arriving from Europe and Asia. Today, approximately two of every five Australians were born overseas or have at least one overseas-born parent. Since the end of the Second World War, Australia has taken in half a million refugees, including over 100,000 Indo-Chinese refugees between 1975 and June 1988. In total, over six million migrants have settled in Australia since the end of the Second World War. The majority of these immigrants are from Asia, which reflects Australia's position as a key nation in the Asia-Pacific region. It is projected that Australia's population will continue to become increasingly diverse.

Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders living in Australia amount to about 1.5 per cent of the population. Approximately half of this indigenous population lives in cities or towns, but many also live in more remote Aboriginal reserves. Australian Aboriginals have been traditionally disadvantaged in terms of education, health, employment and housing standards, but the government is striving to improve their standard of living as well as taking important steps to preserve and develop their culture as a key part of wider Australian society.

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in the U.S. and October 12, 2002 in Bali, caused many Australians considerable concern about national security, this led to widespread debate and discussion about immigration restrictions. In turn, Australian multiculturalism came under attack for allowing radical Islamists to preach a message of intolerance. The then Prime Minister John Howard reiterated the governmental support of multiculturalism. However, immigration remained a concern in some parts of the population. There is a continued debate on the subject of whether Australia is capable of supporting a larger population. Many people have expressed other concerns due to the country's rapid multiculturalism. In recent years, Australia has maintained a strict policy on unauthorized arrivals. It is standard practice for asylum seekers to be held in detention centers upon their arrival in the country. However, in February 2008 Australia ended its policy of sending asylum seekers into detention on small Pacific islands.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Race, Colour, and Identity in Australia and New Zealand
John Docker; Gerhard Fischer.
University of New South Wales Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Part 3 "Asians in Australia/ Australians in Asia"
Families and Cultural Diversity in Australia
Robyn Hartley.
Allen & Unwin, 1995
The Packaging of Australia: Politics & Culture Wars
Gregory Melleuish.
University of New South Wales Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Cultural Diversity and a Deregulated Australia"
Mainstreaming Australia
Dale, Leigh.
Journal of Australian Studies, No. 53, June 1997
The Two `One Nations' and the Question of Australia
Humphries, Ralph.
Journal of Australian Studies, September 1999
Not Just Another Multicultural Story
Stratton, Jon.
Journal of Australian Studies, September 2000
Tacking into the Wind: Immigration and Multicultural Policy in the 1990s
Jupp, James.
Journal of Australian Studies, No. 53, June 1997
Being Australian: Narratives of National Identity
Catriona Elder.
Allen & Unwin, 2007
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "White Australia Meets Multiculturalism: Ethnicity and Nation"
Borderwork in Multicultural Australia
Bob Hodge; John O'Carroll.
Allen & Unwin, 2006
International Handbook on Race and Race Relations
Jay A. Sigler.
Greenwood Press, 1987
Librarian’s tip: "Australia" begins on p. 1
The Last Half Century of Chinese Overseas
Elizabeth Sinn.
Hong Kong University Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Part V "New Focus on Australia"
Postcolonial Discourse and Changing Cultural Contexts: Theory and Criticism
Gita Rajan; Radhika Mohanram.
Greenwood Press, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 14 "Postcolonialism/Multiculturalism--Australia 1993: An Interview with Sneja Gunew"
Contemporary Nationalism: Civic, Ethnocultural, and Multicultural Politics
David Brown.
Routledge, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Appendix "Australia"
Migration, Education, and Change
Sigrid Luchtenberg.
Routledge, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 10 "Australia"
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