Academic journal article Social Alternatives

The Connection between Racist Discourse, Resettlement Policy and Outcomes in Australia

Academic journal article Social Alternatives

The Connection between Racist Discourse, Resettlement Policy and Outcomes in Australia

Article excerpt

Increased international migration has changed the ethnic make-up of many developed countries. At the same time, the influence of ultranationalist political parties and their racist discourse is on the rise across a range of countries. Such groups include the Hungarian 'Movement for a Better Hungary'; the German 'Alternative for Germany'; and most recently the revival of the Australian 'One Nation' party. What is more, rather than being perceived as fringe parties with extremist views but little clout, the influence of these political parties on public opinion, politics and government policies is considerable. For example, in Australia, there is growing public hostility towards immigration, especially Muslim immigration. A recent large sample survey found that as many as 49 percent of Australians support putting a ban on Muslim immigration. Five years ago only 25 percent of Australians were in support of the same hypothetical ban (Essential Research 2011, 2016). In the political and policy realm, recent statistical analysis of deportation policies of 25 countries over 10 years, found legislative representation of far right groups to be a more consistently influential predictor of adoption of deportation policies, than other variables typically assumed to be influential, such as unemployment or size of the foreign-born population (Wong 2015:102). In the Australian context, there is an observable trend in the political discourse towards an emphasis on immigrants adopting Australia's cultural goals and values and rapidly contributing to, rather than 'burdening', Australia's economic prosperity (Bourke 2016:14).

It's easy to conclude that liberal ideas today have contaminated and debilitated how we think about political possibilities. Policy elites almost everywhere these days are not only susceptible to pessimistic appraisals of what can be done through politics, but actively foment the obstructionism that has been defining political life in wealthy societies for the past 40 years.

Racism is an 'exclusionary practice and ideology that essentializes and valorizes phenotypical and cultural differences to defend and advance the privileges of its users' (Fox 2013:1872). In the Australian context, it is a cultural, as opposed to a biological, criterion, focused on delineating national identity and separating 'us' from 'them'. While this is a relatively more 'presentable' variant of racism, the deduction of 'otherness' is the same once inability or unwillingness to adopt the dominant culture is asserted on behalf of minority groups (Kyriazi 2016:14). An important inference of attributing 'otherness' to the inability or unwillingness of minority groups to adopt mainstream cultural values is that it places the responsibility to transit between the constructed categories of 'others' and 'us' on the individuals. It is their ability and willingness to activate their agency that are primarily responsible for the cultural cohesiveness of the nation.

The asserted responsibility of the immigrant individual or household for successful integration is clearly reflected in the Australian Government's resettlement policy, which emphasises 'the commitment of those arrivals to establishing a life in Australia' (Department of Social Services 2015:3). Although the government acknowledges both the role of settlement services and the influence of Australian society's willingness to welcome new arrivals, underpinning this acknowledgement is a belief that existing mechanisms, developed to ensure that institutions provide equal access to all members of Australian society, will also provide equal opportunities to refugee immigrants accepted for resettlement. But this assumption is at odds with the reality for many migrants, especially those from refugee backgrounds, who experience severe social and economic disadvantage.

This paper explores the main reasons for these adverse outcomes, by focusing on Australian resettlement processes, social structures, and institutional practices and their impact on resettlement outcomes. …

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