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Multiculturalism in Australia: Enhancing social harmony and equality of opportunity

Hayes, Ali (2013) Multiculturalism in Australia: Enhancing social harmony and equality of opportunity. Masters by Coursework thesis, Murdoch University.

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This dissertation assesses the efficacy of multicultural policy and argues in favour of such policies in the Australian context by an exploration of relevant literature and data. In 1972, multiculturalism ended the previous policies of assimilation and integration, and required that all members of society have equal rights to realise their potential while being able to maintain their culture. The Galbally Report (1978) identified the underlying principles of Australian multiculturalism and focussed on the equality of all members of Australian society to have equal access to programs and services.

There has been debate surrounding the effectiveness of multiculturalism and whether multiculturalism in Australia is an ideological policy vision or merely a description of society. This ‘post-multicultural’ period is a legacy of the previous Howard Government, which endures in the form of the present government’s ‘watered down’ multicultural policy. Most post-multiculturalism literature describes multiculturalism as mainly a feel-good celebration of diversity which tends to ignore socioeconomic inequalities and can trivialise cultural differences. It has also been argued that multiculturalism can polarise society into ethnic and native groups.

Multiculturalism can be described as a state-based socio-political policy approach which responds to the ethnic diversification of a society and any potentially negative socio-political and economic consequences arising from increased ethnic diversity. Australia cannot return to being a uni-cultural society and therefore government policy and programs must continue to cater to the needs of an ethnically and culturally diverse society. In Australia’s experience, having a multicultural policy, by working with ethnic diversity rather than enforcing social and cultural uniformity, has been more effective at fostering the wellbeing of individuals and social harmony. This dissertation adds a positive perspective to the discussion of multiculturalism in Australia. This dissertation also proposes a modification to the conceptual basis of multicultural policy development at the Commonwealth government level which will address concerns over any shortcomings of multiculturalism.

Publication Type: Thesis (Masters by Coursework)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Management and Governance
Supervisor: Evers, Barbara
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