On 29 November 2016, the Senate resolved that the Select Committee on
Strengthening Multiculturalism (committee) be established on 27 March 2017.
The committee is to inquire into and report on ways of protecting and strengthening
Australia's multiculturalism and social inclusion, with particular reference
views and experiences of people from culturally and linguistically diverse, and
new and emerging communities;
adequacy and accessibility of settlement and social inclusion services and
resources available to individuals and communities;
adequacy of existing data collection and social research on racially motivated
impact of discrimination, vilification and other forms of exclusion and bigotry
on the basis of 'race', colour, national or ethnic origin, culture or religious
impact of political leadership and media representation on the prevalence of
vilification and other forms of exclusion and bigotry on the basis of 'race',
colour, national or ethnic origin, culture or religious belief;
to improve the expected standards of public discourse about matters of 'race',
colour, national or ethnic origin, culture or religious belief;
to better recognise and value the contribution that diverse communities bring
to Australian social and community life;
potential benefits and disadvantages of enshrining principles of
multiculturalism in legislation;
the potential benefits and disadvantages of establishing a legislative
basis for the Multicultural Advisory Council, or for an ongoing Multicultural
any related matters.
On 15 June 2017, the Senate agreed to amend the resolution of
29 November 2016 to enable the committee to conduct the inquiry
through the use of subcommittees.
Conduct of the inquiry
The committee advertised the inquiry on its website and wrote to a
number of individuals and organisations, inviting submissions by 12 May 2017. The
committee continued to accept submissions after this date. In response, the committee
received 104 submissions. For administrative purposes, a further 47 submissions
were categorised as 'form letters' (or variations of form letters).
All correspondence accepted by the committee is listed at Appendix 1.
The committee held three public hearings for the inquiry. Public
hearings were held on 27 June 2017 in Melbourne, 29 June 2017 in Sydney, and 3
August 2017 in Bendigo. The witnesses who appeared before the committee
are listed at Appendix 2.
The committee thanks all the individuals and organisations who made submissions
and who gave evidence to assist the committee with its inquiry.
Structure of the report
Chapter one provides a broad overview of multiculturalism in Australia
to provide context for the inquiry.
Chapter two examines some of the evidence presented to the committee
regarding the adequacy of settlement and social inclusion services.
Chapter three discusses information received on the impact of racial
discrimination and the representation of multicultural groups in the media.
Chapter four looks at the impact of political leadership and public
discourse, and how multiculturalism might be strengthened through education.
Chapter five examines some of the issues associated with legislation and
Multiculturalism in Australia
Australia is a multicultural nation, with the population identifying
with over 300 ancestries. According to the 2016 Census, the most common
ancestries are English, Australian, Irish, Scottish, Chinese and Italian.
The 2016 Census also revealed high levels of migration, with one in four
people in Australia (26 per cent) being born overseas. This figure represented a
one percentage point rise from the figure recorded in the 2011 Census.
Australians are affiliated with a range of religions. Whilst
Christianity remains the predominant religion in Australia, the overseas-born
population also reported affiliations with Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism and
Sikhism. Overall, the overseas-born population reported lower levels of
religion than those born in Australia (27 per cent compared with 34 per cent).
In addition to those born overseas, Australia is also home to a diverse
number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, with over 250
different language groups identified across the nation. In 2016, there was an
estimated 650 000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in
Australia (nearly three per cent of the total population).
Views of Australians on
Multiculturalism in Australia has enjoyed renewed public interest over
the last decade. The recent parliamentary inquiry into freedom of speech in
and the 2013 inquiry into migration and multiculturalism in Australia,
have each drawn attention to the diversity of Australian views. Across the
globe, political and world events in Europe and the United States have also
shaped how Australians think of and engage with multiculturalism.
Each year, the Scanlon Foundation, in partnership with Monash
University, conducts a series of surveys on Australian attitudes to social
cohesion, immigration and population issues. Results are mapped and compared annually.
According to the 2016 Mapping Social Cohesion survey, 83 per cent
of Australians agreed that multiculturalism has been good for Australia. 74 per
cent felt that people of different national or ethnic groups in their local
area got on well together. These figures indicate high levels of social
cohesion in Australia and have been consistently high since the survey began in
However, the results also show increased negativity regarding
immigration intake and toward the proposition that 'we should do more to learn
about the customs and heritage' of minorities. This was also reflected in the
Australian Bureau of Statistics General Social Survey, which found that
4.4 per cent of Australians disagreed with the statement 'it is a good thing
for society to be comprised of different cultures'.
Federal multicultural policy
Until the latter part of the 20th Century, Australia's
approach to immigration excluded non-European immigration. The 'White
Australia' policy remained in place until after World War II, before shifting
toward policies around 'assimilation' and 'integration'.
The Australian Government's first multicultural policy statement was introduced
in 1973 by then Minister for Immigration, Mr Al Grassby MP, in a speech titled A Multi-Cultural
Society for the Future.
Another historical moment in federal multicultural policy occurred in
1978 with completion of the Review of Post-Arrival Programs and Services to
Migrants (Galbally Report). Adopting the recommendations of the Galbally
Report, the government then began to expand migrant settlement
services and move toward a 'multiculturalism' policy framework.
Since this time, the Australian Government has continued to introduce
successive multicultural policy initiatives, including the Access and Equity
Strategy in the 1980s, the establishment of the Australian Multicultural
Advisory Council in 2008, and the 2011 policy statement, The People of
Australia—Australia's Multicultural Policy.
Most recently, the Australian Government published its Multicultural Statement
titled Multicultural Australia: United, Strong, Successful on
20 March 2017.
State and territory position
At present, all Australian states and territories have legislation
and/or other instruments that focus on protecting and strengthening
multiculturalism (Table 1).
Table 1: State and territory multicultural legislation
||The Multicultural Victoria Act 2011 refers to the
rights and responsibilities of all people in a multicultural society. Other
legislation includes the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act
2006, the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, and the Racial and
Religious Tolerance Act 2001.
| New South Wales
||The Multiculturalism NSW Act 2000 commits to
creating opportunities and ensuring respect for people of all linguistic,
religious and ancestral backgrounds.
| South Australia
||The South Australian Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs
Commission Act 1980 established the South Australian Multicultural and
Ethnic Affairs Commission to increase awareness and understanding of ethnic
diversity; and to advise the government and public authorities on all matters
relating to multiculturalism and ethnic affairs.
| Western Australia
||The WA Charter of Multiculturalism 2004 is
supported by the Office of Multicultural Interests, and recognises the
diversity of language, religion, race, and ethnicity within Western
Australia, and promotes an inclusive society.
||The Multicultural Recognition Act 2016 complements
existing government legislation, such as the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991,
to promote a harmonious and inclusive community.
||The Tasmanian Multicultural Policy 2014 aims to
enhance social cohesion, social and economic participation, and access to
services for migrants and multicultural communities.
| Australian Capital Territory
||The ACT Multicultural Framework 2015–20 outlines a
vision for an inclusive and cohesive society which draws on people's cultural
and linguistic diversity.
| Northern Territory
||The Multicultural Participation Framework 2016–19
outlines the principles of multiculturalism and social cohesion. The Minister's
Advisory Council on Multicultural Affairs provides high level and strategic
advice from the community to the government on matters pertaining to
Settlement and social inclusion services
Australia has a comprehensive program of settlement and social inclusion
services that are administered primarily by the Department of Social Services.
The focus of these services is on improving English language, education
and employment outcomes for new migrants,
and include the following:
The Humanitarian Settlement Services Program aims to provide
practical support to humanitarian entrants for the first six to 12 months, such
as through assisting with finding suitable long-term accommodation, registering
with government services, and general orientation to Australian life;
The Complex Case Support program provides specialised and
intensive care management services to eligible humanitarian entrants with
exceptional needs which are beyond the scope of other settlement services;
The Adult Migrant English Program provides up to 510 hours of
English language tuition to eligible migrants and humanitarian entrants to help
them learn foundation English language and settlement skills;
Settlement Grants provide funding to assist humanitarian entrants
and vulnerable migrants with a focus on fostering social and economic
participation, personal well-being, independence and community connectedness;
Free translating services are available for people settling
permanently in Australia to have personal documents translated into English
during their initial two year settlement period;
Free interpreting services delivered by the Translating and
Interpreting Service allow access to key services such as medical specialists,
pharmacies, and real estate agencies.
On 27 July 2017, the Assistant Minister for Social Services and
Multicultural Affairs, Senator the Hon Zed Seselja,
announced the redesigned suite of settlement services to be delivered through
the new Humanitarian Settlement Program (HSP). The HSP is stated to have a
renewed focus on English language, education and employment, and will commence
on 30 October 2017.
To support the delivery of settlement services, the National
Settlement Framework was recently developed and released in November 2016.
The Framework provides guidance for governments at Commonwealth, state and
territory, and local levels to make planning decisions on the provision of
settlement and support services, and to deliver coordinated client-centric services,
informed by research and evaluation.
The National Youth Settlement Framework was also developed by the
Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network, with the support of the Australian
Government. It focuses on supporting young people to become active and engaged
members of society, and supports an evidence-based approach to best practice
and measuring settlement outcomes for young people.
Australian Multicultural Advisory Council
The Australian Multicultural Advisory Council (AMAC) was launched on
17 December 2008 in Melbourne. On 30 April 2010, the AMAC presented
its advice and recommendations on cultural diversity policy to the government
of the day in a statement titled The People of Australia.
Following recommendations from AMAC to establish a new independent body,
the Australian Multicultural Council (AMC) was officially launched in
The AMC receives secretariat support from the Department of Social Services.
Its current term is from 16 December 2014 to 16 December 2017.
The AMC is tasked with providing advice to the government on
multicultural affairs policy and programs, with particular focus on celebrating
diversity, building more cohesive communities, promoting intercultural and
interfaith understanding, and harnessing the economic and social benefits of a
In Australia, it is unlawful to discriminate against an individual on
the basis of age, disability, race, sex, intersex status, gender identity and
sexual orientation, in certain areas of public life, including education and
These laws are enshrined in the following legislation:
Age Discrimination Act 2004;
Disability Discrimination Act 1992;
Racial Discrimination Act 1975; and
Sex Discrimination Act 1984.
Complaints of discrimination on each of these grounds can be lodged with
the Australian Human Rights Commission and the relevant state and territory
agencies. The Australian Human Rights Commission has the statutory power to
receive, investigate and conciliate complaints of alleged discrimination and
human rights breaches under these laws.
The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 gives effect to Australia's
obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms
of Racial Discrimination. This Act aims to promote equality for all persons,
regardless of race, colour or national or ethnic origin, and to make
discrimination against people on these bases unlawful.
National Anti-Racism Strategy
In addition to anti-discrimination law, the government opposes racial
vilification and discrimination through the National Anti-Racism Strategy
(the Strategy), which was launched in 2012. The Strategy aims to promote a
clear understanding in the Australian community of what racism is, and how it
can be prevented and reduced.
One of the Strategy's major outcomes is the Racism. It Stops With Me
campaign. The campaign focuses on recognising that racism is unacceptable, and
empowers individuals to prevent and respond effectively to acts of racism. It
provides a central coordination point for anti-racism activities happening
across Australia, and gives individuals and organisations access to educational
and other materials to promote anti-racism messages.
International models of multiculturalism
While a number of government agencies have responsibility for building
social cohesion and addressing anti-social behaviour, multiculturalism in the
United Kingdom (UK) is not affirmed in any constitutional, legislative or
parliamentary instruments. Similar to the European model of multiculturalism,
the UK places little emphasis on the responsibilities of new arrivals to adhere
to their national systems and laws. The UK Prime Minister was once quoted as
saying this has led to a 'failure of multiculturalism', causing cultural and
religious minority groups to live separately from the rest of society.
Australian multiculturalism is most often compared to the Canadian model.
In 1971, then Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, announced a
federal policy of multiculturalism, and a commitment to support minority
Two years later, Australia's Whitlam Government announced a similar shift
toward a 'multi-cultural society'.
Canada enshrined its multiculturalism policy in the Canadian Multiculturalism
Act 1988, thereby recognising that all citizens have the right to celebrate
their cultural diversity, and have equal protection under the law.
Australia currently has no such legislation in place.
Another commonly referred to example of multiculturalism is the New
Zealand model. New Zealand's ancestry is similar to Australia in that the Indigenous
communities have appealed for consultation in multiculturalism debates. New
Zealand recognises its nation's first people through the Treaty of Waitangi.
The Treaty is based on the principle of biculturalism, and provides the basis
for recognition of the state with respect to the Māori people.
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