Legislation and data collection
Although Australia is a highly multicultural nation, there is no federal
legislation specifically directed toward promoting and protecting
multiculturalism. Inquiry participants generally supported the introduction of
such legislation, noting that a Federal Multicultural Act would also be highly
symbolic. Participants also questioned the evidential bases underpinning knowledge
and understanding of cultural diversity and coexistence in Australia,
suggesting that further investment in data collection and social research would
This chapter discusses the following matters in more detail: enshrining
principles of multiculturalism in legislation; establishing a legislative body;
and the adequacy of data and social research.
A Federal Multiculturalism Act
Submitters and witnesses considered the potential benefits and
disadvantages of enshrining the principles of multiculturalism in legislation
(term of reference (h)).
As shown in the following sections, many noted that Australia does not have
federal multiculturalism legislation but supported the enactment of such
legislation, sometimes referencing domestic and/or international examples as
Federal and state legislation
The Australian Multicultural Council noted that all Australian states
have legislation or other instruments that assert the values of
multiculturalism and mandate their systematic application in public services.
Its submission argued that 'it would be timely to enact equivalent federal
legislation, as an important plank of a reinvigorated public commitment to
Other submitters commented on how federal politics has not prioritised
multiculturalism. For example, the Edmund Rice Centre said that
'multiculturalism exists as a policy' with support that has 'waned, in both
rhetoric and substance' over the past 15 years.
Professor Fethi Mansouri commented:
...it is rather difficult to comprehend how a country as
diverse as Australia...still finds itself unable to reaffirm official support for
multiculturalism through a basic Australian Multicultural Act.
The case for a new multiculturalism
Submitters and witnesses contended that the Australian Government needs
to meaningfully recommit to multiculturalism. Professor Andrew Jakubowicz and Ms
Ly Ly Lim proposed the conceptualisation of a 'New Multiculturalism' for
Australia (including national legislation).
Their submission argued that Australia's philosophical and policy settings have
not kept pace with modern developments:
In the past forty years globalisation has intensified, the
Internet has been created, and population movements have accelerated. New
communities have entered Australian society and struggled to find a place here.
Australia's philosophical and policy settings have not kept pace. Indeed, the
failure to regularly refresh the ideas and practices from a solid empirical
research base, with a consequential tendency to abandon the debate purely to
the realm of emotion and populist pressure groups, has contributed to both
social and policy crises.
The Victorian Multicultural Commission stated that there has been a
shift in the policy discourse 'from the language of multiculturalism to that of
diversity, social cohesion and harmony, with security concerns at times linked
to the agenda'.
An officer from the Department of Premier and Cabinet (Victoria) suggested
that multiculturalism has been conflated with security concerns, resulting in a
lack of political support for the former:
...there is a real tension with...the security aspects now. It is
as if those conversations have become conflated between what multiculturalism
is and diversity, security and immigration policy. That has somehow, in the
public discourse, damaged the multicultural brand, if you will.
Enshrining the principles of
As noted in chapter one, the Australian Government has announced its
multicultural statement (Multicultural Australia–United, Strong, Successful).
However, submitters and witnesses argued that enshrining the principles of
multiculturalism in federal legislation would produce better outcomes. For
example, the Victorian Multicultural Commission said:
...a federal multicultural act would set up the scaffolding
that truly supports multicultural Australia. Enshrining the principles of
multiculturalism in legislation at the federal level has added advantages in
terms of symbolism and leadership. A national multicultural act would
demonstrate multilateral support for Australian multiculturalism. It would
symbolise political will at the highest level to support and embrace the
Australian Lawyers for Human Rights supported these comments, adding
that a Federal Multiculturalism Act would need to work in conjunction with
human rights legislation or a bill of rights.
Otherwise, its supplementary submission argued, the legislation might
'become divisive, rather than bringing people together and enshrine existing
cultural inequities, both between cultures and within cultures'.
The human rights based Canadian
Several submitters and witnesses referred to the Canadian
Multiculturalism Act 1988 (the Act) as a workable model for Australia.
The Act ratifies two international human rights treaties, and affirms the Canadian
Government's commitment to the preservation and enhancement of multiculturalism
In particular, section 3 of the Act provides:
3 (1) It is hereby declared to be the policy of the
Government of Canada to
(a) recognize and promote the understanding that
multiculturalism reflects the cultural and racial diversity of Canadian society
and acknowledges the freedom of all members of Canadian society to preserve,
enhance and share their cultural heritage;
(b) recognize and promote the understanding that
multiculturalism is a fundamental characteristic of the Canadian heritage and
identity and that it provides an invaluable resource in the shaping of Canada's
(c) promote the full and equitable participation of
individuals and communities of all origins in the continuing evolution and
shaping of all aspects of Canadian society and assist them in the elimination
of any barrier to that participation;
(d) recognize the existence of communities whose members
share a common origin and their historic contribution to Canadian society, and
enhance their development;
(e) ensure that all individuals receive equal treatment and
equal protection under the law, while respecting and valuing their diversity;
(f) encourage and assist the social, cultural, economic and
political institutions of Canada to be both respectful and inclusive of Canada's
(g) promote the understanding and creativity that arise from
the interaction between individuals and communities of different origins;
(h) foster the recognition and appreciation of the diverse
cultures of Canadian society and promote the reflection and the evolving
expressions of those cultures;
(i) preserve and enhance the use of languages other than
English and French, while strengthening the status and use of the official
languages of Canada; and
(j) advance multiculturalism throughout Canada in harmony
with the national commitment to the official languages of Canada.
Australian Lawyers for Human Rights emphasised that the success of the
Canadian legislation must be viewed in the context of Canada having a Charter
of Human Rights, a Human Rights Act, a Human Rights Tribunal and a strong Human
In contrast, its submission argued that Australia has an inadequate approach to
the protection of human rights:
Despite Australia having been a founding member of the United
Nations and one of only eight nations involved in drafting of the 1948
Universal Declaration on Human Rights, today Australia is alone amongst
first world democratic nations in not itself having any nationwide Human Rights
Act [also known as a Charter of Human Rights] or Bill of Rights. Australia's
Constitution does not specifically protect human rights and has been held to
protect only a limited right to free political speech.
Professor George Williams also supported stronger protection of human
rights in Australia. He said that not having a national human rights law—such
as a Charter of Human Rights or a Human Rights Act—is a significant omission in
the area of multiculturalism:
If you look at what's found in these instruments, they do
often deal specifically with multicultural aspects. For example, section 19 of
the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities...has a clause that
deals specifically with cultural rights...a protection of that kind as part of a
charter of rights could make a significant difference in this area in terms of legal
protection, but more importantly of policy development and community education.
Professor Williams explained that a Charter of Human Rights (created by
federal legislation) could require policies to be developed at the outset in
accordance with human rights standards:
...before laws are made in areas such as affecting different
communities you must take into account the higher value within the charter.
The experience is that it often has a very significant impact upon how
policy is developed and the proposals that cabinet considers. It means
that these factors are brought to play before legislation is even subject to
public debate, when, often, it is too late to get movement on the terms of that
legislation. It is a preventative model at lower cost that is about service
delivery and policy making, and really helping those be more consistent with
what we might see as important democratic and other values.
Similar to Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, Professor Williams considered
that a Charter of Human Rights should supplement a Federal Multiculturalism
Act, thereby imbuing cultural recognition and protection with an appropriate
political and legal status:
...the charter is particularly important because it gives
values such as cultural protection a much higher status within the political
and legal systems. A multicultural act would not likely achieve that and would
itself be much more prone to amendment. If you had the sort of cultural
protection and recognition we're talking about sitting next to freedom to
speech and other really core entitlements that are iconic and have enormous
support across the community, that sends a very powerful signal about how we
view multiculturalism and its value to us, and it also achieves a set of
outcomes in policy development, legal interpretation and the like that, again,
no multicultural act could achieve.
Australian Lawyers for Human Rights said that human rights principles
should be enshrined in federal legislation to balance and reasonably
accommodate all human rights:
This is commonly understood in international law and in
jurisdictions where human rights are enshrined in national constitutions, such
as Canada and all European countries. In Australia, being alone amongst first
world countries in not having constitutionally protected human rights, there is
not a common understanding of this well-established point.
Reaffirming the comments of the Edmund Rice Centre, the Multicultural
Communities Council of New South Wales said that the issue of embedding
principles of multiculturalism into a Multicultural Act has been raised and
debated at the federal level on numerous occasions in the past 25 years: 'the
need for such an Act to strengthen multiculturalism is now very clear and
Federal anti-discrimination law
Submitters and witnesses commented on the need for federal legislation
to help address discrimination, vilification, exclusion and bigotry in the
Australian community. For example, Professor Linda Briskman from the
Challenging Racism Project at Western Sydney University stated:
When you look at the context, why are we even discussing the
need [for] such legislation? It is because we are perceiving a problem in
society that needs to be rectified...There is a lot of fear in our society at the
moment...Legislation that is affirming and symbolic might help erode some of that
fear. It will be a statement from the leadership of the country that this is
In addition to considering a Federal Multiculturalism Act, some
submitters referred to Australia's anti-discrimination law. For example,
although prohibited by the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth),
the Australian Human Rights Commission said that racial discrimination
continues to affect migrants and Australia‑born people from many cultural
The Challenging Racism Project agreed that there are still 'high levels of
discrimination and racism directed at CALD [cultural and linguistically
diverse] groups in Australia'.
Some submitters referred especially to section 18C of the Racial
Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth),
arguing that the provision should be maintained. For example, Australian
Lawyers for Human Rights submitted:
...exclusionary ideologies such as racism are perpetuated
through speech. Only legislation can remove a perception in the community that people
have the right to behave a particular way. Legislation provides moral support
to those people whose natural instincts are against racism. The process of
defining something legally as unacceptable indicates that the behaviour is both
unjust and alterable, and encourages people not to put up with that behaviour.
While legal rights themselves may be hard to enforce, the process of
establishing that one has a right not to be treated in a certain way has, for
example in the context of sexual discrimination, changed many people's view of
the conduct from "it's only natural" to "that's
Alternatively, a representative from the Executive Council of Australian
Jewry highlighted the 'urging of violence' offences in sections 80.2 and 80.2B
of the Criminal Code.
Mr Peter Wertheim said that these provisions are problematic and should be
amended to prevent the promotion or support of violence on arbitrary grounds:
The real problem with the way those sections are drawn at the
moment is that a prosecutor needs to prove a double mens rea, a double mental
element—in other words, not only an intention to urge violence on the basis of
one of these specified grounds but a further intention that violence will
occur. That is nearly impossible to prove in the vast majority of cases,
because it cannot merely be inferred from the words themselves. There actually
has to be some other nexus that a prosecutor can use to prove that that element
is satisfied to the criminal standard—that is, beyond reasonable doubt, which
is a very high standard.
The Victorian Multicultural Commission suggested that the Exposure Draft
of the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012 should be revisited:
The intention of the Bill was to provide better protection
against discrimination, with a clearer and simpler regulatory framework for
business, organisations and individuals. The VMC supports this aim. Further, we
support legislation to strengthen anti-discrimination laws by producing a
simpler and clearer law that incorporates human rights as a fundamental
building block for inclusion.
Based on information presented to this inquiry, the committee is
persuaded that the Australian Government must proactively commit to
multiculturalism in Australia. This starts with recognition that
multiculturalism is a political discourse distinct from issues associated with
security concerns. To their credit, state and territory governments have
already acknowledged this need and implemented measures to support cultural
diversity and social cohesion.
The committee endorses the view that there is a need for strong
leadership on the meaning and importance of multiculturalism in Australia. A
Federal Multiculturalism Act that enshrines the values of multiculturalism and
establishes mechanisms to ensure implementation of these values is worthy of
further consideration. In this regard, the committee notes that a large number
of submitters and witnesses highlighted potential models to guide the government's
Although not a separate term of reference, Australia's human rights and
anti‑discrimination protections attracted some comment. Reflecting on the
information largely presented in chapter three, the committee considers that
there are areas in which legislative protections are either non-existent,
deficient, or at the least inaccessible. The committee is of the view that the
broader arguments of a federal Human Rights Act (or similar) and reformed
federal anti-discrimination law should be revisited without undue delay. The
committee suggests that the Australian Government introduce a Charter of Human
The committee recommends that the Australian Government, in consultation
with relevant government, non-government and community bodies, consider developing
and implementing a Federal Multicultural Act to enshrine agreed principles of
multiculturalism to support and frame multiculturalism in Australia.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government consider
introducing a Charter of Rights, to ensure the legal protection of culturally
and linguistically diverse, and new and emerging communities.
Establishment of a Multicultural Commission
As part of the inquiry, the committee examined the potential benefits
and disadvantages of establishing a legislative basis for the Australian Multicultural
Council or for an ongoing Multicultural Commission (term of reference (i)).
Submitters and witnesses raised concerns with respect to the current Australian
Multicultural Council. However, there was in principle support for the
establishment of a Multicultural Commission.
Multicultural Advisory Council
The Australian Multicultural Council is a ministerial‑appointed body
that advises the Australian Government on multicultural affairs policy and
programs. It has five priority areas, including building stronger and more
cohesive communities, and addressing barriers to participation (such as racism
Chinese Australian Services Society Limited said that the Australian
Multicultural Council is 'hardly known in the community' and suggested that the
Council is hampered by multiple factors—for example, inadequate resources, ill‑defined
legislative powers, and poor accountability mechanisms.
Mr Peter Wertheim from the Executive Council of Australian Jewry expressed the
view that the Australian Multicultural Council is 'window dressing'.
The Australian Association of Islamic and Muslim Studies Inc. stated that
the Australian Multicultural Council must be strengthened.
Alternatively, a 'full‑fledged' Multicultural Commission should be
...clearly present and defend multiculturalism as the
embodiment of universal values to which Australians of all backgrounds (should)
adhere. This multicultural body should have the capacity to examine social
inclusion problems and to carry out remedial action. This gesture of political
leadership would help make the message of Australia's multicultural success ring
far truer [than the Multicultural Australia–united, strong, successful statement].
This legislation would also clear up doubts that multiculturalism means
accepting cultures wholesale.
The Department of Social Services said that if the Australian Government
were to consider legislation for a Multicultural Advisory Council or an ongoing
...it would be important to be cognisant of the structures
already in place, to ensure no duplication or unnecessary bureaucracy is
created. For example, the role of the Australian Human Rights Commission and
the Race Discrimination Commissioner in particular, may have some overlap with
the potential role of any national Multicultural Commission. Similarly, there
may be overlap with the multicultural commissions in place in several states
The Victorian Multicultural Commission did not appear to share this
concern. On the contrary, its representative, Ms Helen Kapalos, said that a
federal/state model would allow for strong leadership and the better provision
When federal and state agencies work together, it is a better
integrated model, and it certainly allows...capacity gaps to be better
identified. It is very difficult to have that kind of grassroots setting and
grassroots activation if there is just a federal body looking after settlement,
for example—and it works the same way, I think, with commissions and
separate state entities. I think a federal commission would be symbolic in
terms of the advantages and leadership that it would put forward as a nation.
That is not to be underestimated, because it then brings us into a
contemporaneous setting. We have been one of the first countries to adopt a
multicultural policy, but I wonder whether we see it in contemporary terms now.
International and national models for
a multiculturalism commission
Submitters and witnesses proposed international and current state models
that they considered could guide the Australian Government in the creation of
an ongoing Multicultural Commission. For example, the Victorian Multicultural
Commission referred to existing legislation, including the Canadian
Multiculturalism Act 1988 that provides the relevant minister with
discretion to establish an advisory committee.
The Chinese Australian Services Society Limited indicated that its community would
support the creation of a Multicultural Commission 'with adequate resources and
setting out the responsibilities and direction of the principles of Australian
Multiculturalism similar to the Canadian Model'.
Domestically, the Victorian Government highlighted its Multicultural
Victoria Act 2011 (Vic), which provides for principles of multiculturalism
(similarly to section 3 of the Canadian legislation), as well as establishing
the detailed role and objectives of the Victorian Multicultural Commission:
The [VMC]...was established to promote multiculturalism
throughout the Victorian community. It provides independent advice to the
Victorian Government to inform the development of legislative and policy
frameworks, as well as the delivery of services to culturally diverse
communities in Victoria. In this role, the VMC is a forum for Victoria's
culturally diverse communities to access and communicate with the Victorian
Government and have their voices heard.
Although the Victorian Government described the Victorian Act as a
'strong and exemplar legislative frame',
the Australian Multicultural Council suggested re‑establishing the Office
of Multicultural Affairs instead. Its submission argued that this office could progress
'the multicultural agenda across a wide range of Australian Government policies
and programs, and encourage better coordination of functions and greater
sharing of knowledge and expertise'.
For other submitters, it appeared less important what form a legislated
body could take so long as it fulfilled its function. For example, the
Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture Inc. said:
...establishing an agency with a legislative base would
significantly increase the likelihood that Australian governments and society
will have timely access to evidence about how effectively programs to promote
settlement and social inclusion are functioning, and to the presence of
incipient problems that need to be addressed.
According to participants in the inquiry, there are multiple problems
with the current Australian Multicultural Council. As part of a re-energised commitment
to multiculturalism, the committee considers that it would be more effective to
establish a representative national body, with clearly defined responsibilities
and adequate resourcing, for multicultural matters.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government,
in consultation with relevant government, non-government and community
bodies, consider developing and implementing federal legislation to establish
an ongoing Multicultural Commission that is sufficiently resourced to promote
and protect multiculturalism throughout Australia, ensuring that all
Australians recognise that multiculturalism is essential to the fabric of the
Adequacy of data collection and social research
The committee received a large volume of submissions and evidence about the
adequacy of existing data collection and social research on racially motivated
crimes (term of reference (c)). There was a general consensus that neither data
nor research is currently sufficient to promote multiculturalism in Australia, to plan
for and deliver services to CALD communities, and to formulate multicultural
Quality of existing data
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) collects and disseminates a wide
range of statistical information relevant to multiculturalism and social inclusion
An ABS officer explained:
The data enables the civic, social and economic contribution
of migrants and all Australians to be measured, recognised and valued. It sheds
light upon the diversity of the different cultural groups within the Australian
community and their differing experiences of life in Australia.
However, submitters and witnesses questioned the quantity and/or quality
of existing data. While the ABS described the 2016 Census as 'Australia's
richest single source of data on the cultural diversity of Australia',
the federal Race Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Tim Soutphommasane, said that
the Census does not perfectly or fully capture data on cultural diversity:
...in my own personal case, in the census I would have answered
the question about language I spoke at home as being English. That would not
have been [the] case 20 years ago when I was growing up. I was born in France
but my place of birth really does not give a good indication of what my
cultural background involves. Many other like societies in liberal democracies
would have more direct means of capturing information about cultural
diversity—for example, questions concerning cultural background or ethnicity.
They are some of the examples I would highlight in the current collection of
cultural diversity data. We have good data on some indicators but they add up
to an incomplete picture of what cultural diversity is in Australia today.
The Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria emphasised that
data collection, facts and research underpin legislated change.
Professor Mansouri also raised the issue of research, arguing that it is time
Australia had a national multicultural research agenda to better promote diversity
and cultural coexistence:
This would be in addition to the symbolic things that can be
done. Why do we need to do that? I actually believe that the more we are able
to research and document positive stories about diversity and coexistence, the
more we can feed that into the public domain, the more we will change gradually
public perception about diversity and cultural coexistence.
We are not going to do that if the federal agenda is driven,
by and large, by the CVE [countering violent extremism] portfolio. We need to
balance that a little bit more and we need to go back and look at what works in
multicultural coexistence at the local level. We need to allow a proper
research agenda to be pursued and we need to work in partnership with communities
and academic institutions because that will allow us to perhaps also change the
Statistics on racially motivated
In some countries—such as the United States of America, the United
Kingdom and Canada—data is readily available for various kinds of racially
motivated crimes. However, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry said that
this kind of data is not available in Australia, as there is no consistent
national approach to the proscription of hate crimes.
Its submission concluded:
Proper research into and analysis of the nature, incidence
and long-term trends of hate crimes in Australia is severely constrained by the
unavailability of data based on a uniform national system for classifying and
recording hate crimes. The quality of any government policies aimed at
addressing hate crimes in Australia will necessarily be compromised by these
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry also argued that the cost of a
uniform national system would not be excessive. Further, this approach would
produce several practical and symbolic benefits, including signalling
governments' determination to address hate crimes:
Although the police response is a critical component in the
effort to address the problem of hate crimes, the promotion of public awareness
of the problem, and public confidence in the system's response, are also
important in overcoming the traditional reluctance of members of affected
groups to report such crimes for fear of reprisals or not being taken seriously.
The Victorian Government acknowledged that, in its jurisdiction, there
is a 'discrepancy between the evidence on the frequency and volume of lived
experiences of people who are confronted with discrimination and vilification,
and the numbers being reported'.
Although each jurisdiction has proscribed hate crimes, the Australian
Human Rights Commission said that that there is no data collection on crimes
motivated by racial hatred or prejudice.
Its submission suggested that this situation be remedied by tasking an
appropriate government authority to collect and report on the data:
Recommendation 4: That the Government investigate ways
of collecting more comprehensive data on racially motivated crimes. An
appropriate government authority, such as the Australian Institute of
Criminology, could be mandated to collect and report on national data.
The Edmund Rice Centre observed that this data deficiency was
acknowledged by the Australian Government in 2010 but since then, 'little
progress appears to have been made'.
Need for an adequately resourced
The Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia (FECCA) endorsed
Australia's historical record of migrant settlement. FECCA and other
submitters—such as the Victorian Government—cautioned
of the need for ongoing commitment to ensure 'peaceful and harmonious
inter-existence' or social cohesion.
FECCA emphasised that a key component of this commitment is evolved
understandings based on research:
Australia must be agile and innovative in adapting to these
challenges. For this to occur, Australia must better understand the
barriers that prevent CALD Australians from full participation in every part of
Australian cultural, social and economic life. In order to secure those
evolved understandings, better, more directed research is needed. Evidence-based
assessments of the root causes of obstacles to inclusion are essential to developing
Professor Jakubowicz and Ms Lim said that there is inadequate research underpinning
the knowledge base about Australian multicultural society and related issues. Their
submission argued that the policy process is not based on inquiry‑driven
research largely due to the 1996 closure of the Bureau of Immigration
Multicultural and Population Research. Instead:
...a much smaller program-oriented research function was
retained in the Immigration Department, offering a very constrained evidence
base, driven by the political priorities of the government of the day, and the
program responsibilities of the bureaucracy. The national research
conversations that had been so important as an interface for research, policy
and community discussions essentially disappeared. Moreover, leading political
voices rejected the idea that Australian values might be enriched by engagement
with immigrant communities, re-asserting the dominant position of a supposed 'core
culture', demanding that immigrants accept what they found and modify their
lives to fit.
The joint submission continued:
There is an urgent need to build the research infrastructure and
funding to enable strategic and coordinated research on migration, cultural diversity
and community relations. We propose the establishment of a national Migration,
Cultural Diversity and Community Relations Research Institute. This would bring
together government, business and community stakeholders to fund and steer
research, with a program of competitively‑funded research grant and
research networking activities.
Emeritus Professor Joseph Camilleri OAM submitted that, in an
increasingly globalised world, the need for intercultural skills will continue
to grow. However, he also argued that there are relatively few programs
specifically designed to enhance levels of intercultural awareness. Professor
...a serious approach to innovation should, among other things,
encourage, support and fund the research, educational and training
institutions, projects and methodologies that can foster this deeper 'cultural'
knowledge and understanding. Such a development would have wide-ranging
application in several key areas of policy, including industry, trade,
education, health, external relations, security, and, of course, indigenous
affairs, immigration and multicultural affairs.
Professor Camilleri suggested the development of 'a few strategic
instruments', such as a National Centre for Intercultural Diversity:
Its mission would be to advance knowledge and innovation as
it relates to managing cultural and religious diversity—first and foremost
within Australia, but also in Australia's relations with its region and beyond.
Its primary focus would be on the implications of cultural diversity for
social cohesion, economy and trade, environment, education (at all levels),
media and communications, national security, and international relations.
Professor Camilleri outlined briefly how a National Centre for
Intercultural Diversity might be implemented, including through partnership
funding. Under this proposal, the Australian Government would provide funding over
a five-year period to support the establishment of a centre (for example, infrastructure
and specific appointment costs). A host institution, or institutions, could then
provide additional support.
As indicated earlier in this report, submitters and witnesses contended
that there are numerous areas in which further research is required to promote
and protect multiculturalism. FECCA indicated that a research body is required
not only to identify 'the unique challenges faced by Australians from culturally
and linguistically diverse backgrounds', but also to identify best practice
internationally in these areas.
At present, a wide range of data is being captured in relation to
multiculturalism and social inclusion. However, the committee heard that this
data is not comprehensive and, in the case of racially motivated crime, does
not exist. Part of this problem appears to be legislative inconsistency across
Australia. As highlighted by submitters and witnesses, sufficient,
consistent and reliable data is vital to support research that informs, among
other things, political discourse and policy formulation. Accordingly, the
committee supports investigating ways of collecting more comprehensive data,
including on racially motivated crime.
The committee is concerned that Australia does not have a national
multiculturalism research agenda. With such high cultural diversity that
changes in each generation, it seems only logical to seek to understand the
challenges to which we must adapt now and into the future. For this purpose,
the committee considers that the Australian Government should establish an
independent and resourced body, such as a National Centre for multiculturalism
and religious diversity, to provide strategic and co-ordinated research in all
areas of multiculturalism. This would have the additional advantage of
signalling the government's commitment to the multiculturalism agenda.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government consider developing
options for collecting more comprehensive data on issues concerning
multiculturalism and racially motivated crime, including the possibility of
tasking the Australian Institute of Criminology to collect and report national
data for racially motivated crime.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government consider establishing
an independent and resourced body, such as a National Centre for multiculturalism
and religious diversity, to provide strategic and coordinated research into the
areas of multiculturalism and religious diversity.
Senator Richard Di Natale
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