Research into the Current and Emerging Drivers for Social Cohesion, Social Division and Conflict in Multicultural Australia



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Dr Justine Dandy Associate Professor Rogelia Pe-Pua

School of Psychology and Social Science School of Social Sciences

Edith Cowan University The University of New South Wales



Research into the Current and Emerging Drivers for Social Cohesion, Social Division and Conflict in Multicultural Australia

Report prepared for:

Joint Commonwealth, State and Territory Research Advisory Committee (RAC)

March 2013

Research Team

School of Psychology and Social Science, and the Social Justice Research Centre,

Edith Cowan University

Dr Justine Dandy, Senior Lecturer

Ms Emanuela Sala, Research Officer

School of Social Sciences, University of New South Wales

Dr Rogelia Pe-Pua, Associate Professor

Ms Anna Nina Chua, Research Assistant

School of Psychology, Flinders University

Dr Ian McKee, Research Associate



Authors

Dandy, J. and Pe-Pua, R.



Contact for follow up

Dr Justine Dandy, School of Psychology and Social Science, Edith Cowan University,

270 Joondalup Drive, Joondalup WA 6027, Australia; Ph: +61 8 6304 5105; j.dandy@ecu.edu.au

Acknowledgements/Disclaimers

The research team would like to thank the Joint Commonwealth, State and Territory Research Advisory Committee for funding the project, and to acknowledge the constructive advice and guidance provided by the project's Steering Committee. In particular we wish to thank Matthew Jones of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship for his advice and assistance throughout the project. Furthermore, we would like to thank Emanuela Sala, Anna Nina Chua and Mary Edwards for their invaluable assistance at all stages of the project that they have been involved in; and Dr Ian McKee for his special support on the Murray Bridge fieldwork. Their dedication and professionalism have been instrumental to the smooth running of the project and to the quality of the result. We also thank the other research assistants who helped with the transcription of interview and focus group discussion recordings, including Pia Ramos and her team, Teresa Yuol and Maria Toledo. We thank the SydWest Multicultural Services Inc at Blacktown NSW; Edmund Rice Centre, Ishar Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health, the Metropolitan Migrant Resource Centre and MercyCare at Mirrabooka/Balga WA; as well as the Rural City of Murray Bridge SA, for supporting and hosting our project. We thank them for assisting us in recruiting participants for the key informant interviews and the focus groups; for allowing us to hold discussions and interviews at their premises; and helping us bring out the important insights from our findings. Our grateful thanks go to all the residents of our three communities who took time to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences with us in the focus groups; and to the service providers and community members who shared their candid thoughts. The opinions, comments and/or analysis expressed in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth and/or State and Territory departments and cannot be taken in any way as expressions of government policy.

Table of Contents

Appendices

List of Tables

List of Figures

Abbreviations i

Executive Summary iii


1.Introduction 18

1.1Aims and scope of the project 19



2.What are the evidence and indicators of social cohesion in the Australian context? 20

3.What are the factors that enhance or disrupt social cohesion, sense of community belonging and tolerance in Australian communities? 20

4.How effective are various strategies in building community resilience and fostering social cohesion? 20

5.What is the role of media access and participation in Australians’ perspectives on multiculturalism and living with diversity, particularly as these relate to the construction of difference, national identity and belonging? 20

5.1Study methodology 20

5.2Content and structure of the report 23

6.Conceptual Framework and Literature Review 24

6.1Jenson’s framework of social cohesion 24

6.2Social cohesion and related constructs 27

6.3Defining multicultural community 28

6.4Drivers for social cohesion, social conflict and division: Evidence from the literature 29

6.5International and national indicators of social cohesion, social division and conflict 42

6.6The role of media 47

6.7Summary 52



7.The Australian Government and community approach to Social Cohesion 54

7.1Vision of a ‘socially inclusive society’ 54

7.2‘Whole-of-government’ approach 55

7.3Community programs, projects and services 61



8.The Three Case Studies 67

8.1Details of the case study method 67

8.2Mirrabooka and Balga (Western Australia) 74

8.3Blacktown (New South Wales) 99

8.4Murray Bridge (South Australia) 138

8.5Cross-case Analysis 159



9.Social Cohesion, Social Division and Conflict in Australia: Key findings and Conclusions 170

10.What are the evidence and indicators of social cohesion in the Australian context? 170

11.What are the factors that enhance or disrupt social cohesion, sense of community belonging and tolerance in Australian communities? 170

12.How effective are various strategies in building community resilience and fostering social cohesion? 170

13.What is the role of media access and participation in Australians’ perspectives on multiculturalism and living with diversity, particularly as these relate to the construction of difference, national identity and belonging? 170

13.1Evidence and indicators of social cohesion in the Australian context 171

13.2Factors that enhance or disrupt social cohesion, sense of community belonging and tolerance in Australian communities 173

13.3Effectiveness of various strategies in building community resilience and social cohesion 184

13.4The role of media access and participation in Australians’ perspectives on multiculturalism and living with diversity 186

13.5Recommendations 188

13.6Conclusions 194

14.References 197

Appendix A-1 Focus Group Discussion Consent Form 215

Appendix A-2 Focus Group Discussion Guide 221

Appendix A-3 Focus Group Discussion Demographic Questionnaire 225

Appendix A-4 Focus Group Discussion Media Use Questionnaire 226

Appendix B-2 Key Informant Interview Consent Forms 231

Appendix C-1 Social Cohesion in Mirrabooka (WA): Detailed findings 233

15.The ‘community’ 328

15.1The community – public space 329

15.2Community reputation –‘a prison town’ 330

16.Belonging 331

16.1Overall evaluation: which community are we talking about? 331

16.2Excluded groups 333

16.3Belonging – Residential Stability 334

17.Inclusion 334

17.1Housing 334

17.2Healthcare 336

17.3Employment 338

17.4Education 341

17.5Excluded groups 343

18.Participation 343

18.1Community Participation 343

18.2Political participation 345

18.3Volunteering 346

18.4Enablers and Barriers to participation 346

19.Recognition 349

19.1Intergroup attitudes and behaviour 349

19.2Discrimination and prejudice 352

20.Legitimacy 354

20.1Trust in government departments 354

20.2Trust in the police 355

21.Social division and conflict 356

21.1Intergroup tensions and youth aggression 356

21.2Safety 357

22.Media use and influence 358



Appendices

1.Introduction 18

1.1Aims and scope of the project 19



2.What are the evidence and indicators of social cohesion in the Australian context? 20

3.What are the factors that enhance or disrupt social cohesion, sense of community belonging and tolerance in Australian communities? 20

4.How effective are various strategies in building community resilience and fostering social cohesion? 20

5.What is the role of media access and participation in Australians’ perspectives on multiculturalism and living with diversity, particularly as these relate to the construction of difference, national identity and belonging? 20

5.1Study methodology 20

5.1.1Literature review 20

5.1.2Web-based audit of government and community programs 20

5.1.3Community case studies 22

5.1.4Media analysis 22

5.2Content and structure of the report 23

6.Conceptual Framework and Literature Review 24

6.1Jenson’s framework of social cohesion 24

6.2Social cohesion and related constructs 27

6.3Defining multicultural community 28

6.4Drivers for social cohesion, social conflict and division: Evidence from the literature 29

6.4.1Enablers and barriers for Belonging 30

6.4.2Enablers and barriers for Inclusion 31

6.4.3Enablers and barriers for Participation 32

6.4.4Enablers and barriers for Recognition 35

Individual factors 36

Interpersonal and intergroup factors 37

Community level factors 40

6.4.5Enablers and barriers for Legitimacy 41

6.4.6Social division and conflict 42

6.5International and national indicators of social cohesion, social division and conflict 42

6.5.1Indicators of social cohesion 42

6.5.2Indicators of social division and conflict 45

6.6The role of media 47

6.6.1Representations in the mass media 47

6.6.2Minority use of mass media 49

6.6.3Social media 49

6.7Summary 52



7.The Australian Government and community approach to Social Cohesion 54

7.1Vision of a ‘socially inclusive society’ 54

7.2‘Whole-of-government’ approach 55

7.2.1Diversity and Social Cohesion Program (DSCP) 57

7.2.2‘A Stronger, Fairer Australia’ and Cultural Diversity 58

7.2.3Other government programs/services 58

7.2.4State government programs and services 59

7.3Community programs, projects and services 61



8.The Three Case Studies 67

8.1Details of the case study method 67

8.1.1Focus group discussions with community residents 68

Age and background of focus group participants 68

Socio-economic indicators (employment and education) and Volunteering 69

8.1.2Key Informant (KI) interviews 71

8.1.3Data analysis 73

8.2Mirrabooka and Balga (Western Australia) 74

8.2.1Geographical and demographic profile 74

8.2.2‘The community’ 76

8.2.3Belonging 77

8.2.4Inclusion 78

8.2.5Participation 81

8.2.6Recognition 82

8.2.7Legitimacy 85

8.2.8Social division and conflict 86

8.2.9Media use and influence 87

8.2.10Media analysis results for Mirrabooka/Balga 88

8.2.11Promoting social cohesion 93

Harmony Week (2003- ) 94

Migrants Got Talent (2010- ) 95

City of Stirling CaLD Youth Sport and Recreation Project (2006-2009) 95

Beatball (2010-2011) 96

The Reel Connections Programme (2008-2010) 97

Community Capacity Building Program (2009-) 98

English/Language for Living in Australia (2009- ) 98

8.3Blacktown (New South Wales) 99

8.3.1Geographical and demographic profile 99

8.3.2‘The community’ 100

8.3.3Belonging 100

8.3.4Inclusion 101

8.3.5Participation 104

8.3.6Recognition 107

8.3.7Legitimacy 108

8.3.8Social division and conflict 109

8.3.9Media use and influence 110

8.3.10Media analysis of Blacktown 111

‘Aboriginal’ affairs (62) 111

Music and arts (50) 112

Social cohesion (38) 113

Awards and celebrations (28) 114

Sports (23) 115

Image (21) 116

Immigration and refugees (12) 116

Education (12) 116

Safety and crime (9) 117

Housing (9) 117

Health (3) 118

Employment (3) 118

Politics (3) 118

Language (3) 118

Racism (2) 119

Image (12) 119

Sport (7) 120

Refugees (3) 120

Housing (3) 120

Crime (2) 120

Migrants (2) 121

Politics (2) 121

Other (3) 121

Sport (3) 121

Refugees (2) 122

Image (2) 122

Crime (2) 122

8.3.11Promoting social cohesion in Blacktown 123

Blacktown City Social Plan (2007; 2010-2012) 124

Blacktown City Council Cultural Plan 2007-2017 126

Blacktown Emerging Communities Action Plan (BECAP) 127

Reconciliation Action Plan 2010 128

Blacktown City Council as a Refugee Welcome Zone 129

Sydwest Multicultural Services Inc 129

Mount Druitt and Blacktown Migrant Interagency 130

COM4Unity (Connecting Our Minds 4 Unity) 131

Football United 133

Blacktown Regional Economic and Employment Development (BREED) 135

8.4Murray Bridge (South Australia) 138

8.4.1Geographical and demographic profile 138

8.4.2The ‘community’ 139

8.4.3Belonging 141

8.4.4Inclusion 142

8.4.5Participation 146

8.4.6Recognition 148

8.4.7Legitimacy 150

8.4.8Social division and conflict 152

8.4.9Media use and influence 152

8.4.10Media analysis results for Murray Bridge 153

8.4.11Promoting social cohesion in Murray Bridge 155

Murraylands Migration Settlement Program (2006- ) 156

Murraylands Migrant Resource Centre (MRC) (2007-) 157

Lutheran Community Care Refugee Services (2007-2012) 157

Previous Settlement Programs for Sudanese Residents 158

English Language Service: Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) 158

Indigenous Economic Development (IED) (2007-2013) 159

Murray Bridge Youth Centre—Headspace and The Station (2007- ) 159

8.5Cross-case Analysis 159

8.5.1General observations about the communities 160

8.5.2Public and social spaces 160

8.5.3Belonging 161

8.5.4Inclusion 162

8.5.5Participation 163

8.5.6Recognition 164

8.5.7Legitimacy 166

8.5.8Social division and conflict 167

8.5.9Promoting and enhancing social cohesion 168

8.5.10Media 169

9.Social Cohesion, Social Division and Conflict in Australia: Key findings and Conclusions 170

10.What are the evidence and indicators of social cohesion in the Australian context? 170

11.What are the factors that enhance or disrupt social cohesion, sense of community belonging and tolerance in Australian communities? 170

12.How effective are various strategies in building community resilience and fostering social cohesion? 170

13.What is the role of media access and participation in Australians’ perspectives on multiculturalism and living with diversity, particularly as these relate to the construction of difference, national identity and belonging? 170

13.1Evidence and indicators of social cohesion in the Australian context 171

13.2Factors that enhance or disrupt social cohesion, sense of community belonging and tolerance in Australian communities 173

13.3Effectiveness of various strategies in building community resilience and social cohesion 184

13.4The role of media access and participation in Australians’ perspectives on multiculturalism and living with diversity 186

13.5Recommendations 188

13.5.1Promoting awareness, knowledge, recognition, and understanding of cultures, ‘difference’, and cultural diversity 189

13.5.2Creating opportunities for frequent, positive intercultural contact 190

13.5.3Addressing racism and discrimination 192

13.5.4Improving community capacity 192

13.5.5Involvement of media in enhancing social cohesion 193

13.5.6Further research on mutual intercultural relations, and on social media and social cohesion. 194

13.6Conclusions 194

14.References 197

Appendix A-1 Focus Group Discussion Consent Form 215

Appendix A-2 Focus Group Discussion Guide 221

Appendix A-3 Focus Group Discussion Demographic Questionnaire 225

Appendix A-4 Focus Group Discussion Media Use Questionnaire 226

Appendix B-2 Key Informant Interview Consent Forms 231

Appendix C-1 Social Cohesion in Mirrabooka (WA): Detailed findings 233

‘The community’ 233

The community—public space 233

Community reputation: ‘it's an unsafe area’ 236

Belonging 236

Overall evaluation: which community are we talking about? 237

Excluded groups 239

Residential Stability 240

Inclusion 240

Housing and transportation 241

Healthcare and childcare 244

Employment and finance 245

Education 250

Excluded groups 251

Participation 251

Community participation 252

Who participate? 252

Community activities 253

Harmony Week 254

Political participation 254

Volunteering 256

Enablers and barriers 256

Communication and English language skills 257

Acceptance and willingness to learn and share 259

Knowledge of services/activities, resources and other factors 260

Recognition 261

Intergroup attitudes and relations 262

Do groups get along? 262

‘Good’ and ‘bad’ neighbours 263

Who should or should not stay? 265

The influence of culture in intergroup relations 267

Resource competition and ‘privileges’ 269

Lack of awareness and recognition of local Indigenous Australians 271

Discrimination and racism 272

Legitimacy 275

Trust in government departments 275

Trust in the Police 276

Social division and conflict 277

Intergroup tensions 278

Within-group tensions 278

Youth aggression 279

Safety and Crime 280

Media use and influence 281

Media stereotyping of Mirrabooka and refugees 281

Media influence and relationship with media 283

Appendix C-2 List of news articles used for the media analysis in Mirrabooka/Balga 284

Appendix C-3 News articles analysed for special issue in Mirrabooka/Balga 288

Appendix C-4 Mirrabooka/Balga social cohesion programs 293

Sasa Youth Mentor Project 293

Youth Leadership and Development 293

Lead Program 293

Multicultural Youth Creative Music Program 294

Women Together Program 294

Indigenous Children’s Outreach Programs 294

Practical Driver Education 295

Computer studies (first and second click) 295

First Click Basic Computer Skills Training 295

Sharing Stories, Sharing Support 296

Volunteer Program 296

Family Talk Program 297

Life Skills for Living in Australia 297

Visiting Sisters 298

Job Readiness Course 299

Workforce Development Centre 299

Women Searching for a New Beginning 299

Wonder Woman Going Back to ‘P’ Work 299

Racism No Way 300

Integrated Services Centre 300

Intensive English Centre (Balga Senior High School and Mirrabooka Primary School) 300

Swan Nyungar Sports Education Program (Balga Senior High School) 301

Appendix D Social Cohesion in Blacktown (NSW): Detailed Findings 302

‘The community’ 302

Socio-economic disadvantage 302

The community – public space 302

The community reputation 303

Belonging 303

Overall evaluation—which community are we talking about? 303

Excluded groups 306

Residential Stability 306

Inclusion 306

Housing 306

Healthcare 307

Education 307

Employment 309

Excluded groups 313

Participation 313

Community participation 314

Political participation 315

Volunteering 315

Enablers and Barriers 316

Recognition 319

Intergroup attitudes and behaviours 319

Resource competition 320

Lack of awareness and acknowledgement of Indigenous Australians 321

Discrimination and Prejudice 321

Legitimacy 321

Trust in government departments 321

Trust in police 322

Social division and conflict 322

Intergroup tensions and youth aggression 322

Within-group tensions 324

Safety and crime 325

Media use and influence 325

The impact of stereotypes 326

Media influence 327

Appendix E-1 Social Cohesion in Murray Bridge (SA): Detailed Findings 328



15.The ‘community’ 328

15.1The community – public space 329

15.2Community reputation –‘a prison town’ 330

16.Belonging 331

16.1Overall evaluation: which community are we talking about? 331

16.2Excluded groups 333

16.3Belonging – Residential Stability 334

17.Inclusion 334

17.1Housing 334

17.2Healthcare 336

17.3Employment 338

17.4Education 341

17.5Excluded groups 343

18.Participation 343

18.1Community Participation 343

18.2Political participation 345

18.3Volunteering 346

18.4Enablers and Barriers to participation 346

19.Recognition 349

19.1Intergroup attitudes and behaviour 349

19.2Discrimination and prejudice 352

20.Legitimacy 354

20.1Trust in government departments 354

20.2Trust in the police 355

21.Social division and conflict 356

21.1Intergroup tensions and youth aggression 356

21.2Safety 357

22.Media use and influence 358

Appendix E-2 List of news articles used for the media analysis in Murray Bridge 361

Appendix F Diversity and Social Cohesion Program, Funded Grants, 2010-2011 364



List of Tables

Table 2. Education, employment and volunteering of focus group participants in the three communities 69


List of Figures



Abbreviations

ABS Australian Bureau of Statistics

AFL Australian Football League

AHRC Australian Human Rights Commission

AHURI Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute

AMEP Adult Migrant English Program

ASeTTs Association for Survivors of Torture and Trauma

ASIB Australian Social Inclusion Board

ATN All Together Now

ATSI Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander

BCC Blacktown City Council

BCCCP Blacktown City Council Cultural Plan

BCSP Blacktown City Social Plan

BECAP Blacktown Emerging Communities Action Plan

Blacktown SIN Blacktown School-Industry Network

BREED Blacktown Regional Economic and Employment Development Taskforce Inc

CaLD culturally and linguistically diverse

CBD central business district

CCS Complex Case Support CHASE Centre for Health through Action on Social Exclusion

CIRCA Cultural and Indigenous Research Centre Australia

CMYI Centre for Multicultural Youth Issues

COM4Unity Connecting Our Minds 4 Unity

CRC Community Relations Commission

DCP Department for Child Protection

DEET Federal Department of Employment, Education and Training

DEEWR Federal Department of Education, Employment & Workplace Relations

DIAC Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship

DSCP Diversity and Social Cohesion Program

ECU Edith Cowan University

ESL English as a second language

FECCA Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia

FUn Football United

HREOC Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission

HSC Higher School Certificate

HSS Humanitarian Settlement Services

IEC Intensive English Centre

IED Indigenous Economic Development

ISEC Intensive Secondary English Class

ITT Integrated Threat Theory

KI key informant

LCP Local Community Partnership

LGA Local Government Area

LOTE language other than English

MP Member of Parliament

MPSP Multicultural Policies and Services Program

MRC Migrant Resource Centre

Mt Druitt IEP Mt Druitt Industry-Education Partnership

NAP National Action Plan (to Build on Social Cohesion, Harmony and Security)

NCCPP National Community Crime Prevention Programme

NGO non-government organisation

NSW New South Wales

OECD Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

OMI Office of Multicultural Interests

PACSI Philippine-Australian Community Services Inc

RAP Reconciliation Action Plan

RCOA Refugee Council of Australia

RMIT Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University

SA South Australia

SBS Special Broadcasting Service

SES socio-economic status

SGP Settlement Grants Program

SNSEP Swan Nyungar Sports Education Program

SIU Social Inclusion Unit

SydWest MSI Western Sydney Multicultural Services Inc

TAFE Training and Further Education

TIS Translating and Interpreting Service

UK United Kingdom

US United States of America

UNSW University of New South Wales

UWS University of Western Sydney

VET Vocational Education Training

WA Western Australia

YOTS Youth Off the Streets




Executive Summary

Introduction: Aims and the social cohesion framework

This report presents findings from a study of the drivers for social cohesion, social division and conflict in multicultural Australia, prepared on behalf of the Joint Commonwealth, State and Territory Research Advisory Committee, which was conducted in April-November 2011.

The broad aims of the project were to identify and examine current and emerging drivers for social cohesion, social division and conflict in multicultural Australia; and to identify strategies that increase social cohesion. To achieve these broad aims, we addressed the following research questions:

What are the evidence and indicators of social cohesion in the Australian context?

What are the factors that enhance or disrupt social cohesion, sense of community belonging and tolerance in Australian communities?

How effective are various strategies in building community resilience and fostering social cohesion?

What is the role of media access and participation in Australians’ perspectives on multiculturalism and living with diversity, particularly as these relate to the construction of difference, national identity and belonging?

To examine social cohesion we utilised Jenson’s (1998) framework, in which five domains of social cohesion are proposed:

belonging (shared values and identity)

inclusion (equal opportunities for access)

participation (engagement in structures and systems)

recognition (respect and tolerance)

legitimacy (pluralism).

Methodology

The research included a comprehensive literature review, a web-based audit of government and community programs, media analysis, and case studies of three Australian communities: Mirrabooka/Balga (Western Australia), Blacktown (New South Wales) and Murray Bridge (South Australia). Interviews were conducted with 54 key informants and 15 focus group discussions were held with 138 community residents.

The five dimensions in Jenson’s framework, together with content related to indicators of social division and conflict, and the media, formed the basis of our interview and focus group discussions. Key informants were community leaders and workers, and representatives of non-government and government service providers in the communities. Focus group participants came from diverse ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious backgrounds and included (emerging, recent and long-established) migrants, refugees, Anglo-Australians, and Indigenous Australians.

Findings


  1. Evidence and indicators of social cohesion in Australia

International and national indicators suggest that Australia compares well on dimensions of social cohesion, social division and conflict, relative to other nations. On general aspects of wellbeing, Australia ranks above the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average for household income, employment, quality of education and life expectancy. On indicators of social conflict such as safety, violence, corruption and anti-social behaviour, Australia also compares very favourably with other nations (OECD, 2011a; Wilkinson & Pickett, 2010). In addition, Australians report high levels of life satisfaction and sense of belonging and pride in Australia and the Australian way of life (Markus, 2011; OECD, 2011b).

However, there are some areas for improvement: the OECD report and Australian Social Inclusion Board (ASIB) have identified that there are some socially excluded groups in Australia, such as older Australians, people with low incomes, the unemployed, those with poor health, Indigenous Australians, sole parent families, and people not proficient in English (ASIB, 2010). Our community case studies provided evidence that some groups do not feel socially accepted or that they are not recognised appropriately, including some refugee communities, Indigenous Australians, Anglo-Australians and British migrants. In addition, and consistent with other Australian research, it is evident that many Australians experience racism, particularly those who are from more ‘visible’ minority groups, are Indigenous Australian, or from recently-arrived migrant groups. Muslim Australians are specific targets for racism since the terrorist attacks on the USA on September 11, 2001, and the Bali and London bombings, in 2002 and 2005 respectively. The Cronulla riots (Sydney, 2005) provided an additional impetus to examine social cohesion and intergroup relations more closely in Australia. It is also apparent that there is a lack of genuine, intercultural interaction in the community. Moreover, there is evidence that the growing problem of securing affordable housing in Australia, combined with ignorance about refugees and how material resources are distributed, has contributed to a kind of racialised resentment (Hudson, Phillips, Ray, & Barnes., 2007). Finally, some community members remain socially excluded in terms of employment and community participation. Again, this appears to affect Indigenous Australians disproportionately more than other groups.



(B) Factors that enhance or disrupt social cohesion, sense of community belonging and tolerance in Australian communities

The factors are illustrated in the following diagram and discussed thematically thereafter. (Media is discussed separately in (D).)



Figure: Factors that enhance or disrupt social cohesion.

1. Recognition of Indigenous Australian cultures and history is an important driver for social cohesion in Australia. This theme emerged in all of our communities and was a prominent feature of discussion among Anglo-Australians and Indigenous Australians in particular. Many Indigenous Australians do not feel recognised or respected. Whilst most Australians see the value in learning about Indigenous culture and history, they concede that they do not know enough and that there is considerable prejudice and mistrust between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

2. Greater awareness and understanding of diversity and ‘difference’ in the Australian community is a driver for all social cohesion dimensions. Ignorance and stereotypes contribute to cultural misunderstanding, discrimination and prejudice. Participants in our case studies identified real and perceived cultural differences as factors influencing community members’ ability to secure appropriate employment and satisfactory healthcare. This applied across the community but particularly affected Indigenous Australians, some migrants and Muslim-Australians. Many refugees were impacted negatively by stereotypes and misinformation about asylum seekers. This socially divisive issue can become fuel for racialised resentment among Anglo-Australians, longer-term migrants and Indigenous Australians.

3. Frequent, positive intercultural contact is a powerful driver for all dimensions of social cohesion, particularly recognition. While intergroup contact can sometimes exacerbate tensions or lead to ‘racialising’ of grievances, under the right conditions it can reduce prejudice through improving mutual understanding and reducing anxiety and threat between groups. However, intercultural interactions are significantly less common for Anglo-Australians and much intercultural contact is among migrants and second-generation groups.

4. Racism and discrimination disrupt all social cohesion dimensions. This is well-documented in the national and international literature and emerged in our community case studies. Experiences of racism and/or discrimination denote a lack of recognition in the community and can disrupt belonging, inclusion and participation. The impacts of racism and discrimination are pervasive and enduring. This is a factor in all dimensions and related to others such as cultural awareness, the role of the media, and positive intergroup contact.

5. Support for culture maintenance among migrants, refugees and other cultural and/or linguistic minorities is a driver for belonging. As recognised in Australian multicultural policy, maintenance of ethnic and/or cultural beliefs, customs and practices is important for the well-being of migrant and ethnic minority groups. It is important that we continue to support this as new and more ‘culturally distant’ groups settle in Australia.

6. Community activities and ‘social spaces’ can enhance the likelihood of positive intercultural interaction and enhance community belonging. Community events, activities and programs around food, sport, music and art are most successful in bringing people in the community together. They need to be seen as inclusive and to be free (or cheap), accessible and include childcare. Sites for potential intercultural encounters include parks, community centres, gardens and libraries, schools and child-care facilities, neighbourhood-watch programs, youth projects and urban regenerative projects. The function and appearance of public space are also significant drivers of community belonging and participation among local residents.

7. Equality of access to resources drives social inclusion. The impacts of a decline in access to community resources include decreased life chances in terms of employment, income and health, social isolation and discrimination. From our case studies we observed genuine and perceived competition over resources such as jobs, healthcare, and housing. Concerns about the equitable distribution of resources, especially public housing, contributed to inter-ethnic tensions in some of our communities and there was evidence of resentment among older Anglo-Australians and Indigenous Australians.

8. Being able to communicate confidently with other community members is a driver for belonging, inclusion, and participation. English language competence affects many migrants’ and refugees’ ability to secure satisfactory housing, healthcare and employment, and to engage effectively in education. Lack of confidence in being able to communicate with others can also impact on community participation and the capacity to develop meaningful relationships with other community members. This latter factor impacts on native English speakers as well: anxiety over intercultural interactions can lead to avoidance of contact with members of other ethnic or cultural groups.

9. Mentoring and leadership development for community capacity-building are drivers for social cohesion, particularly inclusion and participation. Mentoring ethnic minority youth can overcome social barriers and help them to respond effectively to racism and discrimination. Skill and leadership development promote community participation.

10. The active promotion of the value of diversity and pluralism at national (e.g., government policy, public institutions) and community (e.g., organizational cultures and policies) levels is a driver for legitimacy. In diverse communities there need to be institutions and processes in place to mediate potential intergroup tensions and the public must have confidence in them as trustworthy, fair and impartial. Australian organisations and strategies such as the Australian Multicultural Council, the National Anti-Racism Partnership and Strategy, Reconciliation Australia, the Native Title Tribunal, racial vilification and anti-discrimination legislation, and programs to strengthen access and equity for Australians from Indigenous and migrant backgrounds are crucial for social cohesion.

(C) Effectiveness of various strategies in building community resilience and fostering social cohesion

The Australian Government has articulated policies on social cohesion. State and Local governments also have policies and programs addressing social cohesion. Civil society is also strong, with community organisations and networks actively pursuing the enhancement of individual or combined dimensions of social cohesion. What our case studies revealed is that the collaboration of government and community, a whole-of- government-and-community approach, make for successful, sustained and realisable pathways to enhancing social cohesion in multicultural Australia. Special emphasis is put on effective and genuinely consultative development of programs and strategies; adequate funding by Government; transparency in communicating these strategies and funding; and on including all groups (migrants/refugees/Humanitarian Entrants, Anglo-Australians and Indigenous Australians) as both target participants and facilitators.



(D) Role of media access and participation in Australians’ perspectives on multiculturalism and living with diversity

Media can have a significant impact on social cohesion and discord through the promulgation of stereotypes and the reproduction of racism (van Dijk, 1998) and the silencing of minority groups (Fürsich, 2010). It was evident from our case studies that the ongoing political and public debate about ‘boat people’ is socially divisive: it has a negative impact on belonging among Australians from refugee backgrounds, and reinforces negative stereotypes and myths about refugee privilege among other Australians. Media also contributed to negative stereotypes of Indigenous Australians.

However, media can also be powerful forces for developing cultural awareness and education. We found that local media, in particular, challenged negative social stereotypes and promoted diversity and multiculturalism in the local community. In addition, social media have the potential to promote civic/political participation and inclusion, and enable global networking that foster belonging and social connections.

Conclusion and recommendations

Our findings augment existing Australian research on social cohesion, such as the Scanlon Foundation Surveys, by providing in-depth and detailed analysis of people’s views and experiences in culturally diverse communities. In particular, our community case studies highlight the need to engage Anglo-Australians and Indigenous Australians in positive intercultural interaction. More—and longer-term—government funding needs to be devoted to collaborative projects designed to meet this goal. In addition, local communities and the media have an important role in actively facilitating opportunities and sharing positive experiences.

Following from the main findings of the study, we developed six key recommendations:

promote awareness, knowledge, recognition, and understanding of cultures, ‘difference’, and cultural diversity

create opportunities for frequent, positive intercultural contact

address racism and discrimination

improve community capacity

involve the media in enhancing social cohesion

conduct further research on mutual intercultural relations, and on social media and social cohesion.




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