Multiculturalism is a term which recognises and celebrates the cultural diversity of Australia’s population.
Cultural and linguistic diversity has always been a feature of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander societies. In the past 200 years this diversity has been augmented with the settlement of over six million migrants. The 2001 Census determined that 43% of Australians were either born overseas or had at least one parent born overseas. This diversity has had a marked influence on all aspects of our society.
Multiculturalism is the third phase in the evolution of Australia’s public policies on cultural diversity and migration. In place since 1973, this policy respects and values the right of all Australians to express and share their individual cultural heritage within a cohesive and harmonious society, and within an overriding commitment to the basic structures and values of Australian democracy.
Government strategies, policies and programs have been implemented to promote social harmony among different cultural groups, optimise the benefits of cultural diversity for all Australians and make our administrative and economic infrastructure responsive to the rights, needs and responsibilities of different cultural groups. These have focussed on access and equity to public services, equal opportunity in employment, creation of the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) and productive diversity. Productive diversity promotes utilising Australia’s language and cultural diversity for the economic and social benefits of all Australians.
Multiculturalism is a hot word as the idea of a culturally diverse society is not supported by all Australians.
Some people fear that a society inclusive of many cultures will lead to a breakdown in the social cohesion of the Australian community. Others view multiculturalism as a type of reverse racism which discriminates against "mainstream Australians" and benefits "minority groups".
Coexistence of people from diverse cultures is feasible when there is common agreement about basic principles such as respect for the rights and property of others, a commitment to democratic ideals and the rule of law. Many people recognise the reality of Australia as a multicultural society, are proud of the harmonious cooexistence of diverse cultures and value the benefits arising from this.
10 March 2002