Author: Catherine Earl
Author: Adam Fforde
Institution: School of Development, Melbourne
Year of publication: 2005
Source: Show
Pages: 104-125
DOI Address:
PDF: ap/8/ap0806.pdf


Over the past generation Australia has increasingly self-identified as ‘multicultural’, and Asian Australians presented as natural parts of the Australian community. This contrasts sharply with Australia’s overtly racist past, where migration policy excluded Asians, and Indigenous Australians were excluded from the rights and benefits accorded the white population. We argue that understanding of how this took place usefully draws upon examination of the ways, in which ‘Britain’ was constructed from groups defined in reductionist ways, viewed as different ethnic groups (‘Welsh’, ‘English’, Scots’, ‘Irish’), with similar aspects of inclusion and exclusion: most importantly, a relatively successful ‘project’ of constructed ‘self- -identification’, somewhat different from others. This can be seen as a ‘unity within diversity’. This then leads to conclusions that stress the importance of assessing constructs of ‘unity’ with care, since they are constructs; and to recognizing that the definitions that address the construed sub-groups (‘minorities’, ‘Indigenous Australians’) of that diversity as reductionist and also constructs. In policy terms, this suggests that there is much to learn from Australian experiences in negotiating, defining and enjoying ‘diversity’, referred to in Australia as ‘multiculturalism’. Central to these are the relative strength and coherence of Australian state activities, with a range of meaningful and publicly supported interventions to address the issues arising from new immigrant groups of different characteristics.

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