Commonality and Diversity

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Analyse the extent of commonality and diversity in Australian society today. Explain how commonality and diversity can affect the equality of opportunity in contemporary Australian society.

It is blatantly obvious that Australia is a multicultural, diverse and plural society, as a consequence there are existing social inequalities that result in particular groups experiencing differing levels of access to socially valuable resources. The Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission (HREOC) identifies a number of groups that are subject to discrimination, the extent of their discrimination is quantifiably measured through the four categories of employment, health, education and political representation. The best example to demonstrate inequality of opportunity in Australian society is through the study of Indigenous disadvantage, with a focus on employment, health and education. Thus, to a compelling extent, Australia is a plural, diverse and multicultural society where certain groups within this structure, especially Indigenous Australians, experience unequal access to socially valuable resources which adversely affects their equality of opportunity in Australian contemporary society.

Two hundred years ago, it would have been appropriate to call Australia a homogenous, mono-cultural society. The First Fleet was predominantly British; for the only time in Australian history, Australia comprised of only British settlers and the Indigenous people. European was the ‘common’ culture of Australia. Economic opportunity, however, saw the influx of other ethnic groups, such as the Chinese in the late 19th Century with the Gold Rush, the ‘Beautiful Balts’ of the late 1940’s and Vietnamese refugees after the Vietnam War. Whilst Australia has attempted to maintain its commonality, as evident in the White Australia Policy, it is now palpable that Australia is indeed a diverse society. Australia’s population has more than doubled over the last 50 years; this exponential growth means we now have a population of 23 million people. In 2011, 27% of the population was born overseas, 5.3% of this was people from the United Kingdom, followed by New Zealand with 2.5%, China 1.8%, India 1.5% and Vietnam and Italy at 0.9%. Furthermore, over 300 ancestries were identified in the 2011 census. The large extent of Australia’s ethnicity is evident in the 200 languages that are spoken in the Australian community, languages spoken by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up 30% of this statistic. The 2001 census indicated 2.8 million people (16% of the existing population) spoke a language other than English at home, which represents an increase of 8% since the 1996 census. The 2006 Australian Year Book stated that 27% of people identified as being Catholic, 21% Anglican, 21% other Christian denominations, 5% non-Christian religions and 25% stated they had no religion. Additionally, there has been a long-term decrease in affiliation to Christianity from 96% in 1911 to 61% in 2011. Another example of different groups in society are those who identify as being of a particular sexuality; in 2002, between 8 and 11% of the population identified as not being exclusively heterosexual. Therefore as proven, it is impossible to ignore the fact that Australia is a plural, diverse and multicultural contemporary society.

In a contemporary Australian society, many diverse groups co-exist in various environments. The term ‘commonality’ refers to the sharing of common features or characteristics. Whilst commonality may be an appropriate term to describe the population of a country such as South Korea, Australia is rather one of the most multicultural populations on the planet. The ‘diversity’ of Australian society means that different ethnicities, religions, sexualities, ages and gender all co-exist to create the plural community that we observe today. A plural society, however, does not necessarily mean an equal society; the...
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