Has multiculturalism led to a decrease in social cohesion?

Topics: Australia, Immigration, White Australia policy Pages: 5 (1547 words) Published: October 10, 2013
“Do you think multiculturalism has led to a decrease in social cohesion? Why?”

There are many countries that celebrate multiculturalism in today’s society, yet none have the diversity of what Australia holds. Since banning the “white Australia” policy in the 1970’s, we have become one of the most culturally varied countries on the planet. Though despite the many ethnicities in this society and the abolishment of the “white Australia” policy, a great divide has still been created between sub-cultures. Many political figures have control over the thoughts and potentially actions of the Australian public, and one individual in particular had voiced their views on anti-multiculturalism, and had created such a stir that a term was coined after them. Poynting and Mason (2008) talked of Hansonism and its origin from Pauline Hanson, and their infamous maiden speech to the Australian parliament in 1996. Hanson had stated, “I and most Australians want our immigration policy radically reviewed and that of multiculturalism abolished. I believe we are in danger of being swamped by Asians...A truly multicultural country can never be strong or united.” This perspective led to the Howard government using Hansonism ideas, and pushed tolerance of multiculturalism outside of the border. The Australian public could have swayed either way with the Howard government’s propaganda, but majority of the vote had been handed to Liberal, showing the uneasiness of the public over this sensitive topic. In the past, the expectations of someone coming from overseas to become an Australian in the early 70s was no different than assimilation, with “immigrants of language backgrounds other than English [being] expected to learn the language more or less by osmosis.” This was certainly an extreme scheme for anyone to follow, especially when it was leaning towards an Australia that was dull in history and making sure that time honoured customs were being rid of (Alstin, 2012). Bolt (2011) wrote of the discomfort when first moving to Australia, saying “You look for other identities, other groups, to give you a sense of belonging, and perhaps some status.” Islamaphobia had become a key concern following the 9/11 bombings, and escalated even further when the 7/7 London bombings occurred. The Howard government had established a refuge of what was expected to be confidential for the Muslim community since they had felt insecure. What the government had planned for them was not purely for community discussion, but for the benefit of security officers and police who were permitted to unrestrictedly investigate via collaboration into reducing the risk of more radical behaviour from the Muslim community. This example of one of the interventions from the government endorses the impression of distrust in certain ethnic groups. With this power to manipulate a group of people into confessionals, it can surely generate a domino effect on the Australian population to persuade them into considering other sub-cultures as being dangerous, goading pseudo-egalitarianism. Ignorance to faith is a large factor to why there is such a social gap between sub-cultures, but the human rights frameworks laid down by a poly-bureau of organisations such as the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) demonstrates the right and freedom to affiliate and not be discriminated against one’s religious belief (Poynting & Mason). This largely impacts Muslims, as there is so much debate over wearing of the burqa in public. Nussbaum opinionates, “a climate of fear and suspicion, directed primarily against Muslims, threatens to derail these admirable commitments.” Many of the Australian public disagree with Nussbaum and her claim, saying that when they wear it it’s “un-Australian”, melodramatic to cover up so much of your body in this modern world and the uncomfortable...

References: Alstin, C 2012, ‘Once upon a time in multicultural Australia’, Eureka Street, 19 January, viewed 13 September 2012,
Bolt, A 2011, ‘Silencing me impedes unity, says Andrew Bolt’, Herald Sun, 29 September, viewed 4 October 2012, < http://www.heraldsun.com.au/opinion/silencing-me-impedes-unity/story-e6frfifx-1226150249249>
Hassan, G 2012, ‘”Multiculturalism” and Australia’s Great Divide’, Axis of Logic, 17 March, viewed 12 September 2012,
Howie, E 2010, ‘Admitting our racism problem is first step to a solution’, The Age, 7 September, viewed 5 October 2012, < http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/admitting-our-racism-problem-is-first-step-to-a-solution-20100906-14xwx.html>
Nussbaum, M 2012, ‘The burqa and the new religious intolerance’, ABC, 23 August, viewed 4 October 2012,
Perkins, M 2009, ‘Schools a hotbed of racism: study’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 19 March, viewed 3 October 2012, < http://www.smh.com.au/national/schools-a-hotbed-of-racism-study-20091118-imk8.html>
Poynting, N & Mason, S 2008, ‘The New Integrationism, the State and Islamaphobia: Retreat from multiculturalism in Australia’, ScienceDirect, vol. 36, pp. 230-246.
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