Is Australia an inclusive society?
Reports from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2003a, 2003b, as cited in Ashman & Elkins, 2009, p. 7) show 25% of the Australian population is currently made up of migrants from around 200 countries. This fact demonstrates Australia, on the whole, has a tolerant and inclusive society. A society can be identified as a collection of people who live together in a relatively ordered community (Ashman & Elkins, 2009, p. 7). It could be said, Australia has one of the most inclusive societies on the planet; however, this was not always the case. Net overseas migration has doubled from 146,800 in 2005-6 to 298,900 in 2008-9 (Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS], 2011). Migrants born overseas account for a quarter of the total population with 50% having direct links with relatives born overseas. Nearly 2.5 million Australians speak a language other than English at home (ABS, 2003a, as cited in Ashman & Elkins, 2009, p. 7). These facts show how much multiculturalism is now an intrinsic part of Australian society. Some traditional migrant countries, such as the UK, still remain dominant in the proportion of people arriving onto Australian shores; however, more recently, a larger percentage of migrants from Asian countries have started to show in census statistics (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade [DFAT], 2008). Today migrants can be found in all levels of society and the workforce. Employers are bound by the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 not to exclude any persons on the basis of nationality, race, colour, descent or ethnic origin; however, this was not always the case. The White Australia Policy (forming the basis of the Immigration Restriction Act 1901) from 1901 to 1973 was introduced primarily to prevent Pacific Islanders from being employed as cheap labour in the vast sugar plantations in the Northern part of the country (DFAT, 2008) . The policy was gradually abolished after the Second World War, but the emphasis on European immigration remained until 1966, when the government allowed the migration of ‘distinguished’ non-Europeans. The last vestiges of the policy were discarded in 1973. From 1901 to the early 1970s, policies towards newcomers were based on assimilation. The preference for British migrants remained, and all others were expected to shed their existing cultural identities, including their native languages, to promote their rapid absorption into the host population. (DFAT, 2008, p. 2)
A lively debate would ensue to decide if Australia could be seen as inclusive during this period of history. Even with the acceptance of Whites there were still racial undertones in the nicknames of migrants from certain countries. Wogs from Italy, Dagos from Spain, Poms from England (origin has not been verified, but several theories remain), to name but a few. In conclusion with such a large migrant population from so many different countries, Australia has succeeded in becoming an inclusive society. Migrants will continue to arrive onto this big brown land and play a major part in shaping the country in centuries to come.
Collins Cobuild English Dictionary (1995, p. 1635) defines stereotype as an “a fixed general image or set of characteristics that a lot of people believe represent a particular type of person or thing.” This is a thought that is conceived without actual basis or factual content. Stereotypes can come in many forms. Commonly it is a belief that may have been subliminally imparted by peers, parents or the media. Stereotyping can cross all groups, genders, races, religions or even animals. It is possible social interaction or experience can lead to stereotyping especially if a negative experience is involved. People may all be guilty in some form of stereotyping, although not in a derogatory sense. Some common examples are, left handed people are creative, Asians are hard workers, blondes have more fun, fat people are jolly.
References: Ashman, A., & Elkins, J. (2009). Education for inclusion and diversity (3rd ed.). Frenchs Forest NSW: Pearson Education Australia.
Education Queensland. (2011). CRP-PR-009: Inclusive education. Retrieved from http://education.qld.gov.au/strategic/eppr/curriculum/crppr009/index.html
Hyde, M., Carpenter, L., & Conway, R. (2010). Diversity and inclusion in Australian schools. South Melbourne, Vic: Oxford University Press.
Munro, J. (2009) Education systems and services. In A. Ashman & J. Elkins (Eds.), Education for inclusion and diversity (3rd ed., p. 99). Frenchs Forest NSW: Pearson Education Australia.
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