Wednesday, 28 June 2017

The changing face of the Australian Government's 'Multicultural Statement'

Three different prime ministers and three very different statements.



In October 1996, the government formally reaffirmed its commitment to racial respect. The Prime Minister moved a statement on racial tolerance in the Australian Parliament's House of Representatives.

The statement read:

'That this House:
* reaffirms its commitment to the right of all Australians to enjoy equal rights and be treated with equal respect regardless of race, colour, creed or origin
* reaffirms its commitment to maintaining an immigration policy wholly non-discriminatory on grounds of race, colour creed or origin
* reaffirms its commitment to the process of reconciliation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, in the context of redressing their profound social and economic disadvantage
* reaffirms its commitment to maintain Australia as a culturally diverse, tolerant and open society, united by an overriding commitment to our nation, and its democratic institutions and values
* denounces racial intolerance in any form as incompatible with the kind of society we are and want to be.'

The statement was supported by the Opposition Leader and carried unanimously.


STATEMENT OF MULTICULTURAL POLICY 2011 – Prime Minister Julia Gillard (Labor Party)

The Australian Government is unwavering in its commitment to a multicultural Australia. Australia’s multicultural composition is at the heart of our national identity and is intrinsic to our history and character.

Multiculturalism is in Australia’s national interest and speaks to fairness and inclusion. It enhances respect and support for cultural, religious and linguistic diversity. It is about Australia’s shared experience and the composition of neighbourhoods. It acknowledges the benefits and potential that cultural diversity brings.

Australia’s multicultural policy embraces our shared values and cultural traditions. It also allows those who choose to call Australia home the right to practice and share in their cultural traditions and languages within the law and free from discrimination.

Australia is a multicultural nation. In all, since 1945, seven million people have migrated to Australia. Today, one in four of Australia’s 22 million people were born overseas, 44 per cent were born overseas or have a parent who was and four million speak a language other than English. We speak over 260 languages and identify with more than 270 ancestries. Australia is and will remain a multicultural society.

Supporting Australia’s multicultural policy, the Australian Government has a wide ranging engagement with Australia’s First Peoples—the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. This includes strengthening relationships through the National Apology, supporting the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, establishing the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and an expert panel to build a national consensus on the recognition of Indigenous people in the Australian Constitution.

Australia’s multicultural policy endorses and draws upon the Australian Multicultural Advisory Council’s advice and recommendations to government of April 2010. It is about embracing and benefiting from the strength of our different cultural traditions. It responds to our cultural diversity and aims to strengthen social cohesion.

Australia’s multicultural policy acknowledges that government services and programs must be responsive to the needs of our culturally diverse communities. It commits to an access and equity framework to ensure that the onus is on government to provide equitable services to Australians from all backgrounds.

Australia’s multicultural character gives us a competitive edge in an increasingly globalised world.

Multiculturalism is about all Australians and for all Australians.

Principle 1: The Australian Government celebrates and values the benefits of cultural diversity for all Australians, within the broader aims of national unity, community harmony and maintenance of our democratic values.
Diverse cultural expression enriches all Australians and makes our multicultural nation more vibrant and creative. An enduring theme of Australia’s multicultural policy is that everyone belongs. We celebrate diversity and recognize that expressions of diversity sit within Australia’s national legal framework.
Principle 2: The Australian Government is committed to a just, inclusive and socially cohesive society where everyone can participate in the opportunities that Australia offers and where government services are responsive to the needs of Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
Australians from all backgrounds will be given every opportunity to participate in and contribute to Australia and its social, economic and cultural life. Australians from all backgrounds are also entitled to receive equitable access to government services. The Government will strengthen its access and equity policies to ensure that government programs and services are responsive to the needs of Australia’s culturally and linguistically diverse communities. Australia’s multicultural policy aligns with the Government’s Social Inclusion Agenda where Australians of all backgrounds feel valued and can participate in our society.
Principle 3: The Australian Government welcomes the economic, trade and investment benefits which arise from our successful multicultural nation.
Immigration brings much needed skills and labour. It has also given us energy, ingenuity and enterprise. Immigration and cultural diversity have created economic renewal and prosperity in our communities. Our trade relations have been strengthened, our business horizons broadened and we have become more open to the world. Our diversity of cultures and our multilingual workforce give Australia a distinct competitive advantage in the global economy.
Principle 4: The Australian Government will act to promote understanding and acceptance while responding to expressions of intolerance and discrimination with strength, and where necessary, with the force of the law.
Racism and discrimination affects people’s health and wellbeing and denies people fair access to opportunities and services. The Australian Government opposes all forms of racism, discrimination, intolerance and prejudice. The Government has in place anti-discrimination laws and is committed to measures which counter racism and discrimination.

Australia’s successful multicultural society and our democracy are built around shared rights and responsibilities that are fundamental to living in Australia. These key rights and responsibilities are enshrined in our citizenship pledge which requires future citizens to pledge their loyalty to Australia and its people, uphold our laws and democracy and respect our rights and liberties. These rights and liberties include Australians of all backgrounds being entitled to celebrate, practice and maintain their cultural heritage, traditions and language within the law and free from discrimination.

Australia will continue to have an ever evolving and ever diversifying population.
We will continue to be multicultural. This helps create a strong economy, drives prosperity and builds Australia’s future. It will also enable Australia to enjoy the cultural and social benefits that cultural diversity brings. Multiculturalism is our shared future and is central to our national interest.

The Government will establish a new independent body, the Australian Multicultural Council (AMC), to replace the current Australian Multicultural Advisory Council (AMAC).

This responds to AMAC’s cultural diversity statement, recommendation two, which calls for a permanent and independent bipartisan body that can advise and consult on policies and emerging issues to inform a national multicultural Australian strategy.

The terms of reference of AMC will be broader than the current AMAC, in that AMC will:

* act as an independent champion of our multicultural nation
* have a formal role in a strengthened access and equity strategy
* have a research advisory role around multicultural policy
* assist with cultural diversity celebrations and Harmony Day activities
* implement a ‘multicultural ambassadors’ program to articulate the benefits of and help celebrate our multicultural nation.

The AMC will also continue the current AMAC role of advising the Government on multicultural affairs policy. The Government will appoint members to the AMC using a merit-based and independent selection process, such as that used to appoint directors to the boards of ABC and SBS. This will provide for a more independent and non-partisan framework for the appointment of AMC members.

The Australian Government has no tolerance for racism and discrimination. In response to AMAC’s cultural diversity statement recommendation three, the Government will implement a new National Anti-Racism Partnership and Strategy. This will be a partnership arrangement between: the Department of Immigration and Citizenship; the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Race Discrimination Commissioner; the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs; the Australian Multicultural Advisory Council or its successor body, the AMC; and the Attorney-General’s Department. The partnership will also consult extensively with non-government organisations in shaping and implementing its strategy. This arrangement will:

* draw together expertise on anti-racism and multicultural matters to form a critical mass
* expand the number and influence of networks in the refugee, migrant and broader community sectors
* enhance the leadership capacities of both government and civic society to be agents of change across Australia
* support a commitment to innovation, effective communication and accountability in the development and implementation of social policy in this key area.

The partnership will design, develop and implement the strategy. It will have five key areas of effort: research and consultation; education resources; public awareness; youth engagement; and ongoing evaluation. It will also take into account and build on existing efforts and resources in these areas.
This strategy would complement the other initiatives announced in Australia’s Human Rights Framework around broader human rights programs and the full-time appointment of the Race Discrimination Commissioner. The Race Discrimination Commissioner will also have a leadership role in promoting the strategy.

To ensure that government programs and services are responsive to Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, the Australian Government will strengthen the access and equity framework.

AMAC has called for a strengthened and more independent access and equity framework in recommendation five of its cultural diversity statement. In response to this recommendation the Government will:

* Ask the new Australian Multicultural Council (AMC) to manage the access and equity strategy from 2012 to help strengthen the independence of access and equity reporting from government and provide for a more robust reporting framework.
* Conduct an inquiry into the responsiveness of Australian Government services to clients disadvantaged by cultural or linguistic barriers. The outcome of this inquiry would provide the Government with a comprehensive view on how existing services are performing and how they could be improved.
*Work with state and territory governments under the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to ensure that data collected by government agencies on client services can be disaggregated by markers of cultural diversity, such as country-of-birth, ancestry, languages spoken at home and level of English proficiency. This will feed into the yearly Report on Government Services (ROGS), which is coordinated by the Productivity Commission.

The Australian Government will reprioritise the existing scope of the Diversity and Social Cohesion Program to include funding for multicultural arts and festivals small grants. Multicultural arts and festivals provide opportunities for Australians of all backgrounds to come together and experience different cultural experiences. This encourages social cohesion and mutual understanding.
$500 000 over the four financial years will be allocated to these grants to encourage and support community groups to express their cultural heritages and traditions.

In recognition that sport and active recreation activities are proven strategies to build social and community cohesion, the Australian Government will establish a Multicultural Youth Sports Partnership Program. The aim of the program would be to create connections and involve youth from new and emerging communities, and culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (including refugees and minor refugees), through sport and active recreation activities.
The program will be administered by the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) and will connect youth from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds into neighbourhood sports and community organisations.


STATEMENT OF MULTICULTURAL POLICY 2017 – Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (Liberal-Nationals Coalition)

Our shared story

Australia is the most successful multicultural society in the world, uniting a multitude of cultures, experiences, beliefs, and traditions. We owe our accomplishments as a nation to the contributions of more than 300 different ancestries—from the First Australians to the newest arrivals.

We have flourished in part thanks to our cultural diversity that is underpinned by our common values and commitment to freedom, security, and prosperity.

Our nation is enriched by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the oldest surviving culture on the planet, and the millions of people who have chosen to make a new life here.

For more than 50,000 years First Australians have lived, learned, adapted and survived on the lands we now call Australia. Living side by side, they consisted of over 250 different language groups or ‘nations’ across the continent, each with distinctive cultures, beliefs, and dialects. Descendants of these nations represent the oldest surviving culture on the planet and have stories of times and places beyond the memory of any other people.

The story continued with the foundation of modern Australia, through British and Irish settlement and the establishment of our parliamentary democracy, institutions, and law. Over time, our story grew to include the millions of people from all continents who have made Australia home.

Today, Australians welcome those who have migrated here to be part of our free and open society, to build their lives and make a contribution to our nation.

Over time this coming together of many peoples helped build our infrastructure, enlivened our communities, enhanced our cultural experiences, increased our opportunities and, most significantly, expanded the way we see and engage with the world.

Building mutual obligations between government, the community, and the individual – regardless of nationality – strengthens our resilience and sense of belonging.

Together we have built the modern and prosperous Australia we are today, with our shared values, rights and responsibilities.

Shared values

Our values unite us and create social bonds between us. They provide the foundation for our society and a shared future in which everyone belongs. Our values are based on:

We respect and we are committed to the rule of law and allegiance to Australia.
We have respect for the liberty and dignity of all individuals.
We value our diversity and embrace mutual respect, inclusion, fairness, and compassion.

We support equality of men and women.
We believe in equality before the law.
We believe in equality of opportunity for all.

Our commitment to freedom is fundamental.
We support freedom of thought, speech, religion, enterprise, and association.
We are committed to a parliamentary democracy.
We take responsibility for fulfilling our civic duties.

Practices and behaviours that undermine our values have no place in Australia.

We all benefit from our nation’s economic success, cultural and religious freedom, and diversity. Maintaining a strong commitment to our common values is in the best interests of the Australian people.

Shared rights and responsibilities

We recognise the importance of mutual respect and mutual responsibility. Our success as a multicultural society is due to a balance of rights and responsibilities that ensure a stable, resilient, and harmonious society where we seek to give everyone the opportunity to contribute to—and benefit from—our prosperity.

Ours is a society founded on a liberal-democratic tradition in which the fundamental rights of every individual are inviolable.

Citizenship is a privilege and, as part of the Australian Citizenship Ceremony, new citizens pledge and affirm ‘loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey’.
Australians rightly expect that everyone who is in our country, whether or not they are Australian citizens, obeys Australian laws, supports our democratic process, and treats all people with respect and dignity.

A safe and secure Australia

Underpinning a diverse and harmonious Australia is the security of our nation. The Australian Government places the highest priority on the safety and security of all Australians. Recent terrorist attacks around the world have justifiably caused concern in the Australian community.

The Government responds to these threats by continuing to invest in counter-terrorism, strong borders, and strong national security. This helps to ensure that Australia remains an open, inclusive, free, and safe society.

In the face of these threats, however, we do not compromise on our shared values and national unity. The Government affirms that we best reinforce the safety of the Australian community by focusing on what unites us and addressing our differences through mutual respect.

Shared vision for the future

Australia is united by a shared commitment to our nation and our democratic institutions and values. We are all encouraged to promote acceptance and understanding, and ensure our society continues to be safe, cohesive, and harmonious.

In this statement, the Government continues promoting the principle of mutual respect and denouncing racial hatred and discrimination as incompatible with Australian society.

* It complements other Government policies and programs that, together with numerous community and volunteer activities, inspire, support and sustain our unity. For example:

* The Adult Migrant English Program supports eligible migrants and humanitarian entrants to learn foundation English language and settlement skills to enable them to participate socially and economically in Australian society.

* The Government’s Multicultural Access and Equity Policy ensures programs and services meet the needs of all Australians, whatever their cultural and linguistic background.

* Pathways to citizenship give new migrants the opportunity to be full and active participants in civic society.

* The Government supports a strong and diverse multicultural media through radio, print, online and television.

* Harmony Day was established in 1999 and is now celebrated by thousands of Australians each year, spreading a message of inclusiveness, respect and belonging for everyone.

* The Australian Multicultural Council acts as a key advisory body, providing robust and independent advice to Government.

Australians do not take our harmony and prosperity for granted. Together—as individuals, groups, and at all levels of government—we will continue to build stronger, more cohesive and prosperous communities, guided by our shared values and the following strategic directions.

Encouraging economic and social participation of new arrivals

Australia has a rich history of migrants contributing to our social and economic fabric. This continues today with our inclusive multicultural society providing opportunities for new migrants to contribute to the success of our nation.

Together, the efforts of communities, schools, non-profit organisations, faith-based organisations, employers, and governments are providing opportunities for people to positively contribute to Australian society.

People who migrate to Australia share the search for new opportunities or a better life.

At the same time, economic and social integration by new migrants and their families is vital to their future. Feeling connected to their new home and being a part of Australian society creates a sense of worth and belonging.

The Government provides a settlement framework, widely considered best practice, designed to help new migrants integrate into Australian life. Settlement programs support migrants to become self-reliant and active members of the Australian community.

Some new arrivals, particularly through Australia’s refugee and humanitarian program, benefit from specialised support. This includes help learning English and gaining necessary education or employment skills. The Government remains committed to helping humanitarian entrants, especially during the first five years after arriving in Australia, so they can build a better life and become self-sufficient, fully contributing members of society. The Australian Government is currently reforming settlement services to deliver improved English language, education and employment outcomes for humanitarian entrants.

Harnessing the advantages of our diversity and shared national interest

English is and will remain our national language and is a critical tool for migrant integration. At the same time, our multilingual workforce is broadening business horizons and boosting Australia’s competitive edge in an increasingly globalised economy. 
Our cultural diversity is one of our greatest assets – it sparks innovation, creativity and vitality. Our economy is strengthened by the skills, knowledge, linguistic capabilities, networks and creativity of our diverse workforce. Our productivity and competitiveness are enhanced through our ability to recognise and seize opportunities for international economic engagement.

This includes the talent of the many temporary migrants who contribute to the Australian economy and society while they are here. Many settle permanently in Australia, while others return to their home country or move to another country, further strengthening our cultural, trade and economic opportunities overseas.

Government, businesses and industry all play a part in promoting and maximising the benefits of our diverse workforce.

Continuing to build harmonious and socially cohesive communities

Our shared Australian values are the cornerstone of our economic prosperity as well as our socially cohesive society.

Sharing our cultural heritage is part of celebrating what it means to be Australian and helping everyone to feel included in our society. Community harmony builds national unity. Common experiences create shared histories and shape shared futures.

In contrast, racism and discrimination undermine our society. We condemn people who incite racial hatred.

Regular inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue is critical to reduce the possibility of tensions within communities and to strengthen cohesion and harmony. Such dialogue helps to reduce prejudice, promote cross-cultural understanding, improve relations between different ethnic and religious groups, and enhance the sense of belonging and trust.

Regardless of cultural background, birthplace or religion, everyone in Australia or coming to Australia has a responsibility to engage with and seek to understand each other, and reject any form of racism or violent extremism.


Successive Australian Governments have established a firm commitment to a multicultural Australia. It is timely to renew and reaffirm the Government’s commitment with this new statement: a clear message on the values and responsibilities that underpin our society, support our national interest and guide how we respond to challenges. It presents a vision for our future as a strong and successful multicultural nation, united by our allegiance to Australia and committed to freedom and prosperity.


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