May 2008


Carol Reid UWS
Centre for Educational Research

New geographies of education

Policies of the state and federal governments in the last 15 years have created new choices for parents in the search for ‘good’ schools. Research into the ways in which these choices shape community relations and knowledge within schools is required. While there has always been separation along the lines of class, greater religious segregation is occurring at a rapid rate. In the 1970’s and 1980’s when schools took on multicultural and Aboriginal education policies and curricula, while hotly debated, state schools responded by opening up to critical dialogue. The result was a rush to state schools and a decline in the private sector. This also occurred with some decent funding for teacher professional development. What of now? What point is there for schools to change when parents can just go somewhere else? Indeed, does this matter? What of knowledge being co-constructed?

457 visa immigrants and school communities

Emerging processes of racialisation are occurring in towns in regional areas and parts of major cities where 457 visa immigrants arrive with their families. Some of these communities are becoming quite large and effectively changing the social, cultural and economic dynamics. Schools need to respond to these emerging processes but we know nothing of their challenges or productive responses. These children are part of the growing global movement of students, teachers and other skilled workers.

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1. Anti-racism

My post follows a series of posts on the issue of community relations. It is quite correct to observe that government involvement in the development of anti-racism programs has been ad hoc over the last decade or so. There are a series of gaps associated with this. First, we have an uneven evidence base on the nature of community intolerance (both in terms of attitudes but also the actual relations between people across cultures). This effects our ability to objectively unpack sensational events and not spots (Cronulla, Camden). With an array of colleagues and partners (the human rights commissions and more latterly DIaC) we have been constructing a national data base on attitudes and experiences, and by the end of 2008, we will have data for every state (with the exception of rural WA). Our plan is make these data publicly available to assist local anti-racism efforts. The data however were collected at different times. A co-ordinated, multi-agency, nation-wide, survey of attitudes and experiences should be developed for delivery by 2010. More serious research gaps on community relations have been inferred in the previous listings. These include: a poor catalogue of what forms of anti-racisms are being applied in Australia (we need a stock-take of contemporary anti-racism in Australia); precious little evaluation of programs, and therefore; little sense of what works well and does not (beyond theoretical papers) with some exceptions (e,g. the Ashfield project, everyday multiculturalisms). Finally, anti-racism interventions tend to be ad hoc, dependent upon local good will, and are not strategic (ie. they are not necessarily linked to urgent or locally-specific needs).

2. Migrant settlement

Antipathy towards immigrants has a tedious tendency to be focussed on newer groups. In recent times this has included cohorts of refugees from Africa. The settlement fortunes of these groups urgently require research attention. The Government reports to date, including for example assessments of the integrated settlement scheme, and the success of the for-profit agencies delivering services, have not been sufficiently critical nor at arms length, nor do they collect contestable data, nor do they sufficiently consult refugees themselves as part of the data gathering. There are also specific community relations issues that pertain to these refugees, and comprehensive research on the everyday experiences of African refugees is much needed (as distinct from further policy reviews, or consultations with stakeholders and agencies). Like Collins, I would argue that there is also scope to better examine migrant settlement patterns in Australia. Given the international prominence of the Putnam hypotheses, we need comprehensive analyses of the extent (if it exists) of migrant (and ethnic minority) residential concentration. The ARC funded work of Forrest et al., is useful, but it is not nationally comprehensive, and understandably has theoretical predilections that move away from applied concerns. Research on concentration must move beyond census analyses , and should include surveys and fieldwork, to examine whether (or not) concentration has any relation with: civic participation; sense of national and local belonging, and; socio-economic marginalisation.

Greg Noble

There are two key themes I would like to consider for a reseach agenda in cultural diversity:

1. Everyday Diversity

This first area is really about developing strong, empirically-based understandings of how diversity is experienced and negotiated in everyday life. Much is said about what multiculturalism is and does in Australia, and much of this is bunkum. And much of what is said is shaped by what I call ‘panicked multiculturalism’ – a focus on spaves of crisis and conflict. Sadly, we have little research (with some notable exceptions) that explores the everyday dimensions of diversity. This kind of research is needed for several reasons:

– to counter simplistic narratives of mutliculturalism in crisis (and equally simplistic narratives of ‘everything’s fine’)

– to consider the ways that people confronand negotiate differences in everyday encounters in shopping centres, neoighbourhoods, workplaces, schools, government offices, etc. This would entail a sense of both the protocols of ‘everyday cosmopolitanism’ that people develop to manage difference to create productive encounters, and the forms of everday racism that often shape those encounters. These can better inform programs and policies for addressing conflicts and promoting productive intercultural relations.

– to better understand the cultural complexity of everyday lives (in contrast to tendencies towards the stereotyping of ethnic identities that are often found in both racist beliefs and in well-meaning multicultural practices.

2. Multicultural education

Much good work has been done in the name of multicultural education, but so too have there been quite problematic assumptions and practices (involving ethnic stereotypes) with dangereous consequences. Much of this well-meaning-but-problematic multiculturalism has involved an attachment to an ethos of ‘cultural sensitivity’ or notions of ‘learning styles’ which is often misplaced, bordering on racism. Most importantly, it has tended to reproduce educational disadvantage in the name of being sensitive to different communities’ needs and values etc. My recent work on dispositions to learning suggests the need to return to an ethic of social justice in education that takes account of where students are coming from, but also has a strong sense of where they need to go, to develop the skills for participating in a socially and culturally complex society like Australia.

 

As a Director of the Institute for Cultural Diversty, I am interested in the scope of the social questions which research needs to address.

1. A new agenda for Australian cultural diversity must engage groups of Australians that, for various reasons, felt peripheral or marginalised in the old Multicultural agenda – in particular, Indigenous Australians and Anglo-Australians. Research around Cultural Diversity must engage the various participants in ways that give all a stake in the process.

2. In the current proliferation of multifaith dialogues which surround the question of Islam in the West, many Australians who have a cultural rather than religious identification as Moslems, Jews, Buddhists, Christians etc) feel left out of the discusssions dominated by imams, reverends, monks and rabbis. How do we open a space and give a voice to those whose engagement may be secular and cultural, rather than religious?

3. Media and cultural diversity as identified by Dreher and McLean is a key issue for the agenda. Could this be extended to include literature in a broader sense as a bridge to understanding and engaging with different worlds. If you can’t hear the voice of another culture how can you understand it?

My second area of interest looks remarkably similar to an earlier correspondent: ‘days’ of national significance (i.e. Anzac Day, Australia Day, Melbourne Cup Day) as well as ‘days’ with special importance to particular ethnic or religious groups (i.e. St Patrick’s Day and Diwali). This allows exploration around neo-Durkheimian ideas of social cohesion, neo-Marxist ideas of dominance and hegemony, and so on. I’m also fascinated by the use of public space, symbols, music and songs during civic rituals, whether that be through street parades, mass assemblies, and the like. These ‘days’ and ‘events’ may contribute to broader notions of citizenship and community, but equally they may constrain or disassociate ‘others’. This all depends on context, of course, but the key point here is that there is no natural essence about civic ritual and ceremony; they may include and exclude, and they may be widely accepted or avidly contested. Finally, I am also interested in the organisation (policing and crowd management) and the engagement of crowds (leadership, charisma, entertainment) at such events, as well as media interpretations of a relationship between spectacle and audience. This means research into the underlying logistics of spectacle, but also ways in which a civic ceremony may be stage-managed to suit particular interests.

Cheers, Daryl

SPORT/PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

The HREOC report What’s the Score: A Survey of Cultural Diversity and Racism in Australian Sport (2007) indicated that people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are much less likely than other Australians to engage in organised sport or to be physically active on a regular basis. The report cited issues constraining CALD participation, such as feelings of ‘not belonging’ in dominant sports in Australia (i.e. cricket and rugby). http://www.humanrights.gov.au/blog/2007/10/whats-score.html

There have been some important initiatives – post-Cronulla – in surf lifesaving, where the involvement of individuals from CALD backgrounds has improved considerably. http://www.surflifesaving.com.au/SurfLife_CMS/Clubs/OTSW/

Some of the larger professional sport bodies, such as the Australian Football League, have for several years championed anti-vilification policies and been proactive in terms of broader community engagement by committing resources and staff to indigenous and multicultural involvement in Australian football. For examples, see: http://www.afl.com.au/Development/Multicultural/tabid/10286/default.aspx http://www.aflsportsready.com.au/programs/page.asp?id=11

The Rudd Labor government has just released a policy agenda for sport under the title of Australian Sport: emerging challenges, new directions. Disappointingly, this document does not make any reference to cultural diversity, ethnicity, migrants, multiculturalism, etc. There is discussion of indigenous needs and priorities, but nothing about how sport might better engage people from CALD backgrounds. http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/sport-australian-sport

CIVIC RITUAL

(to come)

1.    Inter-ethnic Youth Relations and Public Space in Australian cities and towns.
The Cronulla riots threw the national and international spotlight on inter-ethnic youth relations in Sydney, and, by extension, Australia. Australian cities and towns have neighbourhoods of great ethnic, cultural and  religious diversity. In most places, most of the time, people get along; but underlying racist sentiments occasionally explode in a volcano of hatred. We need to understand more about the complex and often contradictory dynamics of inter-ethnic youth relations: their social networks and connectedness to the local neighbourhood;  their interactions at school and on the streets; their use of new media; their changing attitudes and aspirations. We also need to investigate youth use of public spaces like shopping malls, entertainment precincts, transport nodes. Gender, class, age, subculture, location, religion all shape inter-ethnic youth relations.

2.    Ethnic Diversity and the Built Environment in Australian cities and towns
Australia’s large immigrant population help shape the built and social environment of Australian cities and towns. Concentrations of immigrant populations and/or immigrant enterprises lead to the development of ethnic precincts in Australian cities and ethnic heritage and immigrant enterprises in Australian regional and rural towns or ethnic landmarks. Minority immigrants have an impact of the built environment of Australian cities and towns, particularly evident in the form of churches, mosques, halls, schools, restaurants, landmarks, coffee shops and clubs. Sometimes these are controversial, such as the recent Camden Muslim school. We need to investigate the history of this ethnic heritage, the dynamics of contemporary changes to this built environment, the social relations and social capital  that occur there.

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