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.