Research agenda

Australia, one of the world’s greatest migration nations, is currently experiencing rapid increases in permanent and temporary migration. These new immigrants and sojourners not only become workers, but neighbours and school chums in the suburbs and, increasingly, in regional and rural Australian towns. Over the next decade Australia will face a number of major immigration and immigrant settlement issues. Strategies that increase immigrant attraction and ensure retention will become increasingly important, given the current global competition for scarce skilled and professional migrants. Most Australians live in neighbourhoods of great – and changing – cultural diversity producing the possibility of cosmopolitan, inter-communal dialogue, but also threats of racialised conflict. The nation will have to address the settlement issues of increasing cultural diversity, including troubled relations between some cultural and ethno-religious groups, inter-ethnic youth relations, the incorporation of cultural diversity into media and cultural production, and the building of cultural industries in creative cities that draw on that diversity.

Strong, independent and inter-disciplinary evidence-based research is required to assist policy development in these areas, including housing and urban planning, education, health and social services, racism and local community relations Yet research funding and research infrastructure to support such evidence-based research is severely lacking since the demise of the Bureau of Immigration, Multicultural and Population Research. There is an urgent need to build the research infrastructure and funding to enable strategic and coordinated research on migration, cultural diversity and community relations.

We thus propose the establishment of a Migration, Cultural Diversity and Community Relations Co-operative Research Centre (CRC). This would bring together government, business and community stakeholders to fund and steer a new Australian Research Council CRC with a program of competitively-funded research grant and research networking activities. The CRC would convene national research conferences, policy workshops, and end-user symposia. The Migration and Cultural Diversity Co-operative Research Centre will also play the critical role of linking the Australian immigration research and policy community into important international migration research networks, such as the International Metropolis and the IMISCOE network. We have provided an list of potential partners below.

Jock Collins, Andrew Jakubowicz (UTS) and Kevin Dunn (UWS)
10 June 2008.

Potential partner organisations:
Government (DIAC, HREOC, relevant Federal and State Government Departments, Community Relations/Multicultural Commissions, state–based Human Rights Commissions; Local Government organisations)
Industry (Institute for Cultural Diversity; SBS; sectors of the economy employing temporary residents; etc).
Research Centres (Institute for Community Engagement and Policy Alternatives (ICEPA) (Victoria); Centre for Multicultural and Community Development (The University of the Sunshine Coast); The McCaughey Centre (The University of Melbourne); Centre for Research on Social Inclusion (Macquarie University); The Prejudice Mob Clearing House (Murdoch University); Centre for Cosmopolitan Civil Societies (University of Technology Sydney); The Centre for Cultural Research (University Western Sydney).

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.

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.

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?


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).

There have been some important initiatives – post-Cronulla – in surf lifesaving, where the involvement of individuals from CALD backgrounds has improved considerably.

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:

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.


(to come)

1. changing multicultural society

The principal function of the SBS Charter is to “…provide multilingual and multicultural radio and television services that inform, educate and entertain all Australians, and in doing so, reflect Australia’s multicultural society”. To do this SBS must understand the ways in which that multicultural society continues to change. We understand that Australian cultural and linguistically diversity is becoming more complex, and that cultural identities and language communities are not discrete entities. How does cultural identity intersect in Australia with other forms of belonging, cultural citizenship and engagement with public life? Have we evolved beyond ‘celebrating’ diversity to being able to engage with the difficulties and tensions without resorting to a call for ‘integration’? What are the contemporary forms of engagement with cultural diversity and where do barriers continue to exist? How has generational change impacted on Australian multiculturalism?

2. media and cultural diversity

I would like to second Tanja’s interest in media and cultural diversity. Public media, broadcasting in the public interest, form an essential part of cultural democracy. Trusted, quality sources of information and engaging public media are enabling and facilitate better opportunities to engage with public life. How can media continue to change to adapt to the complexity of contemporary diversity? What are the communities of greatest ‘need’ relevant to multicultural communications services? What are potential uses of media that facilitate social cohesion in Australia? Can social policies be enacted through media to ensure the development of an inclusive society? How can we move beyond simplistic forms of cultural representation to a more plural public sphere?

Research on migration and multiculturalism has been so underfunded in the last ten years I think its almost impossible to narrow the research ‘need’ down to just two areas. There are a myriad of areas that desperately need research attention.

In terms of my own interests, then the two areas I’d select if I have to are:

We need to understand more about how to improve intercommunal relations in Multicultural Australia. This presupposes a basic commitment to cultural diversity and multiculturalism as the guiding framework. However I think we’ve not done enough research on how we might tackle racism, build better relations across cultural and religious difference, and in particular engage everyday working class Anglo-Australians in the ‘multicultural conversation’.

2) In 2007/8  the number of migrants arriving in Australia on Temporary visas (eg 457 Visas) numerically overtook those arriving as permanent migrants. Temporary migration is the major new phenomena in Australia’s migration program  however little research has been done so far in this area. I am thinking particularly about research from the migrant point of view – issues of exploitation, workplace experiences, settlement, social inclusion etc.

2a) If could cheat and add a ‘2a’ – the related phenomena of international students in the workforce – both working while studying, and transitioning to permanent residency is a further issue of research significance. Again, workplace experiences, exploitation, post-PR access to the job market, exploitation by employers, agents and private education operators etc.

In your post please identify two research issues that you would like to see prioritised in a national research agenda on cultural diversity. Please then tag your post with the keywords from the title. Also if you want to keep your post private among participants, please ensure you password protect it with “CDR”.

Next Page »