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?

Like Amanda I find it difficult to nominate 2 issues, but for the sake of this discussion:

1. Religion, secularism & culture – since 2001, intercultural relations have often been reframed as interfaith relations, as seen in the spectacular rise of interfaith dialogue initiatives. The obvious subtext here is anxiety about Islam and Muslims in ‘secular’ Western societies (that are nonetheless founded on Christian traditions). This desecularisation of multiculturalism has received virtually no critical analysis. To criticise interfaith dialogue seems akin to criticising motherhood or friendship. But are cultural tensions in Australia based on religious differences? What is achieved by interfaith dialogue and what is left out of the discussion? And how should secular societies respond to the growing political assertiveness of religious groups – both Muslim & Christian?

2. Government multicultural policy – there seems a need for scholars to more actively engage in the processes of policy development & analysis around cultural diversity, particularly with the end of the long dark Howard era. The Rudd Government has already made some interesting decisions, e.g. abolishing TPVs, and appears to be reviewing some of its predecessors’ agendas, e.g. the citizenship test & the ‘Living in Harmony’ program. What changes are possible in this new era?