Discussion paper

Success in diversity: the strength of Australia’s multiculturalism

Immigration Economic indicators Economic development Multiculturalism Cultural diplomacy Australia

Over the past century, one of the most defining trends has been globalization and the increasing migration associated with it. Multiculturalism has become a defining feature in many of the world’s economies with Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States and South Africa examples of nations that have embraced a strong immigrant receiving tradition. Similarly, Australia has a robust tradition as a country built upon migration that continues to this day. In 2016-17, Australia demonstrated a net overseas migration gain of 262,500 persons, a rise of 27.3 percent compared to 2015-16.

In practice, empirical research suggests that multiculturalism is related to “immigrant assimilation, integration and adaptation, which impacts immigrants’ success in their adopted countries." Evidence indicates that as a nation, Australia has truly embraced multiculturalism following an approach of integration between the different ethnicities and cultural groups where the dominant and minority groups are expected to respect each other’s cultures.

For much of Australia’s early history, its immigration policy was hampered by a racist view of the world that limited immigration to those who qualified under the White Australia Policy. It wasn’t until the 1970s that Australia began embracing the virtues of a multicultural immigration policy – a largely bipartisan policy that has enabled Australia’s economy to become one of the world’s strongest, and its society to become one of the world’s most peaceful. Although there have been times in history where policies and incidents have not always fostered an open-minded approach to multiculturalism, today, Australia has made significant strides in creating an environment where immigrants from countries around the world can truly attain comfortable and satisfying living standards in the melting pot of Australian culture.

The success and acceptance of Australia’s genuine multiculturalism has relied on immigration being accepted as a nation-building project which has underpinned the cultural generosity and diversity that characterises Australia’s society and economy.

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