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The antidote of multiculturalism

1 Mar 2007

A cruel irony has marked recent Australian social policy. Reconciliation between indigenous and settler Australians –which involves a concept and a process that are essentially symbolic – was made "practical", limited to policies aimed at improving Aboriginal living conditions that the government should have been pursuing anyway. At the same time, multiculturalism – a set of practical policies aimed variously at improving the absorption of migrants and harmoniously integrating a culturally iverse society around liberal democratic values – has come to acquire powerful symbolic significance in debates about what it means to be Australian. Indeed, so laced with symbolism has “multiculturalism” become that the Howard government is now considering its own symbolic gesture of simply removing the word from governmental use.

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