Report

Australia: Representative bureaucracy in a post-colonial, multicultural society

31 Oct 2011
Description

Australian public sector bodies regularly advertise their dedication to diversity and inclusion. Australian national, state and territory governments consistently emphasise four criteria when measuring and addressing public sector representativeness: indigenous status, ethno‐linguistic status, gender, and physical and intellectual disability. For many years, Australian governments had no expectation that the bureaucracy would be representative of broader society on such measures. From the 1970s, state and national anti‐discrimination legislation and EEO measures formalised the new expectation that the staff of bureaucracies would look increasingly like the wider society.

This paper explores what this has meant for public sector representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and minority immigrant communities (the two broad categories of people most relevant to the concerns of the volume in which this paper will appear as a chapter). In both cases, establishing a good measure of representation has proved difficult. Definitions of both groups are contested and data collection has been inconsistent. The available data suggest that although public sector agencies may not be perfectly representative, they are far more representative than they were until the 1970s. On one reading, the increased diversity of Australian public sector agencies is a triumph for the policies of multiculturalism, antidiscrimination and equal opportunity begun in the 1970s. On another reading, this diversity disguises a failure to ask fundamental questions about the best way to represent minority communities and deliver programs to them. This failure arises from Australia’s status as a postcolonial society, in which multiculturalism is constrained by dominant anglo‐celtic norms of citizenship.

Publication Details
Published year only: 
2011
246
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