As society becomes increasingly diverse and complex, communities around the globe are exploring new ways to promote cultural and social cohesion.
Australian multiculturalism has a successful record, yet as global migration continues to generate increased cultural diversity, new tensions that have the potential to turn people against each other are emerging. Increasing inequality has fuelled the growth of disadvantage that cuts across cultural boundaries. Meanwhile, Australia’s preference
for skilled migration means that some members of minority groups possess high levels of cultural, economic and social capital. At the same time, more Australians than ever are proud of their mixed cultural heritage. Multiculturalism can therefore risk alienating people in its focus on fixed group identities.
One of the most exciting responses to these challenges in recent times is interculturalism. Building on the successes of multiculturalism, this movement puts interaction between individuals and cultural groups at the heart of diversity principles and policies. Intercultural practices strengthen mutual dialogue and equitable interaction between all of those feeling left behind and unheard, while building human competencies such as conviviality, reflexivity, adaptability and communication.
What is interculturalism?
Interculturalism is both a philosophy and a set of practices for building cohesive communities, protecting and accessing rights, and realising open collaboration in culturally diverse societies. It is based on the principle
of ‘equitable interaction of diverse cultures and the possibility of generating shared cultural expressions through dialogue and mutual respect’ (UNESCO). To achieve this outcome, it seeks to motivate change by building a new
institutional and policy framework for relating to diversity.
By retooling multiculturalism for current social and political conditions, interculturalism prioritises active interaction and dialogue over passive tolerance, and promotes understanding of others. It links cultural minorities with
majorities and with each other, encouraging inclusion and participation in the mainstream of society. It recognises that all forms of cultural identity, both personal and collective, will adapt through participation in such interactions,
forging new relationships and a shared sense of community.