Australia’s multiculturalism 
Government Legislation and Policy Framework

Notes from RTF of speech to visit of PR China Ethnic Affairs delegation, Macquarie Fields TAFE 7 Dec 2009

What is multicultural(ism)?
A description of diversity — hundreds of languages, countries of origin, national and regional cultures
A policy framework which recognises diversity — can be hierarchical (some more important and powerful than others), or egalitarian (all treated equally) or segmentary (groups separated from each other by political or economic decisions)

Telling history — in Australia can have White European, or Black Indigenous, or non-White perspectives. Each asks different questions.
Foundation of Australia as nation (1901 – close to time of Chinese revolution of Sun Yat Sen)- 1st Act of government, to restrict immigration, especially from China.
Long period of rigid controls of non-White entry (“White Australia”).

A Chinese history of Australia
Harvest of Endurance
Making Multicultural Australia website

National Museum of Australia

Chronology of National Government Policies
1901-1966 White Australia – exclusion of most non-Whites; assimilation of settlers (single set of core Australian values and behaviour)
1966-1973 Integration – more non-Whites allowed in, especially well-educated and wealthy
1973 -1978 End of White Australia
1978 Adoption of multiculturalism as official policy
1978-1996 Multiculturalism encompasses Access and Equity
1996- Winding back multiculturalism

What do the leaders say?
Prime Ministers….

Key issues
Human rights
Language retention and acquisition
Social inclusion
Social mobility
Political participation
Media representation

Useful websites
Making Multicultural Australia

CulturalDiversity News


Recognising our Voices: Communication Rights, Cultural Diversity and New Media

NEMBC Conference Nov 2009
Andrew Jakubowicz
CCS:UTS and CulturalDiversity News
RTF of the Powerpoint used in the speech

A Beginning…
The demand for migrant workers’ rights of the 1970s
English on the job
Health and safety
Effective representation
Voicing community
Political engagement

The demand of migrant community voices
The rise and fall of ABC access radio
The difficult relationship between community and SBS radio
The rise and rise of community sector and access radio, video and TV

Thirty years after Galbally
National broadcasters
SBS professionalisation but on the nose with government?
ABC still fairly monocultural
“Amalgamation” discourse back on agenda

NEMBC important role, widespread but facing challenges of generational change, technological innovation, and especially digital radio
Intersection of policy agendas
Communication policy
Multicultural/ cultural diversity policy
Human Rights policy
Social Inclusion policy

Communication Policy
National broadband – but no mention of digital divide other than in urban/rural
ABC favoured child – but no pressure to meet charter obligations to reflect whole of Australian society
Increasing call for ABC and SBS to “share”
Removal of Australian content rules for new digital TV stations
Penetration by global media
Discourse of “community” but not of “diversity” – Conroy at CBAA 19 Nov no mention of NEMBC or multicultural diversity.

Multicultural Policy
Evolving sense of parameters: combating racism, minimising inter-communal conflict, from Harmony to Diversity
Concern for settlement and integration, employment and language acquisition: assimilationist in intent
Focus on “de-radicalisation” of young Muslim men (very gendered but not address issues of women)
Policy energy driven by Attorney General not Citizenship
AMAC due to report very soon – but with what purchase and with what impact on whole of government? And assimilationist?
International trading languages priority, not community languages – Arabic misses out

Human Rights Policy
Brennan report silent on cultural minority rights and multiculturalism: argues for slowly slowly and propose nothing that might alienate anyone
October 2009 Minister Garrett announces Australia signs UNESCO Convention on Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (CPPDCE).
Identifies “five links in inseparable chain”: creation, production, distribution/ dissemination, access and enjoyment of cultural expressions.

Australia has still not signed other “pillar” of preservation and promotion of cultural diversity UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003)
Cultural expressions as “vehicles of identity, values and meaning”.
“fundamental role of civil society in protecting and promoting the diversity of cultural expression” (art.11)
“Promotion of specific cultural expressions by giving voice to groups such as women, persons belonging to minorities, and indigenous peoples”

Social Inclusion
“all Australians feel valued and have the opportunity to participate fully in the life of our society” (
Real difficulty in comprehending cultural dimensions of inclusion – focus on chronically poor and unemployed, even if own figures show particular role of non-Anglo immigrants as “reserve army of labour”

Multicultural and ethnic community radio can do and can play critical roles in terms of the silent spaces of the national agendas
Communication very significant as “exclusion” of cultural diversity seems to be the mode of action of national government
Look to cross-community and cross-technology alliances
Role of digital/web radio may be enhancing, may be problematic
Diverse stories are needed more than ever

CulturalDiversity News
New NGO web platform on cultural diversity
Seeking collaborations with communities on human rights, justice, arts, creation of knowledge
Internships coming up in January
Register at