Fateful choices – challenges for a multicultural Australia

Dor Akech Achiek. (on left) with NSP group members and author

Fateful choices – challenges for a multicultural Australia

Andrew Jakubowicz
Emeritus Professor and Consultant Sociologist Presentation to NSP
Bankstown 8 December 2022

Jakubowicz and Ho 2013

  • Representation – cultural and political
  • Recognition – national multicultural legislation and institutions and protections and opportunities
  • Research – establishing a national network for the systematic and participatory creation, dissemination and contestation of knowledge

  • Current political context
  • • Giles May 2022:
  • • Multicultural Framework Review
  • • Standards for Measuring Diversity
  • • Digital Inclusion Strategy
  • • Support for CALD small business and entrepreneurship • Increase frontline multilingual staff
  • • Giles October 2022 National Ministers • National anti-racism framework
  • • Census data and diversity
  • • Tailored communication in public health


  • Parkinson/Howe/Azarias review – Migration System for the Future
  • Internal ABS etc data review framed by new capacity associated with MADIP knowledge, and its SWOT
  • CRISP – a community settlement pilot (shades of Good Neighbour Council?)\ training community groups
  • Multicultural Framework review – forthcoming?
  • DCA et al (including Giles) “Bring back race” (Black Lives matter, not only racism) – driven by African Australian concerns about marginalization on basis of physiognomy

Immediate realities

  • Governments’ COVID policies now directly and increasingly contributing to the deaths of thousands of older migrants (death rates in some groups X3+ greater than average) as they have since the onset
  • Data exists on these issues but governments are reluctant to use it or ensure better data, even though the issues are clearly understood. Hostility to knowledge about diversity, difference and discrimination. Resistance to two-way communication between diverse communities and government, preference for top-down flow of instruction
  • Gig economy has become a site for the super-exploitation of younger CALD workers (like a reshaping of secondary labour market of fifty years ago)
  • • Australia remains an ethnocracy with hierarchy of power secured by charter communities in their interest; yet understructure of Australia in reality is already heavily affected by cultural difference and perspectives
  • • Dreyfus 7 Nov 22 “Australia’s continued success as a multicultural nation must include an ongoing commitment to addressing racism,” Cyber racism is dramatically expanding despite attempts to constrain its spread – recognised by HRC and central to challenges of new anti-racism strategy. Cyber racism strategy seems to be ineffective.
  • • Pressing importance of intersectionality (gender, disability, age, sexuality) as a policy orientation and a data requirement, yet lack of investment in its development

Settlement process – realise skills and support fulfilment of aspirations

Challenges for a multicultural nation

  • Power and representation -> Ly Ly Lim focus on who rules and administers the nation
  • National institutionalization -> the Multicultural Act issue (the elephant in the room?)
  • Knowledge and prejudice -> how to build a national conversation based on evidence
  • Culture and diversity -> who tells our stories

Barriers to articulating and pursuing an aspiration freedom-based future
• Reluctance to share or transfer power outside the clan

• Reluctance to legitimize wider and more complex narratives of being Australian

• Reluctance to authorize new knowledge and perspectives __________
Advancing on these fronts is possible, feasible but difficult.


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