…while [co-author] Professor Andrew Markus said the study had “highlighted some issues which can be taken up”, he said the overall picture was a “very positive one”.
Despite all the fuss about ‘dog whistles’ and ‘divisiveness’ during the Howard years, and from the other side about the supposedly dire consequences of ‘multiculturalism’ during the Hawke and Keating years, attitudinal research suggests that ‘social cohesion’ remains high. Australians overwhelmingly have a ‘sense of belonging’, whether born here (96.9%) or overseas (94.4%). Pride in the Australian way of life is high whether the respondent was born here (94.4%) or overseas (90.4%). Migrants are slightly more likely (81.4%) than those born here (79.6%) to think that Australia is a land of economic opportunity and that their life will be improved in three or four years (55.6%/46%).
This isn’t to say, of course, that things go smoothly all the time. A quarter of respondents had experienced discrimination at some time in their lives because of their ethnic or national background, and 8% on the basis of their religion. 6% say they experience discrimination on a regular basis of once a month or more. This is broadly consistent with previous research.
The most surprising finding came from some local surveys of respondents speaking Cantonese, Mandarin of Vietnamese (n=175) or of a Middle Eastern background (n=298). The Asian respondents were much more likely to say they had ever been discriminated against because of their national or ethnic background (53.6%) than the Middle Eastern (29.2%), though the latter were much more likely to claim religious discrimination (27.5%/2%). Asians were more likely to say that they had been verbally abused (35.2%/21.8%) and to say they had been discriminated against in seeking employment or at work (19.5%/12.4%).
This is inconsistent with previous published research suggesting that Middle Eastern people in general, and Muslims in particular, are the least popular ethnic and religious groups in Australia. Perhaps it is due to the small sample sizes, the inclusion of Turks in ‘Middle Eastern’, or the fact that one group was chosen by language and the other by background. People who speak English fluently and fully understand Australian culture and practices are probably less likely to experience discrimination, even if they are part of an ethnic or religious group that is relatively unpopular.