Late last year released findings from the 2013 Victorians’ Attitudes to Race and Cultural Diversity Survey suggested Victorians overwhelmingly continue to welcome multiculturalism, despite a fall in numbers.
Accordingly, VicHealth and its affiliates – the University of Melbourne and Deakin University – found 78 per cent of Victorians were in favour of cultural diversity, but close to 40 per cent were at issue with at least one ethnic group.
The survey also suggested groups faced with social backlash may be more susceptible to mental health issues, particularly increases in depression, anxiety, and stress, coupled with lower self-esteem, which can lead to alcohol and drug abuse, obesity and self-harm.
Deakin University researcher Professor Yin Paradies told Neos Kosmos whilst the figures were overall positive, comparatively research conducted in 2006 showed acceptance levels were in decline.
“We’re finding a worsening across a number of outcomes in terms of people’s attitude towards certain ethnic and racial groups in society and a slight reduction in acceptance of cultural diversity in Australia as a beneficial thing to the nation,” he said.
It is believed deteriorating global security issues, asylum seekers and financial conservatism following the global financial crisis have led to increased prejudices against ethnic groups.
“We’re seeing an intensification of nationalism around the world, which does relate to the fears of terrorism security around the world, and also financial problems. People hunker down in a way when you have these difficulties on a global scale and we get this sense of ‘us and them’ that develops more strongly and a sense of ‘we don’t want our way of life to be eroded’, and some of the findings in our survey find that people are concerned about migrants impacting on Australia’s way of life and taking jobs.”
“About 50 per cent say migrants need to be more like Australians no matter who they are and they need to leave some of their baggage, so to speak.”
Professor Paradies said Muslims were most susceptible to criticisms that they don’t complement Australian society.
“You get the sense that these things can get better over time but there is the potential for them to get worse.
“It’s difficult for individuals to say ‘I’m not racist’ – all of us have a racist thought or inclination at some point in our life. For colonial histories like Australia’s it’s unavoidable there’s historical weight and baggage to our nation and the way it was created that leaves those racist undertones and it’s a lot of work to overcome. It’s a matter of tracking that over time and to try to make it better, and in recent years we haven’t seen a lot of that.”
Media-led campaigns pushing greater integration may serve as the key to combating stereotypes and prejudices, he said.
“I think there are a few key ways to combat these issues and one of them is better representation of ethnic diversity in the media, better reporting, more balanced reporting, some more courageous political leadership where we have a sense of politicians wanting to tell better stories of both the advantages and disadvantages of cultural diversity, not engage in tactics which sometimes create more fear, which happens in Australia.”
Chin Tin, chairperson at the Victorian Multicultural Commission, shared Professor Paradies’ view that overall more needs to be done to tackle racial segregation.
“It came as no surprise that eight out of 10 people agree that different cultural groups benefit Australia. Multiculturalism is one of our greatest assets, and our way of life in Victoria.
“[But] the survey tells us that there are areas that need improving – the commission is aware of this through its own research and projects, and is working with communities and government to help change misconceptions and negative attitudes, and increase awareness.”
He said Greek migration to Victoria could be used as an example for other immigrant groups.
“As an established and settled immigrant group, the Greek community can serve as a model for newly settled immigrant communities in our state, and proudly take on a leadership role in promoting harmony and unity within Victoria’s diversity.”
Further intercultural education for young schoolchildren was also suggested.
source: Neos Kosmos