Most people in Australia feel they belong, but discrimination is rising

by Ray Clancy on November 23, 2016

in Australia Immigration

The majority of people in Australia feel they belong in the country and see it as a land of opportunity where hard works brings a better life, according to the largest annual study of its kind.

However, the Mapping Social Cohesion report that tracks attitudes on issues including immigration, multiculturalism, discrimination and politics, suggest those born abroad may be experiencing more negativity.

students-multiculturalismOverall 91% feel they belong in Australia, 85% reckon they’ve had a happy year, 79% see Australia as a land of opportunity, 72% are satisfied with their financial position and 42% are confident their lives will be even better in three or four years’ time.

Report author, Professor Andrew Markus of Monash University pointed out that while Australia is overall a stable and cohesive society, some indicators show a negative trend. For example, reports of discrimination have risen sharply to the highest level recorded since the Scanlon Foundation began the study nine years ago.

Indeed, one in five non-Anglo Australians born abroad reported discrimination in 2016. They spoke of verbal and sometimes physical abuse. Most encountered such behaviour only once or twice a year but for some it was a weekly occurrence. The place of discrimination for a third of the victims was the workplace where they felt themselves being denied jobs or promotion because of their background.

And the 2016 survey also showed Australian neighbourhoods become a little less welcoming to people from different national or ethnic groups. Markus believes this is linked to a notable change in the numbers concerned about becoming victims of crime, up from 26% in 2015 to 36% in 2016.

However, the study challenges the view that a negative attitudes toward Muslims is increasing as indicated by a recent survey. The new data show there has been no significant shift in negative opinion towards Muslims, which remains in the range of 22% to 25%.

Support for multiculturalism has also remained high. The 2016 report shows that 83% agree that multiculturalism has been good for Australia. ‘There is a positive view of multiculturalism. Most people see multiculturalism as a two way process of change, involving adaptation from Australian born and migrants,’ said Markus.

Although the study did not ask specifically about Muslim immigration, it did look at sentiment and a quarter of those surveyed said they had negative feelings towards Muslims, while 14.1% had ‘strong’ negative feelings, up from 11.3%. Just over 30% had positive or strongly positive feelings and about 40% were indifferent.

Markus acknowledged that while anti-Muslim sentiment was relatively high at a time when fears over terrorism and national security had increased, there had been no statistically significant shift in negative opinion towards Muslims over the course of the six surveys.

The research found that biggest predictor of acceptance of immigration and cultural diversity is age, followed by the level of completed education and financial status. Strong rejection of immigration and cultural diversity was around 7% among those aged 18 to 44 years and 4% among those with a Bachelor or higher level qualification, compared with 22% of those over 65 years of age and 22% of those whose highest level of education is up to Year 11.

Overall support for multiculturalism remains high at 83%, and the strongest positive association of multiculturalism is with its contribution to economic development. Just 34% considered that the immigration intake was too high, the lowest recorded in the Scanlon Foundation surveys.

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