Australia/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.8 Social cohesion and cultural policies

The Commonwealth government has introduced a range of strategies and policies aimed at delivering a more cohesive society.  As part of information provided to new citizens, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship provides the following background to government initiatives on the following website:

A Scanlon Foundation Mapping Social Cohesion Survey conducted in June 2010 noted an increase in negative attitudes to immigration, with those agreeing with the view that the immigration intake is ‘too high’ increasing from 37 per cent of those survey in 2009 to 47 per cent in 2010, while 45 per cent consider the intake to be ‘about right’ or ‘too low’.  This needs to be seen in the context of a political battle over the issue of ‘boat people’ – refugees arriving on Australia’s shores by boat, rather than coming through the UN process.  The issue became a major one in the August 2010 election with both major parties, in the words of some commentators, endeavouring to out-do each other in a ‘race to the bottom’.  The full summary of the Scanlon survey can be found at

Since that time the issue has unfortunately been exacerbated on both sides of politics and through sections of the media, so that the issue of ‘illegal immigrants’ and ‘people smugglers’ is set to become a very significant one for the 2013 election.

A significant player in endeavouring to balance the debate has been the Refugee Council of Australia which is the national umbrella body for refugees and the organisations and individuals who support them. It has more than 140 organisational and 500 individual members.  The Council conducts research, provides policy analysis and community advocacy and education, and it is to be regretted that many of the major political and media actors in this space do not avail themselves of the extensive array of data and information, and examples of good practices, including employment management for refugees, that are available at the Council’s website at

Chapter published: 26-12-2013