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Journal Article

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Reproduced with the kind permission of The Special Broadcasting Service (SBS)
For more information access the report online at SBS or see


In 2002, SBS commissioned research into trends in multicultural Australia. This study gives us a glimpse of the ‘diversity within diversity’of Australians’engagement with multiculturalism, their senses of identity and belonging, the ways in which they engage with others of different backgrounds, and their uses of media in a multicultural society. The overall picture is one of a fluid, plural and complex society, with a majority of the population positively accepting of the cultural diversity that is an increasingly routine part of Australian life, although a third is still uncertain or ambivalent about cultural diversity. In practice, most Australians, from whatever background, live and breathe cultural diversity, actively engaging with goods and activities from many different cultures. Cultural mixing and matching is almost universal. There is no evidence of ‘ethnic ghettos'. This ‘mixing and matching’ is also evident in the ways people use media. NESB groups tend to use both mainstream and culturally-specific media, while, nationally, younger generations seem to easily balance mainstream and multicultural sources according to their particular needs or preferences. This means that most Australians live hybrid lives involving influences from many cultures. Only about 10% has negative views about immigration, multiculturalism and cultural diversity. Moreover, young people tend to have more positive views in this respect than older people – a clear indication that multiculturalism will be even more ‘mainstreamed’ in the future. This will be enhanced by the growing numbers of second- and third-generation NESB Australians in our midst. Australians of all backgrounds are generally satisfied with their lives in Australia and call Australia home, but many of those of non-English speaking backgrounds do not feel a complete sense of belonging to Australia. Only about 30% of the second-generation NESB respondents in this study (who were born and bred in Australia) describe their identity as ‘Australian’. Several NESB samples strongly believe that the Australian media do not represent their way of life. This is also the case for Indigenous Australians. In sum,cultural diversity is a fact of life in Australia that most Australians are increasingly at ease with. In the authors’ view, this is good news for SBS as a broadcaster with a mandate to reflect diversity. At the same time, there is still a challenge for SBS to further foster and promote cultural inclusiveness through the representation of and engagement with diversity.



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