An Australian study into social cohesion has revealed what we’ve long suspected: that Australia is a happy and welcoming place, where the overwhelming majority of Australians are proud to be Aussie and have a strong sense of belonging.
The Mapping Social Cohesion Report 2011, published earlier this week, was the result of extensive research by the Scanlon Foundation, which asked 2,000 Australians how they felt about issues such as immigration, asylum seekers, trust in the government and overall social harmony.
Nine out of 10 said they are happy with their lives, two-thirds welcomed genuine asylum seekers, and more than half felt that Australia needed more immigrants in order to promote economic growth.
More than 94 per cent of them said they were proud to be Australian, and value anything that supports a shared sense of community. Their attitudes depict Australia as a harmonious, happy and easygoing culture, which is tolerant and accepting towards new waves of immigrants.
Given that Australia is a nation made up almost entirely of families who have migrated to the country from elsewhere within the past 200 years, it’s not surprising that they continue to welcome foreigners to perhaps a greater extent than many old-world countries.
But government policies have reinforced this: state investment in migrant settlement has really helped to strengthen Australia’s social cohesion. ‘White Australia’ is a thing of the past: this is one of the most successful multicultural nations on the planet. There are carefully laid plans for multicultural harmony that permeate through government policy to promote tolerance, integration and equality for all Australian residents.
Immigration Secretary Senator Kate Lundy responded positively to the report.Â ‘Since the end of the Second World War more than seven million migrants have peacefully settled into the Australian community,” she points out, “and today 44 per cent of Australians were either born overseas or have at least one parent who was.”
Fresh, first-generation migrants always face the toughest challenge to become part of a new society – but the authorities work hard to provide settlement services to help them feel at home. Their children, and subsequent Australian-born generations have a much easier time bridging their dual cultures.
The only fly in this sweet ointment is that, while Aussies are happy to welcome folks from all backgrounds, there are still some negative attitudes towards immigrants from the Middle East. Attitudes are also generally a bit friendlier towards newcomers from English-speaking countries than non-native-English speakers.
But overall Australia seems to be reinforcing its well-earned reputation as a friendly, welcoming and tolerant society. What a lovely bunch! With great weather and beautiful scenery to boot… No wonder Australia’s still up there at the top of our Shiny New Life wish-lists.
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