Australian society



Consequently, through the process of tolerance and ‘othering’ which is advocated by multiculturalism comes the idea that a binary operates in relation to ‘ethnic communities’ and ‘Australian society’, with the latter possessing power over the former. ‘Ethnicity’ may be seen as a notion that is deeply connected to the idea of a minority and Walters writes that: “In everyday use the term ‘ethnic’ has come to be applied to members of minority ethnic groups” (1993, 214).

Consequently to identify a group as ethnic undoubtedly presents the community as a minority and because the term is not used in regard to white society a binary has been constructed where ‘ethnic communities’ are marginalized by a subsequently empowered white ‘Australian society’. Ethnics marginalized by the dominant culture consequently face the possibility of being ‘othered’, which may be seen to pigeonhole and permanently marginalize them which can be seen through Stratton’s problem with multiculturalism which posits the idea of ethnicity as fixed and stable.

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So too then are ethnic communities, in that they are given a place in society dependent on their ethnicity and will constantly be ethnicised and ‘othered’ by the dominant society. Similar to previous Australian policies, the ‘white’ Australian society benefits through multiculturalism as such a dominant society remains the dominant sector which ‘others’ and marginalizes the ‘ethnic communities’ who are clearly affected in a negative way. Through the policy of multiculturalism the terms ethnicity and culture have failed to be perceived as fluid categories and has consequently constructed such notions as fixed and static.

This idea implemented by the official policy of multiculturalism consequently has negative affects upon ‘ethnic’ groups who are subsequently pigeonholed and fixed within society. The ‘white’ society can be seen to primarily benefit from this view of multiculturalism due to the fact that it reasserts their dominance and further marginalizes the minority status of ethnics. By emphasizing the existence of such migrants as primarily ‘ethnic’ consequently sets up a binary which excludes ethnics from being seen as incorporated within Australian society, which promotes the dominant Anglo sector as authentically Australian.

However, while ‘ethnic communities’ are clearly not benefiting from multiculturalism, it must be observed that migrants may benefit more within this phase of Australian society in comparison to earlier policies, for example the Assimilation policy where migrants were required to adopt the ‘Australian way of life’ and forced to reject their culture or the white Australian policy where such non-British migrants were completely prohibited from immigrating to Australia.

The problems that multiculturalism evokes seems as though they have no possibility of being solved within the context of an Australian society due to such a racist history developed and constructed through the dominance of Anglo-Celtics as a primary marker of national identity. For this reason it appears as though ethnic communities will continue to embody a marginalized position that is ‘othered’ and objectified and enforced by the dominance of the white society.

On the surface, multiculturalism seems a policy that embodies the utopian ideal where many ethnics are enabled to intersect harmoniously. However, this problematically reinforces a government’s persistence on focusing on the apparent ‘multicultural’ context of social life as another way of unifying Australian society. Therefore, multiculturalism may be seen as the next phase in a governments everlasting desire to unify a nation, that is a nation that embodies diverse cultures or as Stratton terms a ‘unity in diversity’ as a repression of difference (1994, 153).

Due to the policy of multiculturalism being enacted and sanctioned by a predominantly white, middle-class government it can be seen that such a policy places the control to negotiate multiculturalism within the hands of such a government which leads to ethnic groups being marginalized and ‘othered’ within society. This process has developed into what Stratton believes has pigeonholed and ‘permanently marginalized’ these ‘ethnic communities’ (1994, 153). Consequently a way to solve such a problem produced by multiculturalism may be for the government to abandon such a policy or to consequently not produce the migrant as an ‘exotic other’.

Perhaps these ‘ethnic communities’ need to be deconstructed as a fixed and stable category and rather seen on an individual level and not on a group level which produces stereotyping. At an individual level, such people may be able to be seen as entities that do not solely exist on the basis of one, single unified identity but rather through a mixture of fluidity and change. Another way the problems induced by multiculturalism may be solved could be through a more positive representation of such individuals within the media that does not however, label these individuals as having a certain type of ethnicity that is fixed and static.

Consequently, terms used often in the media regarding ethnic communities, particularly derogatory terms which associate all people who identify with such an ethnicity subsequently results in negative stereotyping. Such representations are used in a way to fix and limit all individuals who are identified as belonging to such an ethnicity. Consequently, these groups are typecast or pigeonholed in a negative way by the dominance of the white society or the media which commonly bases itself on simply representing people of Anglo origin particularly within advertisements that are meant to capture the ‘Australian way of life’.

Also as the notion of ethnicity consequently brings forth a marginalized or minority connotation, perhaps another alternative could be the abandoning of such a notion used to describe such individuals within government policies and also within the media. Constructed throughout the brief history of Australia is the idea of national unity, predominantly formed through a mainly ‘white’ society. As a result of such a construction the migrant has been subordinate to and controlled by the policies of a strictly white Australian Government.

While the current policy of multiculturalism may be seen as having a positive effect on the migrant, especially in regard to previous policies, such individuals are still ‘othered’ and ‘tolerated’ within Australian society which consequently isolates these ‘ethnic communities’ from such a society. The dominance is controlled by the ‘white’ society which clearly benefits while these ‘ethnic communities’ consequently encounter marginalization.

The only way such communities are allowed to be incorporated within the Australian society is by advocating their ethnicity which restricts and limits other ways of being and consequently means that they are pigeonholed and perpetually ethnicised. Due to such a racist history that Australian society exemplifies, a way of solving the dilemmas that multiculturalism has brought forth appears difficult however, one solution may be for such migrants to be seen as fluid individuals who are not completely represented by a fixed and unitary notion of ethnicity.

REFERENCES Castles, Stephen. “A Nation without Nationalism. ” Mistaken Identity. Sydney: Pluto Press, 1990. Pp 1-15. Castles, Stephen. “Racism, Nationalism and Australian Identity. ” Mistaken Identity. Sydney: Pluto Press, 1990. Pp 101-115. Hage, Ghassan. “Australian Tolerance and Multiculturalism. ” White Nation. Annandale: Pluto Press, 1998. Pp 82-92. Stratton, Jon. “The Problems with Multiculturalism. ” Race Daze. Annandale: Pluto Press, 1998. Pp 206-211. Shoobridge, Dr Helen.

“Lecture 2: The Nation and Othering. ” Cul301 e-Reserve. www. lib. mq. edu. au/e-access/document. php? eid=24515, accessed 28/3/03 Walters, M, Crook, R. “Ethnicity and Race. ” Sociology One, 3rd Edition. Melbourne: Longman Chesire, 1993. Pp 214-215. Stratton, Jon, Ang, Ien. “Multicultural Imagined Communities: Cultural Difference and National Identity in Australia and the USA. ” Critical Multiculturalism. Ed. Tom O’Regan. London: Routledge, 1994, pp 124 – 158.


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