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Customer Service. Despite varying opinions for or against immigration and its effects on the cultural diversity of Australia, the fact remains that cultural plurality is everyday reality in Australian urban cities and the inhabitants of these cities, for the most part, seem to navigate the rapidly changing social landscape with relative ease.
Ambivalence or even hostility toward certain kinds of immigrants is not unusual in Australian history, as evident in the anti-Asian immigration policies of the former One Nation Party.
On the one hand there are those who feel that Australia has a humanitarian obligation to keep its borders open to asylum seekers Hugo a and to consider the broader global implications of policies pertaining to asylum seekers Yeatman and on the other hand there are those who believe that strong border policies are necessary for building secure communities Betts The attitude toward asylum seekers is just one aspect of how contemporary issues relating to cultural diversity are affecting Australian society and Australian identity. While several studies have addressed multiculturalism in Australia Forrest and Dunn ; Jakubowicz ; Liu ; Sakurai et al.
To this end, this study presents the opinions of non-indigenous Australian educators in which the topics of multiculturalism and Australian identity are discussed. Australia is a nation made up of Aboriginal Australians and a myriad of immigrants, some of the earliest of whom trace their ancestry to Britain for a brief history of Australian immigration and policies post WWII, see Poynting and Mason This event is seared in the psyche of modern-day Australians, as is evident in the reflections of several of the participants in the present study.
There is also evidence to show that Australian government policies have become increasingly stricter in regards to immigration see Hugo b. Regardless of whether one is for or against cultural diversity in Australia, the fact remains, Australian identity and Australian policies are being shaped by cultural diversity. Meanwhile however, media coverage of issues relating to asylum seekers and Muslim immigrant groups presents a sense of ambivalence toward that which is different and unknown.
In the Australian context, media coverage of asylum seekers has created much political and social debate in recent times Pickering In addition to the social debates about asylum seekers, the Australian Islamic community has also been of interest in recent media coverage. Rane et al. While it is not the purpose of this study to focus solely on attitudes toward particular immigrant groups, the matter of asylum seekers and attitudes toward Muslim immigrants are noteworthy because these are topics that have occupied much of Australian social and political conversations in recent years, and are thus pertinent to any discussion of multiculturalism in Australia.
Van de Vijver et al. The aspect of multiculturalism that is most central to the present study is the latter.
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Tertiary education providers, particularly lectures, regularly interact with students who have chosen to further their formal education toward intellectual and career development. While it is not yet unequivocally clear whether tertiary education fosters inclusive attitudes toward multiculturalism, it is empirically clear that lesser education is associated with xenophobia and an exclusive view of the Australian identity Phillips It is interesting to explore the attitudes and opinions held by the lecturers with whom the students in tertiary education interact.
Further, lecturers often experience cultural diversity on a regular basis in the classroom, particularly considering the large number of international students who choose to pursue higher education in Australia. Lecturers in tertiary education also often hold higher education qualifications, by nature of their profession, and are hence trained in systematic and critical thinking that helps them to identify certain social patterns.
Zerubavel calls this optical socialisation , the process where professionals are trained to see things that may not be obvious to the untrained eye. Having completed at least an undergraduate degree and in most cases, one or more postgraduate degrees , lecturers in tertiary education are such a group of individuals who are trained in systematic and critical thinking, and are arguably able to identify social patterns and phenomena that others may not observe.
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Hence the observations made by this group of people may provide important insight into multiculturalism in Australia. Participants were chosen on the basis of them being non-indigenous but either born in Australia or migrated to Australia before the age of one. The rationale for the choice was that a non-indigenous Australian is an immigrant at least by ancestry , and therefore arguably has no special claim to the land compared to more recent immigrants.
Discovering whether or not this ideology is shared among non-indigenous Australians is part of the purpose of the present study. Approval for this study was obtained from Alphacrucis College Research Ethics Committee prior to data collection.
The participants were currently or previously involved in providing tertiary education, and represented 7 different institutions in Sydney and a variety of fields of expertise, such as music, sociology, history, theology, Biblical studies, leadership, business, education, and nursing. Most participants were from Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Celtic backgrounds, with the exception of two who were of mixed ancestry namely European-Asian. The participants were selected based on personal contact with the researcher and through referrals. Each participant was given the opportunity to provide informed consent.
Each participant was asked to describe what it means to be Australian, what multiculturalism means to them, and to comment on multiculturalism in Australia, particularly from the perspective of a tertiary education provider.
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The method chosen for analysing the transcripts is thematic analysis. This method was chosen because, while allowing for dominant themes to be extracted from the transcripts, thematic analysis provides the researcher to uncover these themes without necessarily being driven by a pre-existing theoretical framework Braun and Clarke It is necessary, however, to explicate certain assumptions on which this analysis is based. These are as follows: 1 Tertiary education providers, most of whom in the sample having completed doctoral studies, are trained in reasoned thought that is reflected in their responses, 2 Recurring labels in responses to a particular question by multiple participants are indicative of general views on the topic, and 3 Recurring ideas in responses to a particular question, even if expressed in different ways by different participants, are indicative of general views on the topic, at least among tertiary education providers.
It must also be noted that, in thematic analysis, the themes are identified not entirely based on the frequency of occurrence but rather on substantive significance. According to Floersch et al. Hence the data were analysed with the view of identifying dominant themes based on substantive significance. This process, as Floersch et al.
The method of thematic analysis thus relies on the systematic nature of this process and the assumption that findings can be reasonably replicated by another researcher with similar familiarity with the topic, following a similar process. The results from this study should be understood in the context of certain limitations. First, the opinions of the participants in this study represent those of a very select group of highly educated and arguably privileged section of society, all of whom identified themselves as Christian or Catholic.
Therefore their opinions may not be representative of Australians of different faiths. Second, the participants were selected based on their social proximity to the researcher, and as such arguably represent a limited perspective even within the group of tertiary education providers. While it must be noted that the participants were given every opportunity to expand on their views and to express their opinions for any length of time during the interview, it is possible that longer and repeated interviews may have extracted details that were not communicated in this study.
These themes are described and discussed in this section. Some participants noted that, while tolerance is an ideal value in Australia, racism also co-exists. However, as the participants themselves observed, there is a gap between ideology and practice. In the words of one of the participants of mixed ethnic makeup, referring to a conversation with one of her white co-workers:.
But when it came to defining the term he thinks of Australian as white. The tension between ideology and practice is not unique to Australia. The tension between adaptation verses assimilation is reflected in other research as well Arasaratnam While the participants in the present study were generally favourable toward immigrants and observed that cultural diversity has enriched Australia, it must be noted that these participants represented a select group of highly educated individuals who have had the opportunity to not only interact with people of other cultures on a regular basis but also travel widely.
As previously noted, this is not representative of the wider population.
One participant said:. As if I intrinsicly have that label. Other participants similarly expressed that they speak up if they hear racist remarks or that they are intentional seeking out friendships with different types of Australians for the sake of expanding their own understanding. The participants unanimously said that they would consider urban Australia to be multicultural.
While the sense of multiple cultures co-existing in a shared space was commonly associated with multiculturalism, the participants also expressed mixed feelings about this concept.