Cultural diversity in Australia
Australia has one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) populations in the world. It is estimated that about 40% of the Australian population is made up of immigrants and their children, and that about 15% speak a language other than English at home.
According to the 2001 census, in Queensland alone there were:
- over 120 ethnic communities
- over 120 languages
- 23.3 per cent of the people born overseas
- 3.1 per cent of the people who were Indigenous.
Further diversity is seen in the many subcultures within and across the CALD groups, for example, youth culture, religious groups and other groups formed through shared characteristics and values.
Interview with Nick Giannopoulos: Nick Giannopoulos ─ writer, performer and comedian ─ speaks about his experiences as an Australian-born Greek in an interview for Making Multicultural Australia, 1996.
The Australian community
From Australia’s original Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clans, the Australian society has emerged to become a diverse community embracing many cultures.
There are many reasons for the population of a country becoming diverse. One common reason is hardship in the originating country of the immigrant. Such hardships include famine, war and oppressive regimes. There are, of course, people who just wish to experience living in a new country or those who move here because of their jobs.
The Australian Indigenous population is made up of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people.
Indigenous Australians often face issues related to:
- social expectations
- cultural identity.
Racism no way fact sheets: An introduction to Indigenous traditions ─ Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
Multicultural Australia: United in Diversity. Department of Immigration & Multicultural & Indigenous Affairs, Multicultural Australia.
An Introduction to Indigenous Traditions – Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
Australian Communities: Torres Strait Islander People.
David Unaipon (1872-1967). Writer, public speaker and inventor.
Professor Lowitja (Lois) O’Donoghue AM CBE.
You don’t even look Aboriginal. Lesson ideas.
Colonisation and Western culture
Many Anglo-Australians and other Australians born of acculturated migrant parents or grandparents identify with Western culture. It is often implied that to be Australian, you must identify with either Indigenous Australian culture or conform to the social norms and values of Western culture. Issues faced by Western cultural groups often include:
- ageing population
- fragmentation of the family unit and lack of extended family.
Australians who are neither migrant nor Indigenous may also identify with cultural norms and values other than Western culture.
Migrants and refugees
The migrant population in Australia generally fit within one of two broad classifications:
- Immigrant ─ those who chose to migrate to Australia voluntarily. Immigrants choose when to leave their country, where they go and when they return.
- People displaced from their home country, such as refugees, because of persecution on the basis of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.
Immigrants and refugees from other cultures often face problems such as:
- recognition of professional qualifications and experience
- level of cultural difference between cultural origin and new host culture
- language barriers.
Refugees may also be affected by persecution in their home country, loss of family and friends, and trauma during migration.
Cultures and community: Identify the cultural groups within your community.