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Executive Summary

Résumé exécutif

Résumé exécutif: Australie

L'Australie a une approche mitigée en matière de diversité, qu’elle célèbre tout en éprouvant un certain malaise à son égard.


Global Centre for Pluralism

Overall Score: 6

This assessment was completed in 2021.

Australia is a burgeoning multicultural country. Over half of its population is either born overseas or has at least one parent born overseas. However, the country’s relationship with diversity has been challenging. Stemming from its legacies of colonial settlement, the country has wavered between a policy of multiculturalism which celebrates diversity and one of ‘mainstreaming’, where individual newcomers are responsible for adjusting to Australian values and ways of life. In focussing on three distinct groups: Indigenous Australians, Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Migrants, and Temporary Migrants, the report underscores Australia’s attempts to move from its settler-colonial roots towards a society that is more inclusive for all members.

In Australia, systemic inequalities and exclusions undermine progress towards achieving pluralism. While the country has many international treaties and protocols in place, some group-based inequalities and discrimination may eclipse existing policies that are intended to support minority groups. Furthermore, significant gaps exist in policy implementation, data collection, gender-based and economic equality, private sector equality, institutional trust, judicial neutrality and the accessibility of civil society organizations for minority communities. For many minority communities, a sense of shared ownership in Australian society is out of reach, even while there is, overall, a strong desire to belong in Australia. Together, this report reveals a mixed approach to pluralism, one that celebrates pluralism as a concept but stops short of taking the substantial actions that would improve the prospects for pluralism and affect Australian patterns of life.

Legal Commitments

Australia has signed and ratified some international treaties and protocols, but also declined to sign others. This approach has diverse effects on Indigenous Australians, CALD migrants and temporary migrants.

While some structural guarantees are in place for minority groups, these policies are overshadowed by a lack of confidence from the communities they are meant to protect.

This lack of trust stems from the deep entrenchment of systemic racism and discrimination. For example, Indigenous people are still negatively affected by the lack of full protection of their basic human rights.

Australia’s rate of citizenship acquisition is high and does not discriminate based on social identity or gender. However, individuals from primarily minority communities face many barriers to accessing permanent residency and therefore citizenship, such as demonstrating that they have adopted Australian values, ways of life and history. Moreover, some temporary residents are ineligible to apply for permanent residency which effectively prevents them from accessing social services and systems.


Practices and Leadership

While the Australian government has initiatives that support pluralism, there are still significant gaps in policy implementation, data collection and private sector equality. There is also a lack of accessibility to civil society organizations for minority communities, Indigenous peoples, women and temporary migrants. Delays in processing citizenship applications for certain groups raise concerns about equity and access, highlighting a disparity between policy and practice. Moreover, data collection efforts to chart racial, gender and class divides for Australia’s culturally diverse communities are inadequate. As a result, Australia lacks the information to address the many systemic inequalities that diverse communities face.

In terms of representation, Australian political parties range from being outwardly supportive of pluralism to emphasizing commonality rather than diversity.

Even with this disagreement across Australia’s political space, the 2022 elected Parliament witnessed a milestone: the first instance of overrepresentation of Indigenous Australians in the Senate and Parliament.

However, the lack of diversity in spaces such as the media and the workforce, as well as the shrinking of civil society associations, make participation in democracy difficult for members of minority communities.


Group-based Inequalities, Inter-group Relations and Belonging

In general, Australians are accepting of diversity and believe that multiculturalism has been good for the country. However, their support for pluralism is limited by a desire for minorities to adopt Australian patterns of life.

This leaves many Australians, particularly Indigenous Australians and ethnic minorities, not feeling fully accepted in society, not having strong ties with Australia and not feeling equal to white Australians.

Unequal practices such as legal restrictions for dual citizens, prisoner disenfranchisement, racial discrimination and the lack of female and minority group representation in Parliament highlight some of Australia’s group-based inequalities. Economic inequality persists particularly for Indigenous Australians who have limited access to the economic domain due to institutional racism and culturally unsafe work environments. Gender-based economic inequality also persists, with women earning significantly less than men and occupying mostly part-time and casual roles. Similarly, the judicial system often possesses negative biases towards minority groups including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. While the system should ensure fairness to all citizens, this is not the lived experience for many diverse communities.

Systemic racial discrimination and lingering forms of settler-colonialism continue to impact Australia’s education, social, economic and healthcare systems, leading to lower educational participation and poor health outcomes for many diverse communities. The prevalence of racism causes low societal trust and an exclusive environment that undermines the progress for pluralism in Australia.

In Australia, systemic inequalities and exclusions undermine progress towards achieving pluralism. While the country has many international treaties and protocols in place, some group-based inequalities and discrimination may eclipse existing policies that are intended to support minority groups

Monitor Takeaways

Over the past few decades, Australia has promoted itself as a multicultural democracy – a country that celebrates and embraces diversity. However, this report documents Australia’s struggles to adapt this multicultural approach from policy to practice and to reconcile with its history as a settler-colonial nation. While Australia is making strides in developing stronger feelings of shared ownership, institutional trust and community belonging, systemic inequalities and racial discrimination toward Indigenous peoples, CALD migrants and temporary migrants continue to hamper attempts at reconciliation that are necessary for Australia to become more pluralistic. Together, this report tells a story of a country grappling with how to move forward toward a more pluralistic future while acknowledging its colonial and racialized limitations.

Australia has broad commitments to human rights and pluralism across its national and international spaces. However, minority communities exhibit a lack of trust toward governmental commitments, especially Indigenous Australians who continually face challenges and discrimination in accessing their basic human rights. As a result, while Australia has legal commitments in place, systemic discrimination and racial inequalities continue to pervade its legal system and prevent these commitments from fully protecting minority groups. Moreover, Australia’s initiatives to support pluralism have significant gaps in policy implementation, data collection, private sector equality and the accessibility of civil society organizations for minority communities. For instance, even though the 2022 elected Parliament witnessed large steps in terms of minority community representation, the lack of consistency regarding mainstreaming diversity in the private sector makes participation in society difficult for members of minority communities.

The Global Centre for Pluralism’s Pluralism Perceptions Survey further highlights this conundrum. Across Australian society, there are strong feelings of shared ownership of society and high intergroup trust; however, simultaneously, minority groups often feel isolated and have limited interaction with individuals from other communities. While structurally Australian society has few limitations that prevent individuals from taking part in society and expressing their cultural or religious identities, the Centre’s Pluralism Perceptions Survey demonstrates that only

As a result, the report makes visible how barriers continue to exist that limit minority communities’ sense of belonging. Overall, these results demonstrate that there exists a hesitation towards diversity when that diversity is viewed as potentially upending Australian ways of life.


The Monitor’s recommendations reaffirm what experts, activists and stakeholders have called for in Australia and provide several pathways to pluralism for the country.

  • Australia can implement and amend commitments to diminish the current legal inequalities that exists in the country, such as the overrepresentation and incarceration of Indigenous youth in the judicial system and the indefinite detention of asylum seekers. This includes implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, amending the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and implementing all outstanding recommendations from several Royal Commissions from 1991, 2016 and 2019.
  • To allow Indigenous peoples equitable participation, access and empowerment across the economic, cultural and social domains, Australia can take on further constitutional reforms. Reforms include adopting the Uluru Statement as a necessary first step to achieve more equitable political representation and enable Indigenous expression in Parliament and government on important issues affecting Indigenous peoples. Representation of other diverse communities and women also needs to be bolstered to reflect Australian society more accurately both politically and in other sectors, such as in the media.
  • Hate crimes, racial bias and discrimination still inhibit Australia from promoting pluralism in a safe and inclusive manner. Data collection can be more robust and accessible to allow for a transparent understanding of the many struggles diverse communities encounter. To respond to these systemic violences, the Australian government can bolster its support to civil society and multicultural organizations to help make resources more readily available for affected communities.
  • To better support the transition to a more pluralistic society, the Australian government and citizenry may acknowledge and help eliminate the many political, social, economic and cultural systems that make Australian society unequal for individuals from diverse backgrounds.

Documents supplémentaires

Évaluation Nationale du Moniteur: Australie

L'Australie célèbre la diversité, mais dans la pratique, l'histoire coloniale et l'exclusion limitent l'évolution du pays vers le pluralisme.

Profil du Pays: Australie

Pour progresser sur la voie du pluralisme, l'Australie doit se réconcilier avec son passé colonial afin de garantir à tous des possibilités inclusives

Australia: References

To access more information that went behind the development of the Australia Monitor report, you can access the references below.