OPINION PIECE In response to Australia's Multicultural Framework Review, join me as I look into the heart of Australia's Multicultural Framework Review, and passionately explore the need for a revitalised approach to our nation's diverse and colourful cultural tapestry.
The latest census data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reflects a very culturally diverse Australian population with 320 different ancestries and 429 languages spoken (including 183 indigenous languages).
Yet, multicultural Australia remains an outlier in mainstream Australian society. Despite its good intentions for social cohesion and inclusivity, multiculturalism creates a sense of segregation of sorts.
So what's the future state to continue advancing a more socially cohesive and inclusive Australia?
Should the Multicultural Framework consider Interculturalism?
Interculturalism and multiculturalism share similarities; both aim to create a more cohesive and inclusive society. However, they also have key differences that set them apart.
The two different approaches can be likened to growing a beautiful garden
Imagine multiculturalism as a garden where flowers of various species are planted in distinct plots, each retaining their individual colours, shapes, and characteristics. In this garden, the beauty is in the rich tapestry of unique flowers, each celebrated and respected for its individual qualities. These flowers represent different cultures, coexisting side by side but with limited interaction and exchange.
Interculturalism, on the other hand, is like a garden where the flowers are carefully cultivated to intertwine and interact, creating a rich and harmonious blend. In this garden, flowers of different species coexist and share nutrients, cross-pollinate, and intertwine their roots to create an interwoven and interconnected garden.
This represents the essence of interculturalism: the constant dialogue, exchange, and mutual enrichment that occurs when diverse cultures come together while still maintaining their distinct identities. In this garden, the beauty emerges not only from the diversity of the flowers but also from the complex and vibrant tapestry that is formed when they are woven together.
What are the benefits of interculturalism?
The current state, multiculturalism, is a concept that recognises, embraces and celebrates Australia's cultural diversity. It is characterised by the coexistence of multiple cultures within one society, where individuals maintain their cultural identities and practices.
Multiculturalism has been an essential part of Australian history since the 1970s. It's played a crucial role in advancing Australia's multicultural society and promoting the idea that cultural differences should be recognised and valued and that diversity is to be celebrated.
Interculturalism is a relatively newer concept emphasising interaction and dialogue between different cultures.
Multiculturalism, I would argue, was theorised for situations in which immigrants were seen as legally authorised, permanently settled, and presumptively loyal. In an age of securitisation and super-diversity, these assumptions are put into question. Early theories of multiculturalism now seem at best incomplete, and at worst outdated, resting on assumptions and preconditions that may no longer apply. —Will Kymlicka, 2015, p. 244
Interculturalism goes beyond the mere recognition of cultural diversity. It encourages individuals to engage with one another and learn from each other's cultures. Interculturalism is characterised by a shared experience and mutual respect between cultures that share one common culture, in this case, the Australian culture.
More in line with Australia's cohesive and inclusive society
While multiculturalism acknowledges cultural diversity, it doesn't necessarily promote interaction between cultures which can cause segregation and separate community units, even within communities.
In contrast, interculturalism stresses the importance of engaging and learning from each other's experiences. This approach aims to promote social cohesion and reduce potential conflict between cultural groups, including Australia's broader culture.
Another difference between interculturalism and multiculturalism is how they approach cultural identity. Multiculturalism emphasises the importance of maintaining cultural identity, while interculturalism promotes the idea of a shared experience and identity.
In interculturalism, cultural identity is not fixed but dynamic and evolving, much more reflective of Australia's ever-changing cultural landscape and migration policies.
This approach recognises that cultural identity is not static and that individuals may have multiple cultural identities that are influenced by their experiences and interactions with different cultures, particularly the culture of the country they live in.
The future for a culturally-sustainable society?
As well-intentioned as the concept might be, today's reality is that multiculturalism is outdated and separates society more than it unites it.
Interculturalism aims to celebrate differences, increase social connections, and promote a united Australia bonded by the many cultures we have to share.
With Australia's ever-increasing population, continuing to move towards a more socially cohesive and inclusive society in the years ahead will come with its challenges.
Interculturalism aims to proactively address these challenges by taking advantage of Australia's national strength, 'the blending of histories and cultures which has resulted in a unique Australian identity'—an intercultural identity.
We must recognise that our uniqueness as Australians is something to embrace and celebrate, not separate.
Approaching the review from an intercultural lens is the key to strengthening Australia's cohesion.
What are your thoughts on multiculturalism versus interculturalism? Do you think it’s time that Australia adopts a more culturally inclusive and united society? Join me on LinkedIn to discuss.