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15 February 2012
A new book being launched today by Deakin academics proposes fresher solutions to helping migrants to settle in Australia than those posed by Coalition multicultural affairs spokeswoman Teresa Gambaro last month.
Director of Deakin University's strategic research, Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation, Professor Fethi Mansouri, who with Dr Michele Lobo edited the book 'Migration, Citizenship and Intercultural Relations: Looking through the Lens of Social Inclusion' said if governments truly wanted to address issues of migration and citizenship, the solution rested not just with individuals but key social and political institutions as well.
"Specifically social inclusion and the enabling policies surrounding it needs to create a vision of an Australian citizenry which places a value on cultural diversity rather than dealing with it as an issue to be managed," Professor Mansouri said.
Professor Mansouri said the book reflected a lot of the research done and accumulated in the Centre about the tensions that arise when there is increased cultural diversity in a nation.
"Ultimately these tensions can lead to the exclusion of minority groups and that exclusion means that not only do people feel discriminated against at a personal level but more critically they feel excluded by key institutions in the public sphere," he said.
"The question is 'how can we achieve a democratic governance of super diversity brought about as it is by more diverse migration programs?'."
Professor Mansouri added that migration has become a challenging phenomenon for policy makers as "migrants nowadays come from diverse regions ranging from Africa, to the Middle East and South America to mention just a few."
"Migrants can include students, those coming through temporary visa programs or humanitarian grounds," he said.
"All these groups face substantial challenges."
Professor Mansouri said the book used insights from social inclusion and citizenship theories as well as comparative empirical data that went beyond the ideologically polarised debates about migration.
"We test a range of common assumptions for example the notion that increased diversity produces a less cohesive society because people bring with them heritage cultures and associated divided loyalties," he said.
"This assumption is problematic because it assumes diversity is a social disadvantage and it predicts that with time migrants should be able to gradually shed their heritage culture in favour of the dominant mainstream culture.
"Yet both assumptions are not borne out by empirical evidence and indeed the opposite is true."
Professor Mansouri said the book also reflected on the issue of cultural adaptation and how migrants negotiated their own identity while trying to settle into a new country and nation.
"How do migrants negotiate their heritage identity while they settle into their new country?" he asked. "How do they embrace and construct their new national identity?"
Professor Mansouri said the book also considered how the challenges of citizenship, identity and cultural maintenance played out in different spheres, such as in schools, the courts, migration policy and the media.
"Racism and xenophobic attitudes are, among other things, personal responses to the tensions created by having a diverse society, but for these personal tendencies to be rectified institutions have to also reform from within so that they are better able to serve and support a population in its entirety," he said.
"This will be a way of moving things forward."
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