Regarding Rights

Academic and activist perspectives on human rights

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The way to a cohesive society: cultural assimilation or structural inclusion?

By Ibolya (Ibi) Losoncz*, RegNet, ANU

Australian Government poster displayed between 1949 and 1951 in reception rooms and dining halls at various migrant reception centres in Australia. (Image courtesy of the NAA/Wikipedia).

Australian Government poster displayed between 1949 and 1951 in various migrant reception centres. (Image courtesy of the NAA/Wikipedia).

Increased international migration, including refugee admissions and resettlement, has changed the ethnic make-up of many developed countries. Instead of capitalising on diversity, government policies rely heavily on the assimilation of migrants as a way to create cohesion and unity within mainstream society. In public discourse, assimilation also tends to be portrayed as a precondition for social cohesion. But wouldn’t supporting the economic, social and political participation of newly arrived immigrants while acknowledging their diverse cultures be a more effective way of building a cohesive society? A critical look at Australia’s humanitarian resettlement program provides valuable insights to this important question.

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