News National Racism soars, but Australians still support multiculturalism and immigration

Racism soars, but Australians still support multiculturalism and immigration

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Most Australians support multiculturalism, but there are fears racism is being "emboldened". Photo: Getty
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Racial discrimination is twice as common as it was 10 years ago, according to a new report.

One-fifth of Australians say they’ve been discriminated against on the basis of their skin colour, ethnic origin or religion in the past year, according to the Mapping Social Cohesion Report released on Wednesday by the Scanlan Foundation and Monash University.

The rate of racism was at just 7 per cent when the report began in 2007, before reaching 15 per cent in 2015 and rising sharply to 20 per cent.

Report author Professor Andrew Markus said people on the margins had perhaps become more comfortable voicing their intolerance.

“It may be people are more willing to own it,” he told The New Daily.

“Those people who are intolerant may be emboldened in the current environment, to put the window down and shout out, ‘Go back to where you came from’.”

Intolerance was most extreme towards Muslim Australians, with 41 per cent of respondents holding negative views of the religious group – compared to just 6 per cent for Buddhists.

There was also heightened concern about terrorism and national security, which is at 7 per cent, up from just 1 per cent in 2014.

Support for immigration and multiculturalism

But most Australians believe accepting immigrants from diverse cultures makes the country stronger, and Professor Markus said people appeared to be rejecting a push away from multiculturalism.

“There’s a lot of people out there claiming that people have gone sour on immigration and so on, and in fact the numbers haven’t moved,” he said.

“The mix is rife for people to get agitated – and start to sort of, like Dick Smith running campaigns, and One Nation – but when you actually look at the numbers it’s clear that for the majority of Australians, it’s not the case that they’re particularly concerned about immigration.

“It’s not as if it’s not a concern, because nearly 40 per cent of the people indicate that immigration is too high, but that number has not shifted.”

The report found 63 per cent of respondents agree or strongly agree that ‘accepting immigrants from many different countries makes Australia stronger’, compared to 37 per cent of those who think immigration levels are too high. As many as 70 per cent of Australians wanted immigration to be cut back during the recession of the 1990s, Professor Markus said.

Today, 85 per cent of respondents agree that multiculturalism is good for Australia.

The report used a collective sample of 42,000 people from the 10 years it has run since 2007.

Mapping Social Cohesion Report is the largest of its kind, tracking Australian attitudes to immigration, multiculturalism, discrimination and political trust.

It found Australians were also increasingly concerned with social justice and equality.

“People are less certain that if they work hard they’ll actually succeed in society,” Professor Markus said.

Three-quarters of people agree that Australia is a land of opportunity where hard work is rewarded, down from 81 per cent in 2007.

The percentage of Australians who expected their lives to be worse in three or four years has almost doubled over the decade, from 11 per cent in 2007 to 19 per cent in 2017.

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