Aussie Public Spaces Breed Racial Segregation - Study
3 April 2014 at 9:29 am
A study that explores the role of public spaces in promoting understanding and contact between different racial groups has revealed that Australian public spaces reinforce racial segregation and isolation.
The Melbourne University study, in collaboration with Deakin University, found that English-speaking white people tended to interact predominantly with other majority group members, and were more likely to “self-segregate” or “stick together”.
The study followed 974 people, with most occurring in sports settings (40.7 per cent), shopping centres (24.9 per cent) and libraries.
Researchers observed the physical appearance of major and minority groups, such as skin colour, clothing items such as a hijab or turban and language use or linguistic cues.
“This supports evidence that, generally, the preference of the majority will have a stronger impact on segregation patterns than those of the minority, such as that minority people are likely to be socially isolated (i.e. no contact) when majority members self-segregate,” Lead researcher Dr Naomi Priest, from the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, said.
She said this study could inform policies to reduce racism, promote cultural diversity and as a consequence, better the health of the community.
Dr Priest suggested strategies to promote accessibility could include having structured activities in public spaces such as community arts programs and sports teams or cultural training in the workplace, to build empathy and understanding.
Previous studies have shown that racism could also have detrimental effects on health outcomes for individuals as well as for communities and this study demonstrated how public spaces can impact community health and wellbeing, she said.
“Racism is known to detrimentally affect a range of health outcomes, including both mental and physical health,” Dr Priest said.
“The findings of this study highlight important behavioural targets for intervention to reduce racism and provide specific and contextual information regarding interactions within public settings. In particular, targeting public spaces as settings for intergroup contact as well as to promote accessibility and use by those from minority backgrounds."