Aussie Cohesion Report Reflects Complex Change
29 October 2015 at 10:00 am
Australians are accepting of cultural diversity and immigration, but concerned about changes impacting on social justice, according to new social cohesion research released by the Scanlon Foundation.
Produced in partnership with Monash University and the Australian Multicultural Foundation, the 2015 Mapping Social Cohesion Report tracks public attitudes on issues including immigration, multiculturalism, discrimination and belonging, and maps the national mood via the Scanlon-Monash Index of Social Cohesion.
Report author, Professor Andrew Markus said while the overall shift in the Scanlon-Monash Index of social cohesion was positive, the domain of social justice and equity had slipped. And, in 2015, the Index sits at the third lowest point since 2007.
“The upward trend in the social cohesion index shows that overall, Australia remains a stable and highly cohesive society. It shows experience of discrimination based on ethnic background and religion has lessened from 18 per cent to 15 per cent since last year, and there continues to be a high level of acceptance of immigration and cultural diversity,” Professor Markus said.
“Most people (86 per cent) agree that multiculturalism has been good for Australia – almost the same proportion as in 2013 and 2014.
“However, in the domain of social justice, there has been a decline in satisfaction since the election of the Coalition government. This reflects concern over lack of support for those on low incomes, the increasing gap between rich and poor, and continuing low trust in government.”
He said trust in government has been down since 2009.
“Just 16 per cent of respondents agreed that the system of government we have in Australia works fine as it is, and only 30 per cent agree that government can be trusted to do the right thing for Australian people ‘almost always’ or ‘most of the time’,” he said.
Key findings also show that in 2015, economic concerns remain on top in the ranking of the most important issue facing Australia today, with national security, terrorism, and social issues ranking second.
“Economic issues have ranked first as a major problem facing Australia in the last four surveys, but concern is not increasing. In 2015, 24 per cent of people have indicated dissatisfaction with their present financial situation – this was the same last year,” Markus said.
“The most significant change has been in concern for national security and terrorism, which has increased from less than one per cent in 2014, to 10 per cent in 2015.”
Social issues, including childcare, family breakdown and drug use, also ranked higher. The report said the proportion of respondents who see this as the top issue facing Australia has doubled since 2012. Concern over the affordability of housing also registered an increase.
The level of concern about immigration remains at the lowest point recorded by the Scanlon Foundation surveys – just 35 per cent of respondents consider that the intake is too high.
Markus said that since 2014, there has been little change in attitudes toward asylum seekers arriving by boat – just one in four people consider that they should be eligible for permanent settlement in Australia.
In response to questions on integration, two-thirds of respondents agreed that Australians should do more to learn about the customs and heritage of immigrants, while a similar proportion agreed that immigrants should change their behaviour to be more like Australians.
The survey found considerable support for the idea that both people born in Australia and immigrants needed to adapt to life in a changing Australia.
Scanlon Foundation CEO, Anthea Hancocks, said the Mapping Social Cohesion report provided valuable insight for government, business and the community.
“Australia’s diverse culture is one of its most defining characteristics. Understanding public attitudes through this report, is one way to ensure we address issues that are crucial to sustaining social cohesion,” Hancocks said.
Residents in regional Australia have lower support for immigration, cultural diversity and the resettlement of asylum seekers arriving by boat in Australia than respondents living in capital cities.
The report found that residents in Melbourne and Canberra have the highest level of support for cultural diversity, compared with those in Brisbane and Perth who are most negative.
The lowest level of trust in the Federal Government was in Victoria, the highest level in Queensland and Western Australia.
The 2015 survey was conducted in June and July and employed a national representative sample of 1500 respondents.