NFP Sector Must do More to Embrace Diversity
3 March 2016 at 9:53 am
While Not for Profits and charities work to embrace and promote diversity, the social sector must do more to bridge the gaps that marginalise minority groups, a social cohesion forum has revealed.
Australian Red Cross hosted the National Practitioners’ Forum on Wednesday to discuss the issue of racism, exclusion, marginalisation and disadvantage experienced by minority groups within Australia.
The conference aimed to advance cultural, linguistic and religious diversity in Australian communities and give practitioners practical tools and advice to better address cultural inclusion.
The forum hosted panellists from different backgrounds and perspectives to highlight the role of the social sector in further embracing diversity.
CEO of Welcome to Australia, Mohammed Al-Khafaji, said that the sector was “very aware” that diversity was something that needed to be throughout the entire organisation and “being aware is the first step to being socially cohesive”.
He said that this was a major step, as it puts the sector in a good position to ensure that diversity is embraced. However, he said that this needed to be more than a token gesture.
“I think there are some organisations out there that are implementing diversity for the sake of having a brown person on board,” Al-Khafaji said.
“When talking about diversity, it is not just cultural – it’s gender diversity, it’s sexual orientation diversity.”
Dr Justine Dandy, from Edith Cowan University’s School of Psychology and Social Science, echoed this sentiment.
“We forget that our diverse community is not just migrants but extends to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders,” Dr Dandy said.
Al-Khafaji said that the sector’s main role was to facilitate and give agency to newly arrived people, as well as those from minority groups.
“Mentor them into leadership roles, not as a gesture, but because they are skilled and capable,” he said.
CEO of the Scanlon Foundation, Anthea Hancocks, provided statistics on the current level of Australia’s social cohesion through a detailed social research survey.
She said the results showed that 86 per cent of Australians believed that multiculturalism was good for Australia, and 93 per cent of respondents (from a randomly surveyed audience) felt a sense of belonging in Australia.
However, 15 per cent of people felt discrimination on a regular and frequent basis. One-quarter of Australians also believed that people should assimilate to the Australian way of life, and that newly arrived people should “speak our language”.
The survey also found that 25 per cent of Australians held negative attitudes towards Muslim people. And when surveyed online in an anonymous setting this number rose to 40 per cent.
Hancocks put forward questions asking how the social sector can look at changing these statistics.
She said that there was more that could be done and, by answering these questions, Australia would move toward greater inclusion.
“Will young people continue to remain open minded? Have we embraced multilingualism? When will Aboriginal languages begin to be taught in schools? When will we stop using terms such as refugee and low socioeconomic?” Hancocks said.