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The 4 Progressive Stages of Australia's Multicultural Policy

NB - These views below do not constitute the views of Global Kids Oz or staff, they are simply facts as we know it within Australian history of Multiculturalism and integration. Global Kids Oz supports inclusion of all cultures, hence why Global Kids Oz was created to provide teachers and parents with the resources needed to support Multicultural education and inclusion of all


An obscure conception from the early 20th century, assimilation defined the procedure for making minorities equivalent to majorities - for Indigenous people, the "full bloods" would gradually die out and the "mixed bloods" would become like whites. 

For immigration after the Second World War, it implied that the cultural baggage that folks brought in would be left behind on the wharves, and they'd become New Australians.

 For minorities, assimilation meant their culture had to be forsaken under threat, and they had to accommodate someone else's ideal of what “normal” people were like.  For majorities, it meant that newcomers and cultural outsiders made a good choice about living here, and it meant they should attempt to harmonise and not offend or scare longer-term residents. 

Assimilation was therefore the sharp point between cultures - one side meant the triumph of the majority, the other the cultural endurance of the minority.

 Assimilation was the prescribed policy towards Indigenous people and immigrants until the 1960's, when Australia signed the International Convention To Eradicate All Forms Of Racial Discrimination.  Afterwards, indigenous policy proceeded towards self-government, and immigration policy to integration (the first generation kept it's culture), and then to multiculturalism (several cultures in one society).


Integration dictated that individuals were permitted to continue their group cultures, while the group was recognised in broader society. 

It indicates a segmentation between those aspects of cultural life that are personal and group-based and those that necessitate individuals to mingle within broader social systems.

Integration became Australian government policy in the late 60's, when assimilation became insupportable internationally because it demanded inhibition or rejection of minority cultures.  It accredited the part that ethnic groups and organisations represented as intercessors between recently arrived cultural minorities and the broader social institutions from the receiving society. 

It assumed that the first generation would encounter difficulties in regards to change, but their children would be tantamount to the children of people who had been in Australia for generations.

While it endorsed language services and so forth for the minorities, it still coerced children to move away from their parental cultures.  So it's a representative but constricting position - a rather reluctant toleration of difference but corroborated by a desire to eliminate it.  For some of the majority communities it was a way of paying lip-service to diversity while upholding a route towards assimilation.  For others it was a beneficial compromise - guaranteeing that fresh arrivals align themselves to the host society on arrival, at the moderate cost of subordinate services.


Multiculturalism refers to a policy formulated in the 70's by Australian governments searching for a means of superseding assimilation policies. 

It was founded on the notion that society would function better if people felt their cultural beliefs were honoured and that they didn't have to forsake their values to be conceived as respectable Australians.  Multiculturalism was put into operation after 1978, with a number of fundamental programs - in media (the creation of the Special Broadcasting Service), in service delivery (access and equity), in employment (equal opportunity) and in broader social development (productive diversity).

In 1989 a bipartisan agreement was achieved to sustain multiculturalism. It had 4 principal components:

1. An allegiance to Australia with English as the national language

2. The acceptance of cultural diversity

3. The prerequisite of the government to acknowledge that diversity

4. Productive diversity and social justice.

Nevertheless in 1996, the new Government pulled back from multiculturalism, manifesting the PM's opinion that it wasn't a feasible doctrine, and subverted the Australian values he embraced.  After a number of years of extensive debate, a new affirmation of Australian Multiculturalism was assumed in 1999 with social justice withdrawn, and which demanded a lower degree of government commitment.

Many conservative groups considered that it should have been discarded and all programs that supported it should have been shut down.  Then again, most people acknowledged the realism of Australia as a multicultural society and were proud of the diversity of culture and the undreamed of success of different ethnic communities getting along together with minimal conflict and a good deal of reciprocal benefit.


The politics of acknowledgement sees inclusiveness as an objective for all societies - that is, for a democracy to be effective, everyone needs to feel that they have a stake in it, and that their presence is acknowledged and respected. 

Inclusive societies acknowledge cultural deviations and transform themselves to make it conceivable for people of different backgrounds and cultures to take part.  But they also emphasise that the procedure functions in many directions - one can only be included if one also bestows acknowledgement on those who are different.

So, inclusiveness can be code for campaigning hard for identification with the national interest and national values as specified by the majority community. 

Or, it can be code for an innovative multiculturalism that makes no demands of anyone that they assimilate, as long as they permit others to get on with their lives however they wish.

Global Kids Oz supports inclusion of all cultures, hence why Global Kids Oz was created to provide teachers and parents with the resources needed to support Multicultural education and inclusion of all.  Feel free to continue to peruse our website catalogue to see our vast range of resources available

Multicultural resources, Indigenous, Maori, Cultural Diversity in childcare, multiculturalism, cultural learning resources