Record Numbers Of Australians Are Experiencing Racial And Religious Discrimination

But most Australians think multiculturalism has been a good thing.

For the past 10 years the Scanlon Foundation has been tracking Australian’s attitudes on issues like immigration and multiculturalism. The organisation was established  in 2001 to foster social cohesion in Australia. Since 2007 they’ve produced an annual “social cohesion report” based on surveys and focus groups.

Their latest latest report was released today. It’s based on 16 surveys undertaken over the past decade involving more than 35,000 respondents.

The bad news is that 20 percent of Australians said they had experienced discrimination due to their “skin colour, ethnic origin or religion” in the past 12 months. That’s up from 15 percent last year, and it’s the highest level recorded in the survey’s decade long history.


Proportion of the population that have experience racial, ethnic or religious discrimination. Source: Scanlon Foundation

Thirty-two percent of Australians aged 18-24 reported experiencing racial or religious discrimination. While people of all backgrounds and religions experienced some level of discrimination according to the survey, Australian Muslims and migrants from China and India reported the highest levels.

But it’s not all depressing news. Eighty-three percent of Australians think “multiculturalism has been good for Australia” and only 34 percent think immigration levels are too high.

The report also found some pretty interesting breakdowns based on age, gender and class, in terms of Australian’s attitudes towards asylum seekers. While most of the population disapproves of asylum seekers trying to get here by boat, there’s substantial difference amongst different demographic cohorts.

While 54 percent of 18-24 year olds approve of asylum seekers arriving by boat, that number collapses to 18 percent for those over 65. Australians in a financially prosperous position are twice as likely to support boat arrivals compared to those struggling to pay the bills.

Trust In Democracy Is Down

The Scanlon Foundation also surveyed Australians on their attitudes to politics and democracy. Only 29 percent said that the federal government could be “trusted to do the right thing for the Australian people” down from a high of 48 percent in 2009. Again, the results were split on economic lines. Wealthier Australians were more likely to trust the government (probably because things are working out fine for them!) and those not as well off were less trusting.

More than 40 percent of Australians said our political system needed major change or should be replaced entirely.

The broad takeaway from the report is that Australians remain supportive of multiculturalism and immigration, even though a growing proportion of migrants are experiencing discrimination. The race discrimination commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane, said that the Scanlon Foundation’s survey was “confirmation that Australia remains a successful and harmonious nation of immigration.”

In a clear warning to politicians attempting to stoke racial tensions,  Soutphommasane said, “Those who are uncomfortable about multiculturalism do not constitute some ‘silent majority’. The political mainstream mustn’t rush to conclude otherwise.”

Feature image via Twitter/Brandilmelb