Settlement Services International (SSI) has welcomed the Scanlon Foundation Research Institute’s 2020 Mapping Social Cohesion Report and its findings that Australians continue to show strong support for multiculturalism and immigration, yet SSI is concerned about the continuing evidence of high levels of racism against migrants from non-English speaking backgrounds.
The report, released last week, shows even with the great challenges Australians faced during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Australians are united and optimistic about their future and have the highest level of trust in one another in more than a decade.
It shows strong support for Australian multiculturalism (84%, up from 80% in 2019), that 71 per cent of Australians believe immigration makes us stronger, and that 83 per cent of respondents agree that immigration is good for Australia’s economy.
While reported experiences of discrimination remain stable, migrants born in non-English speaking countries continue to bear the brunt of it and are almost twice as likely to report experiences of discrimination (32%) compared to other migrants from English-speaking countries (15%) and those born in Australia (14%).
There is also continuing evidence of a relatively high level of negative opinion towards Australians of Asian, African and Middle Eastern background. For example, 35 per cent of respondents reported negative attitudes towards people of Muslim faith, although this figure had declined since 2018.
The report also showed high levels of concern within the Asian Australian population, with 39 per cent of respondents born in an Asian country indicating an experience of discrimination in the previous 12 months.
The proportion of respondents who viewed “racism in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic” as a problem was a relatively high 39 per cent.
One in three respondents who were born in Australia, the United Kingdom and Ireland viewed racism as a problem, compared with one in two respondents born in an Asian country.
SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis AM said she was encouraged that the vast majority of Australians welcomed people from all backgrounds and that there continued to be a strong level of endorsement of immigration and multiculturalism.
However, she stressed that more must be done to counter racist attitudes.
While acknowledging the federal government had committed significant funds toward social cohesion measures, Ms Roumeliotis endorsed calls for the government to invest specifically in anti-racism programs and initiatives.
“I am particularly disheartened to see there are still consistently strong anti-Muslim attitudes in our society,” she said.
“And, when nearly 40 per cent of Asia-born Australians report experiencing discrimination, we clearly need some kind of a national anti-racism strategy.”