Three changes the Turnbull Government has made to Australia’s Multicultural Statement


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MALCOLM Turnbull has released a new statement redefining what it means to be part of “multicultural Australia”.

The Prime Minister launched the statement today, the first time it has been changed since Labor’s Julia Gillard released her government’s version in 2011. The statement was first released in 1996.

The latest multicultural statement includes British and Irish settlers as being part of the makeup of ‘multicultural Australia’, not just ethnic minorities and indigenous people.

Mr Turnbull emphasised this in his statement today too.

“Australians look like every face, every race, every background because we define ourselves and our nation by our commitment to shared political values, democracy, freedom and the rule of law,” he said.

“We are as old as our first Australians … and yet we are as young as the baby in the arms of her migrant mother who could have come from any nation, any faith, any race. We are an immigrant nation”.

Professor Andrew Markus, who conducts research on immigration, diversity and public opinion, said broadening the definition of multiculturalism was a good thing.

“It’s much more inclusive, it’s makes it clear that multiculturalism is not about ‘them’, it’s about all of us,” he told

“It’s a very positive reframing in my view.”

While the new statement also emphasises learning English and talks about the threat of terrorism, Prof Markus said he didn’t think there was a big change and it was “essentially a reaffirmation of the value of multiculturalism”.

“What’s particularly significant in the present document, is that it recognises the heightened tension, about terrorism and the domestic implications of that, but it delivers a very strong message on unity, and focuses on what unites us, and on mutual respect.”

One new initiative the government points to in the document, is the reform of settlement services to deliver improved English language, education and employment outcomes for refugees.

But Prof Markus said the imagery used in the statement, which includes many different ethnicities and photos of women wearing the hijab, also kept the focus on diversity, not on Anglo-conformity.

“It talks about mutual respect and racism being incompatible with Australian society, which is as strong as anything in previous documents.”

Here’s what has changed.


The statement specifically mentions British and Irish settlers and includes them as being part of the makeup of ‘multicultural Australia’, not just ethnic minorities and indigenous people.

It says Australia owes its accomplishments to the contributions of more than 300 different ancestries “from the first Australians to the newest arrivals”.

Alongside profiles of Syrian refugee and immigrants from Nigeria, Serbia and Taiwan, it also features a profile of businessman and Scanlon Foundation founder Peter Scanlon, whose grandparents migrated from Ireland in the 1880s.

This is a shift away from the previous statement which talked about government services and programs being responsive to “culturally diverse communities”.



While the previous statement talked about “shared rights and responsibilities”, and that citizens must uphold the country’s laws and democracy, the new statement expands on this.

It specifically points to learning English as something that helps the country sustain unity.

“English is and will remain our national language and is a critical tool for migrant integration”.

However, it also recognises that the country’s “multilingual workforce” is a competitive edge in an increasingly globalised economy.

It also sets out what Australian values are, including “equality of men and women”, “commitment to freedom” and “support of freedom of thought, speech, religion, enterprise and association”.

There is a section that addresses terrorist attacks around the world, and it says “the Australian Government places the highest priority on the safety and security of all Australians”.

“The Government affirms that we best reinforce the safety of the Australian community by focusing on what unites us and addressing our differences through mutual respect,” the statement says.


While the previous statement talked about the importance of government services being “responsive to the needs of Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds”. this has been dropped in the latest version.

The statement also moves away from the government using “the force of the law” to respond to expressions of intolerance and discrimination.

Instead it states “we condemn people who incite racial hatred”, and points to “regular inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue” as a way to reduce tensions.

It also points to settlement programs supporting refugees to become “self-reliant”.

“Settlement programs support migrants to become self-reliant and active members of the Australian community,” the statement says.

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