chapter  5
18 Pages

Multiculturalism, social justice and the restructuring of the Australian state

Introduction Under the Labor Government in Australia, the public policy of multiculturalism has had a rocky ride. Throughout the 1980s, it has been subjected to much criticism from both the political Right and the Left, and while it has continued to enjoy the support of the state, the form that this support has taken has undergone several changes. The pluralist emphasis of the Liberal view of multiculturalism has been replaced by a rhetoric of social justice that highlights issues of access, equity and fairness. And, in symbolic terms at least, multiculturalism under Labor appears to have been transformed into a more radical policy. However, when we look at the material resources that have been available to implement multiculturalism, a very different picture emerges. We find that most of the services and programs that are funded under the general label of multiculturalism no longer enjoy the same level of support. Under Labor, many programs, such as the Multicultural Education Program, have been abandoned, while the funding for other programs, such as the Ethnic Schools Program, has been drastically reduced. More significantly, the structure of many welfare services available to migrant and minority groups has changed, with a greater reliance on ‘user-pays’ principles. There would appear to be a fundamental mismatch between Labor’s commitment to the idea of a multiculturalism powered by the principles of social justice and its preparedness to support these principles with appropriate levels of funding and forms of service delivery.