Race, Ethnicity and Representation Essay Example

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Origin of multiculturalism in Australia

According to Satzewich & Liodakis (2017) Australia has a well-functioning and a highly successful multicultural society. This is despite its enormous religious and cultural diversity, diverse immigration and a racist past. Multiculturalism can therefore have many definition, it refers to an ideological concept to be aspired, about how a diverse should be just or organized. Rather than a ghettoized collection of an individual’s cultural elements, it is a defined culture ideally centered on a cohesive society. Multiculturalism is made up of most important foundation stones that include the following; equality, fairness, justice and non-discrimination. Over the years multiculturalism has served a variety of goals in pursuit of social justice, migrant’s integration, identity recognition, diversity appreciation and maintenance of social cohesion in Australia.

Canada in the last understanding of the world is recognized as the birth place of multiculturalism. Biddle, Khoo, & Taylor (2015) states that this is due to the mass immigration experienced by 1980s that led to 40% of the population neither being French nor British. Today Canada is ranked to be among the highest in immigration per capital rates with approximately 41% of the Canadians being first or second –generation immigrants. This therefore translates to mean that, out of every five Canadians living in Canada one was not born in the country.

Multiculturalism in Canada began when Pierre Trudeau the prime minister of the then federal government of Canada declared the countries commitment to the multicultural principle in 1971 (Satzewich & Liodakis, 2017). A policy was as well formalized to promote and protect diversity, support the use of two official languages in Canada and recognize the rights of aboriginal peoples. In addition, in 1973, a multiculturalism ministry was further established as well as Canadian Multiculturalism Consultative Council.

The multiculturalism concept was later to be acknowledged in the 1982 charter of rights and freedom which stated that it will be interpreted in a consisted manner and with enhancement and preservation of the Canadians multicultural heritage. Moreover, in 1988 on 21st July, the Canadian Multiculturalism Act was passed by the Progressive Conservative Government of Brian Mulroney. In this Act, it formalized the commitment of the government to promotion of full and equitable community and individual participation of all origins in the shaping of all aspects with a continued evolution of the Canadian society. This would therefore be achieved by establishing a legislation to protect linguistic, ethnic, racial and religious diversity within Canada (Satzewich & Liodakis, 2017).

Furthermore, Stop Racism Campaign programs were later developed in Canada to address bias and hatred. Most recently, the programs have shifted to support of new arrivals and immigration issues. This further includes employment access and professional accreditation assistance. The programs have also developed educational initiatives such as recognition of certain ethnic group’s historic significance. The black history month for example educates young Canadians about the black community and Canadian history.

An academic Zubrzycki was part of the movement that in 1968 that pressurized the government about its policies. Consisting of various groups they were concerned about the Australian old world attitude and the welfare of the migrants. In an idea of what He called the cultural pluralism He voiced the concerns of hopes for his movement. The movements’ idea challenged the cultural groups of Australia to maintain their ethnic traditions but share the idea of assimilation through sharing the Australian identity and the democratic society institutions. The ideas went on to influence the government policies though they were not very well received. In 1971 a multicultural movement was formed. Through the immigration department advisory committees’ ideas, reports to government were put forward. The immigration minister Al Grassby in the Whitlam government who was elected in 1972 was open to the ideas (Gauja, 2015).

By 1973 the white Australian policy was officially ended by the government by dropping all the references to race and the immigration policy. The immigrants were no longer to be chosen on basis of race, color or religion but were rather to be chosen on eligibility of various categories and merit. Leading up to 1974 election, the multicultural activists lobbied Malcom Fraser the then opposition immigration spokesman into pressuring the Liberal Party into including the ideas into their own policies (Gauja, 2015). In the following year it was termed illegal to discriminate people in an official capacity on the basis of race after the Racial Discrimination Act of 1975 was introduced. Multiculturalism therefore through the two decades became the subjects of many groups. To formulate multicultural practices, in the late 1980s through the prime minister Bob Hawke a multicultural affairs office was set up.

Descriptive and substantive representation

Our society is essentially democratic but to think that our constitution has remained for that reason is much more plausible. In the influential work of Robert Dahl, He states that the norms of a nation and the protection of its minority are more essential to the integrity of the Nations democracy than the constitution institutional barriers. A representative democracy that lends stability to the system requires pro-democratic feeling and behavior among its citizen (Biddle, Khoo, & Taylor, 2015). A descriptive representation is one of the possible ways to increase positive feelings particularly on the minority towards the government and the attitude of representation of the need of all people.

It refers to a situation when outward physical appearance of the constituents, such as gender, race or ethnicity resemble that of the governing official. For the people interested in the minorities’ adequate presentation in the house, it is particularly a normative concern as to whether descriptive presentation might lead to substantive presentation (Satzewich & Liodakis, 2017). The substantive effects on the local level due to descriptive representation such as in employment of civil servants and police officers seems to disappear on the federal level. Nevertheless, other scholarly articles have purported to point out the link between policy output and descriptive presentation.

Even though there is a mixed evidence demonstrating the connection between substantive and descriptive evidence, for many reasons descriptive representation maybe important. This is in particular with how the political system engages and evaluates persons with color. For example in the united states an increase in equalities such as efficacy and higher levels of political knowledge that are often deemed valuables to democratic citizens have all been linked to descriptive presentation. Descriptive presentation in some instances have been linked to a high number of voter turnout. Many scholars have explored its effect on the citizen’s participation and have found out that with the political systems among communities with color there are more limited work on a broad range of engagement and attitude towards the system. In descriptive presentation the normative argument is that each political institution in the system should reflect the composition of the community or population that they serve.

Factors for under-representation of MEM groups in Australian Federal Government

Under-representation of the minority groups in Australia could be caused by certain barriers. The threshold barriers refers to those which must be overcome if possible before the local participation in the formal bodies of representatives (Gauja, 2015, p). This includes the right to stand for election, the ability to understand the system and the right to vote. Another indigenous barrier is a right to vote. Though essential in democratic effective participation, the right was originally denied to the indigenous Australians living in the Western Australia, Queensland and Northern territory. By 1965 the indigenous Australians were granted the right to vote and Neville Bonner became the first indigenous to be elected into parliament.

In education and system of government, there is a big difference between the traditional indigenous government systems and those that are being used today. The indigenous Australians are hence unable to participate and identify with the contemporary representative bodies. Political presentation procedures of the Australians are foreign and difficult to embrace. The aboriginals on the contrary are said to prefer small to large political units. For an effective system in democratic participation, the participants are required to understand the system. A voter education program was thus set in 1979 by Fraser government (Gauja, 2015). It was later renamed to Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Electrol Information Service that was later closed in 1996 due to withdrawal of the Commonwealth funds. On the right to vote, the non-citizens have right to vote, members of many ethnic minorities can therefore be isolated for an immigrant nation such as Australia.

The low rates of citizenship by naturalization for non-English speaking immigrants forms the basis of the low numbers of ethnic representatives at all government levels. Other barriers include structural barriers, this are barriers that reduce the likelihood of the minorities increase in the representation level (Satzewich & Liodakis, 2017). Similarly, they exist within the Australian levels and they include the electoral system design and party pre-selection. For a parliamentary election, nomination is required and generally joining one of the major political parties before successfully contesting for a pre-selection process. However the indigenous Australians find it hard to win the pre-selection. In addition the, according to each legislative chamber and party, the process of candidates selection differs. The need for the internal support branch for finance and campaign must take into account such factors for the lower house pre-selection.

The political party’s internal practices have a significant impact to the parliament presence of the minority and ethnic members. Therefore in Australia the selection of a candidate lies in the hands of state level executives or a small number of local party members (Satzewich & Liodakis, 2017). Like in the United States, a system of primary elections is not available in Australia. The final barrier in the representation of the minorities is the electoral system. The votes cast in a general election are translated into seats won by candidates and parties. Therefore, a system based on majority rules is what is required to treat people as equals in a diverse society. Representation in parliament of smaller parties will increase only if the proportional representation of the electoral fortunes of smaller parties (Biddle, Khoo, & Taylor, 2015.)

Institutional representative reflection on ethno cultural diversity

Regarding the composition of the Australian population, the following comments can be made based on the fourteenth Australian national census that was held on 7th of August 2001. On the night of the census, the Australian population was recorded to be 18,769,249 (Satzewich & Liodakis, 2017). Basing on the estimation of the resident population, the population as at 30th of June 2001 was 19.4 million. The Australian residence population have increased by nearly 1.1 million people between 1996 and 2001. The majority however, 57% of this growth was from natural increase, while the remaining 43% are overseas migration.

According to a previous research, it was revealed that ethnic organizations and constituents are happy and prefer to have an Anglo-Australian MP representing their electorates. This is in reference to the following reasons; according to Gauja, (2015) it is a common believe to many that by having an ethnic MP will lead to a higher expectations about what will be achieved to the members of that ethnic community. Similarly, they will face a greater disappointment when they realize that this is not the case. The other reason is that an Anglo-Australian MP will engender greater trust among the ethnic constituents in the face of conflicting community demands as there is an increased chance that the MP will appear as being neutral rather than favoring his or her own ethnic background. Finally, on any particular issue, the ethnic MP will be compromised to favoring the ethnic groups by making strong statements supporting their positions within their party or in parliament on issues relating to homeland politics (Biddle, Khoo, & Taylor, 2015).

In a scholarly article by James Jupp further appears that the ALP won nearly all the electorates in the October 2004 federal election with a high immigrant’s population. This however did not win them with the ethnic candidates. Ethnic minorities therefore, in assessing electoral candidates they tend to place a greater importance on their members. Rather than placing greater importance on the members approach to particular issues or policies, they insist on the members approach to constituency work.

Representative institutions are clear vital components of democratic institutions. In particular, one can however not presume that it is important to note all acts of representation are equally democratic. Nevertheless, within an institution, not all acts of representation in a representative democracy are democratic. Various scholars have explored the undemocratic ways that some bureaucratic members can represent citizens. Similarly, it is unclear to determine whether an institutional representative that actively seeks to dismantle democratic institutions is democratically represented. Democratic citizens are certainly likely to disagree with what democratic representation constitutes.

Within democratic politics different and conflicting standards can be used to evaluate representatives using one popular approach to address, which is to equate multiple standards with simple democratic ones (Gauja, 2015). To be more specific, it is further argued that the standards are pluralistic, and used by democratic citizens. It is however unclear, in the four different forms of representation standards that Mansbridge identifies, how they should relate to each other. Moreover, the same omission can be found in Pitkin. This omission reflects the lacunae in the formalistic representation literature relating to descriptive and substantive representation. It is not apparent without specifications how citizens can determine if the powers of authorization and accountability are adequate.

In conclusion, the current trend with democratic representation it is not exactly clear what makes any given form of representation consistent? Existence of fluid and multiple standards is one tendency to simply adequate democratic representation. It should therefore no longer be presumed that institutional representation is democratic since the same actions can be used to dissolve democratic institutions (Biddle, Khoo, & Taylor, 2015).


Biddle, N., Khoo, S., & Taylor, J. (2015). Indigenous Australia, White Australia, Multicultural Australia: The Demography of Race and Ethnicity in Australia. The International Handbook of the Demography of Race and Ethnicity, 599-622. doi:10.1007/978-90-481-8891-8_28

Gauja, A. (2015). The State Of Democracy And Representation In Australia. Representation51(1), 23-34. doi:10.1080/00344893.2015.1023098

Satzewich, V., & Liodakis, N. (2017). «Race» and ethnicity in Canada: A critical introduction.