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Is Australia Tolerant of Other Cultures?


In this blog, we give a synopsis of research carried out by the Challenging Racism Project.

As a cultural training company, this research is particularly interesting to us as it highlights the importance of cultural understanding in the battle against racism. 

 A survey by ‘The Challenging Racism Project has revealed some encouraging results about the condition of racial relations in Australia.

The lead researcher Professor Kevin Dunn, from the University of Western Sydney, said that the results have shown that: 

“Australia is in fact a very tolerant country...but [that] there is a problem with racism [within some areas]”. 

A survey of over 12,500 people, carried out across all areas in Australia and over the time period of a decade showed that Australians are, on the whole, supportive of and comfortable with the growing levels of multiculturalism in Australia:


  • 90% of the 12,500 people surveyed over the past decade expressed support of cultural diversity and cultural differences. 
  • 80% of this same group said that they were comfortable and at ease being in intercultural settings. 


It was acknowledged by the overwhelming majority of the people surveyed (84%) that there is still a problem with racial prejudice in Australia. Over half of this group stated that they also felt that particular cultural groups did not fit into Australian culture. Could this reveal that an unconscious level of prejudice is still present in the Australian population despite their claims to be culturally-tolerant?

This dissonance suggests that many Australians express that they are culturally tolerant whilst demonstrating bias and prejudice on an unconscious level.

When researchers analysed this area of data more carefully, they found this group was primarily represented by older, white Australian males with limited education. Younger people with greater educational backgrounds were less likely to display the same levels of unconscious prejudice.  

When it came to geographical trends, New South Wales demonstrated greater prejudice than other states, with Strathfield demonstrating the highest levels of racism (a conclusion reached by studying reported insecurities in relation to cultural differences and police reports of racist incidents).  

The reason?   Strathfield is a very diverse and multicultural population. Prof. Dunn explained that it's not because the people of Strathfield are inherently more racist.  Instead, it is due to increased diversity and multiculturalism, "a person of non-Anglo background is actually less likely to experience racism in [those] places of diversity than if they were in places of less diversity”.

Although there might be a pattern of prejudice in more culturally diverse areas, the relationship is by no means concrete as other suburbs, such as Ashfield and Burwood, which are also culturally diverse, showed no increased level of racial discomfort or discriminative acts. Instead, it seems that racism is often highly specific to small areas within a region, so within New South Wales the Far North and Central West achieved good levels of tolerance.

Further to this Prof. Dunn also highlights that “longer histories of cultural diversity” and “local programmes confronting racism” play their part in affecting the levels of tolerance found in a region.

Overall, the message remains a positive one; Prof. Dunn hopes that the specific pockets of information regarding certain demographics and areas will help improve local racial strategies as well as wider national policy.

Online Cultural Awareness Training Course

If you're interested in culture and want to get the best out of your intercultural relationships, then enrol on our comprehensive online Cultural Awareness Training course. Jam packed with everything you need to know, this course will help you to navigate cultural differences positively, with confidence and credibility. 

Photo by Patrick McGregor on Unsplash

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