Monash University
MMIC-2020-RIOSC-final_report.pdf.pdf (12.94 MB)

Understanding the context of racial and cultural exclusivism: A study of Melbourne neighbourhoods (Final Report)

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posted on 2020-04-06, 03:06 authored by Rebecca Wickes, Michele Grossman, Helen Forbes-Mewett, Dharmalingham, Arunachalam, Jonathan Smith, Zlatko Skrbis, Hass Dellal, Chloe Keel
The growth in Australia’s population from increased immigration is changing the ethnic, socio-structural and physical landscapes of urban neighbourhoods and significantly altering relationships within these areas (Australian Government, 2013; Hugo, 2008). These changes can be enormously positive, but can also pose a challenge for the development and maintenance of neighbourhood networks and social inclusion. With a sizeable number of Australians viewing immigration as a strain on economic resources and a threat to Australian identity and values (Dunn, Forrest, Burnley, & McDonald, 2004; Kamp, Alam, Blair, & Dunn, 2017), there is an urgent need to better understand the contextual dynamics that shape interethnic relationships.

Despite a long history of largely successful multicultural policies and programs, recent surveys in Australia reveal that approximately 30 per cent of Australians do not believe that immigration from diverse countries makes us stronger and, further, they consider the current intake of immigrants as ‘too high’ (Markus, 2018). Negative attitudes against Muslims are also increasing (Markus, 2018) and native-born Australians are more likely to report high levels of social disorder and withdrawal from some aspects of community life in ethnically diverse neighbourhoods (Wickes, Hipp, Zahnow, & Mazerolle, 2013; Wickes, Zahnow, White, & Mazerolle, 2013). These findings suggest that although immigration brings national economic, social and cultural benefits, there is growing endorsement of exclusivist attitudes towards migrants.

Countering exclusivist discourses can only succeed if initiatives address the underlying factors that allow these narratives to resonate with individuals. Evidence from other countries suggests that socially harmful exclusivism concentrates in neighbourhoods, especially segregated neighbourhoods and those with large proportions of non-White/European residents (Ramalingam, Glennie and Feve, 2012). In Australia, and specifically Victoria, we know little about the spatial concentration of socially harmful exclusivism as no large-scale Australian study examines whether these attitudes cluster in particular neighbourhoods. Furthermore, we do not know how and under what conditions these attitudes may lead to potentially harmful actions.

This report examines the individual-level drivers of social exclusivism while also considering the role of the neighbourhood context and neighbourhood cohesion. A key goal of this research was to better understand the ways in which the local context encourages or prevents the development of exclusivist sentiments, attitudes and endorsement of actions that seek to exclude migrants, especially in areas experiencing significant changes in the ethnic composition. Linked to this goal was a focus on identifying the specific characteristics of the local context that distinguish areas with higher levels of socially harmful exclusivism from those with lower levels.


Social Cohesion Research Grants Program, Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet


Publication date

March 2020