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FEATURE ARTICLE 2: AUSTRALIA'S CULTURAL AND LINGUISTIC DIVERSITY
The program is delivered through four key strategies:
Additional information, including examples of community and large scale projects, is on the Diverse Australia Program website <http://www.harmony.gov.au>.
Building community networks
The government recognises and supports the diversity of Australian community life through its Community Liaison Officer network. Through this network, the Australian Government maintains constructive dialogue with over 6000 organisations and individuals with an interest in our multicultural society, including representatives of Australia’s ethnically, culturally and religiously diverse population. This network supports ministerial and departmental attendance at community events and advises the government on local and community relations issues.
Community Liaison Officers work with all levels of government, supporting and sometimes organising community consultations. This work is particularly important when a crisis occurs in Australia or overseas, whether because of a domestic or overseas incident, natural disaster or pandemic.
Establishing links between the government and communities enables the government to better promote community harmony and the benefits of diversity, and to develop informed program and policy responses to community relations issues.
Consultation with community groups is crucial to the development of accessible and responsive policy, programs and services. The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia is the national peak body representing Australians on issues relating to cultural diversity. It is funded by the Australian government to:
The Australian Multicultural Advisory Council was launched by the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, on 17 December 2008.
The 16 member council brings together expertise and networks from across government, community and private sectors to support the Australian Government in developing its cultural diversity programs and communicating with the public on related issues. It considers cultural diversity issues of concern to all Australians, including intolerance, racism and community relations issues, as well as the benefits arising from such diversity.
Council members have not been chosen in any representational capacity, but are a group of individuals who have already contributed significantly to, and reflect, the success of a diverse Australia. The council chair is Mr Andrew Demetriou, the chief executive of the Australian Football League. Biographies of the council members are available on the departmental website at <www.immi.gov.au/about/stakeholder-engagement/national/advisory/amac>.
The Australian Government’s commitment to assisting newly arrived migrants and refugees to fully participate in the community as soon as possible after arrival is achieved through a range of settlement services. They include:
Australian citizenship is an important part of Australia's migration story. More than 4 million people have become Australian citizens since Australian citizenship was introduced in 1949.
Citizenship provides migrants with formal membership of the Australian community and allows them to demonstrate their commitment to our country. The Australian Government views citizenship as a fundamental component of social participation and cohesion and encourages its take-up through active promotion and education.
As permanent residents of Australia, many migrants have already enjoyed living in Australia's free and democratic society. Taking up Australian citizenship brings a range of privileges, such as voting and the right to seek election to Parliament, as well as new responsibilities such as serving on a jury if called to do so.
To encourage active participation and involvement, most people who apply for citizenship are required to demonstrate a basic knowledge of the English language, an adequate knowledge of Australia and of the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship, and an understanding of the nature of their application. However, exemptions exist for some prospective citizens to ensure that Australian citizenship is inclusive and that disadvantaged or vulnerable people also have access to citizenship.
Strengthening Australia’s social cohesion will continue to be a key priority for the Australian Government. The success of settlement, multicultural and citizenship policies and programs to date is reflected in the high take up rate of Australian citizenship. The 2006 Census found almost three-quarters (73%) of people born overseas who had been resident in Australia for two years or more were Australian citizens.
Improving government policies, programs and services
The Australian Government recognises the importance of fair and accessible mainstream policies, programs and services. The Access and Equity Strategy, coordinated by DIAC encourages and supports all federal agencies to respond to the cultural, linguistic and religious diversity of the Australian population in the design, delivery, monitoring and evaluation of their policies, programs and services. This includes government services delivered by contracted service providers.
The Access and Equity Framework contains four principles - responsiveness, communication, accountability and leadership - each of which has a set of strategies to guide its implementation. The framework is contained in the latest report on agencies’ access and equity performance, Access and Equity in Government Services Report 2006-08, available at <www.immi.gov.au/about/reports/access-equity/2008>.
To strengthen the Access and Equity Strategy, from 2009-10 DIAC is encouraging a greater focus on understanding and addressing the barriers to access and equity through increased community consultation and community involvement in improving programs and services. DIAC is also increasing support for agencies to meet their access and equity responsibilities through training seminars and other ongoing guidance.
Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006 Census of Population and Housing
Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Annual Report, 2008-09
Department of Immigration and Citizenship, last viewed November 2009, <http://www.immi.gov.au>
Diverse Australia Program, last viewed November 2009, <http://www.harmony.gov.au>
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