Australia’s New South Wales has most racial tensions

February 23rd, 2011 - 3:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Feb 23 (IANS) Australia’s New South Wales state has most racial tensions while the state of Victoria recorded one of the lowest levels, a study released Wednesday said.The state reported the highest levels of anti-Muslim attitudes (54.4 percent) according to the study conducted by the University of Western Sydney, the Age reported.

Anti-Muslim sentiment in Sydney’s central-west corridor, the arena for the federal election’s racial tussles, ran as high as 60 and 61 percent, the study said.

However, anti-Muslim sentiment proved widespread in every state and territory, while Victoria recorded one of the lowest levels of anti-Muslim sentiment (42.8 percent, third lowest after Tasmania and the ACT, at 41 percent).

The findings challenge Immigration Minister Chris Bowen’s assertion last month that Australia’s multiculturalism is the world’s best, while mapping widespread racial unease across metropolitan and rural Australia, the daily said.

While most Australians polled (86.8 percent) agreed “a society made up of different cultures” was a good thing, the findings reveal mixed messages on multiculturalism - four out of 10 Australians have misgivings about racial and cultural minorities “fitting in” to society.

The survey also records high levels of perceived racial discrimination in the workplace, the housing market, and in verbal abuse - most often in areas with many ethnic groups.

While the New South Wales research dates back to the flashpoint year of 2001 (most other states were polled in 2006-07), professor Kevin Dunn, of the University of Western Sydney, who led the project, says: “My gut feeling is that (the NSW data) would still be higher than in other jurisdictions.”

NSW’s higher than average levels of antipathy towards Asians and Aboriginals as well as Muslims “reflects the nature of the cultural debate in this state - I consider the quality of the general debate and the political debate to be of a lower standard than in other jurisdictions”, the Age quoted Dunn as saying.

Victoria and Tasmania present as more racially tolerant than NSW, Queensland, West Australia and the Northern Territory, but still report widespread racial unease. More than one in 10 of those polled identified themselves as “prejudiced against other cultures”.

The rest may not be racist but 41.4 percent of Australians believe that Muslims, Aboriginals, Asians or Jews “don’t fit into Australian society”.

Broken down by cultural groups, 48.6 percent of those polled reported anti-Muslim sentiment, while more than one in four - 27.9 percent - expressed anti-Aboriginal sentiments, 23.8 percent had anti-Asian attitudes, and 23.3 percent expressed anti-Semitic views.

Anti-British, Italian and Christian sentiments are recorded across Australia at less than 10 percent.

The survey phone-polled 12,500 Australians over the past 10 years in all states and territories, asking them to identify their own prejudices and misgivings about other cultural groups, and to report their own experiences of racism in work, education, the housing market and the community.

Respondents were asked if they were prejudiced against other cultures, and if Australia was “weakened by people of different ethnic origins sticking to their old ways”.

They were asked to measure how secure they felt with people of other ethnic backgrounds, and how they would feel if a “close relative” married someone of different racial backgrounds and/or religious faiths.

The Victorian survey in 2006-07, overseen by the University of Melbourne’s department of population health, did not measure racial violence, but senior research fellow Yin Paradies said: “Violence is the tip of the iceberg, we’re looking at the rest of the iceberg.”

“Racism isn’t just redneck bigots who are trying to create problems for particular groups, it’s … ‘I’m not comfortable with these people’, it’s a lower level, and it’s very prevalent,” the Age quoted Paradies as saying.

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