Australia’s ‘fair go’ is missing for one in four, with major discrimination present

by Freya Lucas

December 02

A new report, conducted by researchers from BehaviourWorks Australia (BWA) (part of the Monash Sustainable Development Institute (MSDI), is the first of its kind to measure social inclusion across Australia, finding that as a nation, the often lauded “fair go” is missing for one in four. 

 

The first Inclusive Australia Social Inclusion Index (IASII) found that nearly one in four Australians have recently experienced a form of major discrimination, while those who are in religious or racial minorities, as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, face the highest levels of prejudice. 

 

The IASII provides scores out of 100 on five key measures and explores both major and everyday discrimination, with Australia’s overall index score being 62 out of 100.

 

The findings will be of interest to those in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector not only for their social justice implications, but also for reflection and consideration in terms of human resources policies and procedures, and monitoring of staff wellbeing. 

 

BWA Director Professor Liam Smith, who also sits on the board of Inclusive Australia (IA), said until now there have been very few tools to holistically measure Australia’s progress towards social inclusion. 

 

“Research exists on the specific issues faced by specific minority groups in Australia, however it only tells part of our social inclusion story. The IASII bridges this gap by measuring multiple issues and factors,” Professor Smith said. 

 

Billions of dollars a year is lost from the Australian economy through lost productivity as a result of social exclusion, he said, noting that the report aims to “measure ingrained attitudes and behaviours towards people from different backgrounds, perspectives and circumstances”. 

 

Key Findings: 

 

 

  • Nearly one in four Australians regularly experience some form of discrimination at least weekly, such as being treated with less respect and courtesy or being called names.  

 

 

 

  • The groups that reported the most frequent discrimination were young people (aged 18-24), LGBTI people, racial minorities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and people with disabilities.

 

 

 

  • Individuals that belong to more than one minority group tend to experience significantly higher levels of discrimination than people who belong to only one minority group. 

 

 

 

  • 39 per cent of Australians have little or no contact with certain minority groups. (A lack of contact is associated with higher prejudice) 

 

 

 

  • Over half of respondents are willing to intervene to stop discrimination when they see it, however less than a third are willing to participate in political activities to advocate for equality. 

 

 

Three waves of survey data, collected between 2017 and 2018 from approximately 6,000 Australians were used to benchmark social inclusion in Australia and produce the report, which captures the experiences of, and attitudes towards, groups including racial and religious minorities, LGBTI people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, women, people with disabilities, low income earners, young people and older people. 

 

BWA research fellow, Dr Nick Faulkner, said the findings indicate there are substantial challenges Australia must overcome to ensure all Australians feel included.

 

“Reducing prejudice, creating more opportunities for intergroup contact and friendship, and building minority groups’ sense of wellbeing are some of the challenges we need to address,” Dr Faulkner said. 

 

Offering some hope, Research fellow at BWA, Dr Kun Zhao, said there were a number of positive findings, particularly when it comes to the actions Australians are happy to take to support social inclusion.

 

“Half of those surveyed are prepared to listen to the stories of those who have been discriminated against, and this is promising given the large amount of research showing that contact between different groups is one of the major ways in which we can build empathy and reduce prejudice between people.”  

 

The IASII will be published annually and provide evidence to help track progress and evaluate initiatives to improve social inclusion in Australia over time. 

 

For more information about BWA, please see here, alongside information about MSDI

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