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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull celebrates Australia as ‘the most successful multicultural nation in the world’.
This is a grand claim and important to a sense of identity and belonging, but at times it seems that multiculturalism is more an article of faith than a work in progress. What it really means in the twenty-first century is the focus of Griffith Review 61: Who We Are, which will examine both the opportunities offered and the complexities involved.
The nation’s population has virtually doubled since 1975, and in recent years the rules around migration have been altered significantly. Those who have chosen to make their home here in the past have changed Australia, and waves of new arrivals continue to transform the country. Yet the apparent certainties of Australia as a permanent settler society are giving way to the precarious churn of temporary migration.
This edition will give voice to this changing reality, explore the big issues of belonging, citizenship and participation, and tease out how contemporary Australia might evolve.
This is a rich field, replete with policy questions and personal narratives. It is a success story, but the full picture is complex, and past achievements no guarantee of future results.
The nation’s boundaries are imaginary as much as physical, and constantly contested by an unsettled history and a shifting present. Renewed assertions of national identity run parallel to the increasing globalisation of opportunity and threat, as if the more fluid the world becomes, the greater the urge to hold onto something fixed and stable. Yet do we really know who ‘we’ are? Where does Australia begin and end? Who can claim to belong and who can be legitimately excluded?