Date: 
Wednesday 25 May 2016
Author: 
Dr Tim Soutphommasane, Race Discrimination Commissioner

Speech given for the Walter Lippmann Memorial Oration

It seems only natural, in an oration dedicated to the memory of Walter Lippmann, to speak about leading by example. That is what Walter Lippmann did as an advocate for Australian multiculturalism.

In saying this, I can’t claim to have privileged knowledge of what Lippmann did, in some respects. The only real connection I have with Walter Lippmann is that his grandson Matthew Albert and I studied at Oxford at the same time. I discovered this lineage at an Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria conference in 2012.

Looking back, it feels as though all this has been pre-ordained. It was before I had commenced in my current role, but I had chaired a session at the conference about free speech, racial vilification and the media. Matthew had been one of the members of the panel, and I remember directing questions to the panelists about the Racial Discrimination Act, section 18C and the Bolt v Eatock case, which the Federal Court had decided in the previous year. Little did I know how that set of issues would come to dominate my working life; let alone that I would have the honour to be back before the ECCV delivering the Walter Lippman Oration.

Like his namesake in the United States – the journalist and thinker associated with the Progressive Movement in early 20th century American politics – the Australian Walter Lippmann could also be fairly described as progressive. As Professor Markus mentioned, Lippmann was born in Hamburg, Germany, and settled in Melbourne in 1938 as a 19-year-old Jewish refugee. He became a prominent leader of the Melbourne Jewish community and of the ethnic communities movement that emerged in the 1960s and 70s. Lippmann has been fittingly described as ‘one of the architects of Australia’s multiculturalism’.

Such a description, for those of us far removed from the times, can belie a number of things. Today, we can regard multiculturalism as an organic development, the inevitable product of the mass immigration that occurred in the years following the Second World War. As a policy, however, there was nothing inevitable about multiculturalism. There was nothing that guaranteed it would be the preferred way for us to deal with the diversity generated by immigration.

Indeed, during the 1950s and 60s, it was the policy of assimilation that prevailed.  Those who came as immigrants were expected to discard their cultural baggage upon arrival. But, by the late 1960s, for a combination of reasons, this approach was clearly becoming untenable.

The approach of multiculturalism gained currency in the early 1970s. In August 1973, Al Grassby, the Minister for Immigration, outlined a vision for a multicultural society of the future – the first occasion the phrase ‘multicultural’ was used by a government minister as a term to describe a new approach for tackling the disadvantages faced by immigrants.

A year later, in August 1974, the Committee on Community Relations delivered its report, regarded as the first attempt to put together a philosophical basis for multiculturalism. Chaired by Lippmann, and having consulted with ethnic communities across the country, the Committee called for greater sensitivity to cultural diversity. As Lippmann’s report put it, ‘harmonious understanding and national cohesion’ among Australian citizens ‘cannot be achieved through the extension of patronage by one group to another in the community’. Rather, it is to be achieved ‘only through the community accepting newcomers in a spirit of understanding and recognition of their right to equality of treatment and opportunity’.

In my lecture this evening, I should like to reflect on the perennial demands of community harmony and social cohesion. Those challenges identified by Lippmann in 1974 – building a spirit of understanding and recognizing equality of opportunity – remain as salient as ever.

Moreover, we should examine closely the experience of a multicultural leader such as Lippmann. When I say Lippmann led by example, I don’t use the phrase loosely. Not everyone leads by example.

Writing a decade ago, the scholars Geoffrey Levey and Philip Mendes observed that, ‘there was little Jewish involvement or even discernible interest in the early theoretical and policy development of Australian multiculturalism’. Walter Lippmann was ‘the standout exception’.  It is revealing, perhaps, that in 1974 the Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria was established, the Victorian Jewish community joined immediately; Lippmann would also serve as the ECCV’s founding president. By contrast, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies initially declined to affiliate with the NSW Ethnic Communities’ Council, notwithstanding attempts by Lippmann to persuade his colleagues up north. 

From this, we see very clearly: in the case of Lippmann, advocacy for multiculturalism at the national level was something he also put into practice here in Victoria, and more specifically within the Jewish community of which he was part. His example reminds us that the best advocacy is not only drawn from our communities, but also aims to empower our communities.

Multiculturalism’s success

Our society today is, without question, indebted to those advocates from the 1970s. The seeds of multiculturalism have borne fruit. It is now a truism of Australian public life that we are one of the most successful multicultural societies in the world; our political leaders emphatically tell us it is the most successful in the world.

Many of us will feel some gratification from hearing this. Because many of us will remember times when multiculturalism wouldn’t have been celebrated in such terms. The times when the word ‘wog’ had yet to be reclaimed and was still emphatically a term of abuse; when it was said that we were fragmenting into a ‘nation of tribes’; when we were warned that the country would be ‘swamped by Asians’.

Even today, there are occasions when commentators decry that multiculturalism is undermining Australian society. Yet they are representative of only a minority. The vast majority of people believe that multiculturalism is good for the country, as Professor Markus’s annual Scanlon Foundation survey of social cohesion has demonstrated the past three years.

There is nothing ambiguous when 86 per cent of people consistently tell you that they believe multiculturalism works.  This is about as unanimous as it gets on questions of social importance. To put it into perspective, when the Lowy Institute polls Australians about whether democracy is preferable to any other kind of government, only 65 per cent say yes.  Very few questions would see an answer in the affirmative with such wide agreement.

The picture is, admittedly, more complex than I am painting. This is because multiculturalism can mean different things to different people. It is interesting that last year’s Scanlon Foundation survey found mixed public understanding of multiculturalism.

The largest number (39 per cent) believe it means a two-way process, in which Australians incorporate immigrants into the community and immigrants themselves become more Australian. However, 23 per cent consider that multiculturalism means that Australians are the ones who must change their behaviour, and not immigrants. The same percentage (23 per cent) consider that it is up to immigrants to change their ways, without any change on the part of Australians.

We can put the findings this way. There is an equal proportion of people who believe that multiculturalism is assimilation, and who believe that multiculturalism means cultural relativism.

It is somewhat surprising that only about two-fifths (39 per cent) would see multiculturalism as a two-way street. It is surprising because that matches what multiculturalism has actually involved as a policy. Australian multiculturalism has never stood for the idea that Australian society must make room for cultural differences without any common ground. Neither has it meant that immigrants must learn to abandon their cultural heritage in a bid to belong. Multiculturalism has always stood for a sensible middle way.

This much is clear when you look closely at multiculturalism’s history. When Grassby invoked multiculturalism in 1973, it was used to describe the idea of migrants entering the ‘family of the nation’. According to Grassby, migrants could not truly participate as equals in Australian society if their cultural identities were ‘denied the dignity of self-expression’. Multiculturalism was about securing the conditions of equal citizenship.

This was a point affirmed by Lippmann and his colleagues in his Committee on Community Relations in 1974:

… it is important for the community to realise that all people have a need and a right to the security of belonging to a group whilst still retaining the right to individuality and to access to the world about them. For migrants to feel secure in their adopted country they need firstly to feel secure in their emotional attachment to the cultural values that influence their behaviour.

It would also be made in the Galbally Report of 1978, commissioned by Malcolm Fraser:

We are convinced that migrants have the right to maintain their cultural and racial identity and that it is clearly in the best interests of our nation that they should be encouraged and assisted to do so if they wish. Provided that ethnic identity is not stressed at the expense of society at large, but is interwoven into the fabric of our nationhood by the process of multicultural interaction, then the community as a whole will benefit substantially and its democratic nature will be reinforced. The knowledge that people are identified with their cultural background and ethnic group enables them to take their place in their new society with confidence if their ethnicity has been accepted by the community.

In time, such ideas would become expressed explicitly in terms of citizenship. Multiculturalism meant that every citizen would enjoy the right to express their cultural identity – a right accompanied by a responsibility to commit to Australian liberal democracy.

All this has involved a civic aspiration, and an exercise in nation-building. Multiculturalism isn’t about rejecting an Australian national identity, but about ensuring that identity could also include those who are new to the country. It is about ensuring that Australianness would be defined by something other than race, blood or ethnicity.

Minding our language

That, at least, is how multiculturalism has evolved in the Australian experience. Its foundation in national citizenship is crucial. It explains why our model of multiculturalism has worked, while other so-called multicultural models – particularly those in Europe – have failed.

Clearly, though, there is a gap between reality and perception. The reality of multiculturalism as a policy isn’t always understood, including by those who agree that it is good for the country.

I should be clear here about one thing. I’m not suggesting that an intellectual understanding of multiculturalism is a prerequisite of its success. If anything, it reflects the very success of our cultural diversity that it is understood in other than cerebral terms. We are talking about something that is grasped through people’s lived experience; through the encounters they have with families and friends; and through the conversations conducted through popular culture. People like Al Grassby or Jean Martin may have laid the policy or philosophical foundations of multiculturalism, but it’s people like Nick Giannopoulous and Anh Do who will inevitably have more influence in shaping popular understanding of multiculturalism.

Yet all this doesn’t mean that we can just ignore how the policy of multiculturalism is debated. We shouldn’t dismiss the intellectual labour of multiculturalism as a minor concern.

On this point, there has been a dangerous complacency among friends of Australian multiculturalism. Too often, people haven’t taken enough care to define the terms in which questions of identity and culture are debated. And people have sometimes underestimated the challenges of maintaining our multicultural success. It is a complacency that can have unintended, but potentially serious, consequences.

We see this playing out through the language used to describe matters of immigration and integration. Let me highlight some examples.

Consider our references to the generational nature of becoming Australian. In recent times, we have labels such as first-generation, second-generation and third-generation to designate the number of generations since someone’s family settled in Australia. Yet often there is a slippage. People sometimes refer to themselves as a first-generation migrant or a second-generation migrant, when in fact they mean to say they are a first-generation Australian or a second-generation Australian.

At first glance, this can appear trivial. But there is a difference between calling yourself, say, a second-generation Australian and a second-generation migrant. To say that you are a second-generation Australian indicates that your parents arrived in this country as migrants; that you are a citizen born in Australia to parents born elsewhere. To say that you are a second-generation migrant, however, says that in spite of being born in Australia, you still consider yourself a migrant. That somehow you cannot lay claim to the Australian citizenship that is your birthright.

This was a point, incidentally, picked up on in 1976 by one Walter Lippmann:

It is … noteworthy that the terms "Australians" and "migrants" are used very loosely and often the wrong distinctions are drawn. Most of the people referred to as "migrants" are by now naturalised Australians, entitled in law and in practice to all the rights and privileges of Australian citizenship. Worse still, Australian-born children of migrant parents are often referred to and treated as "migrants".

This linguistic confusion unfortunately lingers, and can also emerge in discussions about how immigrants should integrate into Australian society. Often there is mention of the need for migrants to accept the values of the ‘host society’. There is, of course, no need to be apologetic about saying that a society must set limits for any accommodation of cultural difference. Our multicultural society is one that has common ground in its liberal democracy. One’s culture can’t be used to justify practices that are incompatible with an Australian parliamentary democracy, equality of the sexes or the rule of law.

Yet the language of there being a ‘host society’ or a ‘host culture’ can imply there is an unbreakable hierarchy within Australian life. Who, after all, constitutes the host? And if there is a host, who exactly are the guests? When does someone stop becoming a guest and stop having to worry about pleasing their hosts? These questions should, I hope, illustrate how the language of hosts and visitors may undermine the value of citizenship that is so central to our multiculturalism. The Australian model of immigration avoided the guest-worker model adopted by places such as Germany, for very good reason – if migrants are just guests, then they will find it hard ever to be accepted. We all know there’s nothing worse than a guest who overstays their welcome.

The subtleties of language play out in other ways. I find it interesting, for example, to hear people ask why some should describe themselves in hyphenated forms – say, as an Italian-Australian or Chinese-Australian or Muslim-Australian. Some ask why it’s not enough for someone simply to see themselves as Australian. Others ask why it is that people don’t describe themselves as Australians first, rather than as Italian or Asian or Muslim first. I hear such questions equally from those who are supporters and critics of multiculturalism.

These questions are ultimately misplaced. To have a hyphenated identity doesn’t mean that one’s Australian identity is somehow attenuated, or that one has subversive loyalties. It is simply a reflection of how you can express your Australianness in more than one way; an affirmation that there is no contradiction in a multicultural society in expressing your cultural heritage but also your Australian identity.

This also explains why any concern that the ‘Australian’ part of one’s identity comes second also misses the point. When you say, for instance, that you are Italian-Australian, or Chinese-Australian, or Muslim-Australian, it is the ‘Italian’, ‘Chinese’ or ‘Muslim’ that is the qualifier. To say that you are a hyphenated Australian is a way of attributing a quality to how you are Australian. It describes how you feel Australian; it doesn’t say that you don’t feel Australian.

There’s one more distinction I would like to reflect on, if only very briefly. It concerns the word ‘tolerance’. In recent times, it has become popular among multicultural advocates to reject tolerance as a goal. It’s said that we shouldn’t be striving for tolerance, but rather something like acceptance. To exercise tolerance is to tolerate someone – and you only ever tolerate something that is unpleasant or unwelcome. It’s said that we shouldn’t be asking for people to put up with cultural diversity, as though it were a bad smell, but rather to accept it.

I believe it would be a mistake to reject tolerance. There is, in the first place, a difference between toleration and tolerance. While it is true that the word does have its origins in the verb – to tolerate – the two nouns do imply slightly different things. Toleration refers to us putting up with something we may not like. But tolerance implies a set of attitudes, a mindset. Where we have racial tolerance, we have the conditions for mutual respect and recognition. This may not be as strong a demand as acceptance, but sometimes it can be too much to ask that everyone celebrate cultural differences. We shouldn’t be turning up our noses at racial tolerance – not when the alternative, racial intolerance, is something none of us should wish for. Perhaps more to the point, we shouldn’t be cutting off our nose in order to spite our face.

The machinery of multiculturalism

Multiculturalism is given expression through our language and through our public conversations. It is also given institutional expression.

Here, in Victoria, multiculturalism is given legislative expression – among other things, through the Multicultural Victoria Act 2011. That Act of Parliament provides an explicit statement of the principles of multiculturalism.

At the federal level, there is not yet a legislative instrument of an equivalent kind. Nor is there a statutory body at the federal level that is dedicated to promoting multiculturalism. I am well aware that the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia has, in recent years, been advocating for the introduction of a federal multicultural act.

It is always healthy for our communities to advocate – and to seek ways of strengthening the machinery of Australian multiculturalism. However, it is also important to have the right starting point.

Too often, one basic point has been overlooked. While there is no federal legislation bearing the title of a Multicultural Act, Australian multiculturalism does have legislative expression. It is there in the form of the Racial Discrimination Act, which was introduced in 1975. The Act represents the legislative architecture of Australian multicultural policy. It is the instrument that writes into our laws that any discrimination, exclusion or preference based race is unlawful. The Act has guaranteed equal opportunity; it has set a standard for racial tolerance and cultural harmony.

The Act cannot, on its own, eliminate racism from our society. No law could ever do that. So long as there is human frailty, there will be ignorance, fear, envy and resentment. So long as we remain human, prejudice and discrimination will exist.

But the law does send an important signal about what is acceptable and unacceptable conduct in our society. Prior to 1975 and the introduction of the Racial Discrimination Act, there was very little that someone could do if they had been discriminated against because of their racial or ethnic background. The presence of the Act ensures that people can, at the very least, have the law on their side – that they can hold others to account when they have experienced unlawful discrimination.

During the past three years, we have had considerable debate about section 18C of the Act, which makes it unlawful to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate someone because of their race. Most of you will be intimately familiar with the proposed repeal of section 18C, which was abandoned in late 2014 following extensive objections from the community. In that debate and contest, we saw a powerful demonstration of multicultural Australia’s voice. Communities across the country spoke out for racial tolerance and against racial bigotry. Whether they were Aboriginal, Greek, Jewish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Lebanese, Korean or Armenian – to name but a few – communities united to defend the integrity of our multicultural society. If the Racial Discrimination Act were to be challenged a second time, if the legal architecture of our current multiculturalism were to be at risk of being weakened, communities must be prepared to stand up once again.

And communities must be prepared to stand up in solidarity with one another. I have said in the past, for instance, that multicultural communities must do more to support the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. And where there any community faces injustice, all of our communities must be prepared to join in speaking out. An injustice anywhere, as Martin Luther King reminded us, is a threat to justice everywhere. Racism or bigotry experienced by one community one day, may become racism or bigotry in another community the next day.

Sometimes, however, identifying racism is more easily said than done. Here, it is worth returning briefly to what Lippmann and his colleagues found in their report on community relations in 1974. Lippmann’s committee discovered that, ‘very little de jure discrimination existed although it heard considerable evidence of the existence of types of discrimination referred to as "institutional" and “attitudinal”.’

There are many, often insidious, ways in which such discrimination today can manifest. It exists in the most pronounced way with respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. And it is encountered in realms such as education, health, government services and employment.

Just this week, we had news of some efforts to combat some of these forms of discrimination in employment. The Victorian Government has announced that it will trial ‘blind recruitment’, in partnership with a number of organisations. The trial is a response to the problem of unconscious bias that so frequently affects how recruitment occurs in Australia.

The evidence of this is emphatic. In 2010, the Australian National University conducted research where 4000 resumes were sent to prospective employers. All the qualifications in the resumes were identical; the only variation was around names. Some had Anglo-Saxon names, some had Chinese names, some had Middle-Eastern names, some had Italian names, and some had Aboriginal names. The researchers found that if you had a Chinese name, you had to apply 68 per cent more times in order to be invited to interview compared to someone with an Anglo-Saxon sounding name. If you had a Middle-Eastern name, you needed to apply 64 per cent more times to be invited to interview. If you had an Italian sounding name, you had to apply 12 per cent more times.

The problem with bias and discrimination isn’t confined to just the recruitment stage of employment. It is striking that our multiculturalism isn’t yet reflected in the positions of leadership within Australian organisations. There remains something of a cultural default when it concerns leadership in our society. We are yet to make the most of the talents within our multicultural society.

Last year, I convened a taskforce to craft a response to this issue, comprising The University of Sydney Business School, Westpac, PwC and Telstra. In July, we will be launching a blueprint, which will guide organisations on matters of cultural diversity and inclusive leadership. In addition to countering bias, this blueprint will deal with matters including the collection of data on cultural diversity, the setting of targets and professional development.

As with the defence of the Racial Discrimination Act against dilution, though, I believe there is an important role for community leadership on this issue. If, for example, we look at the progress that has been made on gender diversity in Australian organisations – admittedly incomplete progress – we see very clearly how advocacy must run deep in the community before we see social change occurring. The gains made in gender diversity in recent years – evident in the creation of machinery gathering data on gender diversity, and in the increase in the representation of women on boards – reflect the cumulative effect of decades of sustained advocacy from women’s groups. If we are to seek similar gains with cultural diversity, we must be prepared to put in similarly sustained advocacy.

The conditions of social understanding

So far, I have spoken about the language and machinery of multiculturalism. Let me now say a little more about some of the conditions of harmony and cohesion.

These conditions are becoming harder to meet. Every democratic society requires trust. Citizens must trust other citizens, including strangers with whom they may have no personal contact. They must trust them to abide by the law, to forebear doing harm, to do the right thing. They must trust that others won’t take unfair advantage of any sacrifice they make for the common good; that others will show reciprocity towards any good faith and goodwill.

The requirements of such trust and reciprocity appear heightened in a multicultural society, in which people may not necessarily share the same values, practices and traditions. This is why multiculturalism depends on a strong civic culture – on there being some common ground that citizens can turn to, when they need to resolve their differences. And it is why supporters of Australian multiculturalism must never be apologetic about cultural diversity being limited by a national identity: it is the only way that any meaningful multiculturalism can work.

What happens, though, if citizens increasingly find it difficult to find common ground? What happens if we should find fewer and fewer places where trust and reciprocity can be cultivated?

These are live questions. During the past month, the Age newspaper has reported that in parts of Melbourne’s inner north, schools are exhibiting signs of racial and class divides. According to the Age, affluent parents in the inner north – predominantly from English-speaking backgrounds – appear to be avoiding so-called ‘sink schools’ with higher proportions of students from poorer and non-English-speaking backgrounds.

The report and subsequent commentary has generated no shortage of discussion and debate. Many parents have said that race doesn’t in any way enter into the picture: if parents are seeking to enroll their children in better schools, that’s only because they want the best for their child. Yet, in the eyes of others, this can sound like speaking in code. What if what’s best for your child just happens to be placing your child in a school where they are among people ‘more like us’ and who ‘speak our language’? What if race and class can’t be so easily separated as they might be in the abstract? What if people are just finding very polite and reasonable ways of explaining away racial prejudice?

Questions about schooling are by no means confined to inner-north Melbourne. Christina Ho of the University of Technology Sydney, for instance, has studied statistics on the ethnic composition of high schools on Sydney’s lower north shore. She found that, on average, the private schools in the region were disproportionately Anglo-Australian, while the public schools were disproportionately non-Anglo in composition.

The lower north shore of Sydney is an affluent and diverse region: about 30 per cent of residents speak a language other than English at home. Based on MySchool statistics, however, Ho found that among the public comprehensive high schools in this region, an average of 49 per cent of students came from a non-Anglo background. If public selective schools were included, the figure jumped to 61 per cent. For the private schools, however, students from non-Anglo backgrounds comprised only 13 per cent of enrolments.

Such patterns in our schooling have potential consequences on our civic health. They mean that in our schools – the traditional nurseries for citizenship – we may not be educating our children in a way that is fit for a multicultural society. Ideally, local schools should reflect something of the local communities from which they are drawn. They should provide children with opportunities for encounters with people from different backgrounds. They should be places where children can discover perspectives other than their own, including those less privileged than their own. Where children from middle-class backgrounds can interact with children from working-class backgrounds. An education in a liberal democracy shouldn’t simply reinforce the status quo, but should also equip citizens to question it.

Social contact with difference also helps to inoculate our society from the disease of fear and anxiety. In times when identities feel under threat – when the pace of social, economic and global change can overwhelm – fear and anxiety can become all too easily politicised. Here, again, I have been struck by some of the observations Walter Lippmann made in 1976:

Particularly at times of social and economic uncertainty, insecurity creates fear in the hearts of many men. Fear makes people susceptible to prejudice and prejudice distorts values.

And so it is still, four decades on. Over in Europe right now, we are seeing the formidable march of far-right political movements. Just this week in Austria, the far-right Freedom Party came perilously close, just a whisker, away from claiming the presidential election. The Alternative for Democracy in Germany has been making threatening inroads. In France, most polls have the Front National’s Marine Le Pen leading ahead of both the centre-right Republicans and the centre-left Socialists. Even in the reliably social democratic and tolerant Sweden, the Swedish Democrats – a party that had its roots in the neo-Nazi movement – have enjoyed an explosive rise in popularity, becoming the third-largest party in the country. This is to say nothing of what is happening in America, where Donald Trump has now pulled level with Hilary Clinton in national polls.

Not long ago, I had a conversation with someone, a supporter of multiculturalism, who explained that these developments were the product of elite political correctness. He said that the rise of far-right groups in Europe was the direct result of political correctness stifling debates about immigration and culture. This, he warned, was what would happen if we didn’t unshackle our debates here from politically correct censoriousness.

It is important for friends of multiculturalism to respond directly to any charge that we are aiding in such dangerous political correctness. All too often, the charge of political correctness is a ruse: an attempt to justify incivility and intolerance, and to make excuses for expressions of bigotry and social power. It is revealing that those who lay the charge of political correctness more often than not happen to be prominent commentators who happen to enjoy national media platforms in print, radio and television. Just who is silencing and suppressing whom?

Indeed, political correctness is a dangerous weapon. But not in the way often depicted. For it is a fiction used by the powerful to silence debates raised by people who challenge their power. To say that something is politically correct means that whatever objection is made can be dismissed as a trivial and frivolous grievance. No one these days would want to be accused of being politically correct.

We can look at it another way. Often, what is labeled politically correct is just the expression of a view that holds another person to account. To call out racism or bigotry doesn’t mean that you are preventing someone from having an opinion; it simply means that you believe someone has expressed racist or bigoted sentiments. If you don’t want to be called a racist or a bigot, you can start by not expressing a racist or bigoted opinion. What is often deemed politically correct censorship is frequently just free speech in action – free speech that challenges another’s right to inflict harm on others, particularly those less powerful.

The more things change …

Forty years ago, Walter Lippmann was invited to deliver the Lalor Address on Community Relations. The invitation was made by one Al Grassby, who after losing his seat at the 1974 election, was appointed Community Relations Commissioner with the introduction of the Racial Discrimination Act. I discovered this fact only late last night as I was preparing my remarks, but it was a happy discovery. Grassby was, of course, my predecessor in my office. To be here tonight, forty years on, delivering this lecture, represents a fortuitous stroke.

Reading that Lalor Address, I was struck by the forthright nature of Lippmann’s speech. It was just a year after the introduction of the Racial Discrimination Act, but Lippmann was critical of the legislation. He believed that the Act, while an ‘important milestone in Australian history’, hadn’t gone far enough. In his view, it dealt only with acts of individual discrimination, but not with the rights of groups that were affected by incitement to and acts of discrimination. He was scathing of the limited machinery and resources that had been provided to support the Community Relations Commissioner and the Act.

Reading it, you hear the voice of a determined advocate, prepared to press his case with conviction. Most of all, it is the aspiration of a multicultural Australia that comes through most powerfully. For Lippmann, any multiculturalism was about unity in diversity. But it had at its heart a recognition of the connection between ethnicity, belonging and community:

… the Australian community needs to recognise that the ethnic group offers to a large number of migrants something that is not special, but a very basic human necessity: a sense of belonging to a group of people with whom they have something in common, an opportunity of relating to people with whom they have congenial relationships and arising from this, a sense of security …  to many, therefore, the ethnic organisation, far from being a separating factor, is in fact a help to integration. Only people who feel secure in their own surroundings will venture out into the larger community and feel at ease there.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. To ensure that everyone can feel secure, and can venture into the community at ease – this is a task that remains as urgent as ever.


 Koleth, E. 2010, “The evolution of multiculturalism as Australian Government policy”, Multiculturalism: a review of Australian policy statements and recent debates in Australia and overseas, Australian Parliament Library: Canberra.

 Grassby, A. 1973, A Multi-Cultural Society for the Future: Reference paper, Department of Immigration: Canberra.

 Immigration Advisory Council, 1975, Committee on Community Relations – Interim Report, August 1974, Commonwealth of Australia: Canberra.

 Ibid. p. 1.

 Levey, G. and Mendes, P. 2004, Jews and Australian Politics, ed., Sussex Academic Press: Eastbourne.

 Markus, A. 2015, “Mapping Social Cohesion”, The Scanlon Foundation Surveys, Scanlon Foundation: Melbourne.

 Ibid. p. 41.

 Oliver, A. 2015, The Lowy Institute Poll 2015, The Lowy Institute: Sydney, p. 15.

 Markus, A. 2015, p. 42.

 Grassby, A. 1973.

 Immigration Advisory Council, 1975, p. 1.

 Galbally, F. 1978, “Migrant Services and Programs”, Review of Post Arrival Programs and Services for Migrants, Australian Government Publishing Service: Canberra.

 Lippmann, W. 1976, “The role of good neighbours in community relations at home and abroad”, Second annual Lalor address on community relations, p. 21.

 Immigration Advisory Council, 1975, p. 2.

 Booth, A. Leigh, A. and Varganova, E. 2010, Does Racial and Ethnic Discrimination Vary Across Minority Groups? Evidence from a Field Experiment, Institute for the Study of Labor: Bonn, last viewed: 09/06/2016, http://ftp.iza.org/dp4947.pdf.

 Jacks, T. “White flight: race segregation in Melbourne state schools”, The Age, 02/05/2016, last viewed: 09/06/2016, http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/white-flight-race-segregation-in-melbo....

 Ho, C. 2015, ‘People like us’: School choice, multiculturalism and segregation in Sydney, University of Technology: Sydney.

 Lippmann, W. 1976, p. 25.

 Lippmann, W. 1976, p. 23.

Address: 
Melbourne VIC
Australia