What do Australians really think of migrants and asylum-seekers?


This fraught question will be explored at a Sydney forum next week, based on the results of a high-powered national survey on social cohesion.

Organised by the Community Relations Commission of NSW, the forum has been prompted by the findings of the Sixth Scanlon Foundation Mapping Social Cohesion national survey, conducted in July 2013.

The survey found that the issue of asylum-seekers ranks as the third-most important matter preoccupying the minds of most Australians. Asked what were the most important problems facing Australia today, respondents ranked only the economy and the quality of government and politicians ahead of the asylum-seeker issue.

The survey revealed that in 2013 fewer than 20 per cent of people thought that asylum seekers arriving by boat should be eligible for permanent settlement.

On the issue of immigration levels, the survey found Australians divided. “While 38 per cent favour the current intake, 42 percent thought it was too high,” said Community Relations Commission Chair Vic Alhadeff.

“This division of opinion is further complicated by expressions of feelings about the countries of origin of immigrants. Opinion is widely divided about people from different regions of the world. But this is an ever-changing landscape, with the survey demonstrating that there is now a large measure of acceptance of groups which were once stigmatised.

“So there is a great deal to discuss at this important forum – including the very encouraging finding that 84 per cent of respondents believe that multiculturalism has been good for Australia, that it benefits economic development and that it encourages immigrants to take their place as part of Australian society.”

Professor Andrew Markus, a member of the Scanlon Foundations Mapping Social Cohesion project, will present the key findings of the survey at the forum and will be available to answer questions.

The forum will be held at the Metcalfe Auditorium, State Library of NSW, Macquarie Street, Sydney, on Thursday February 13 from 2:00pm to 4:00pm.



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