Understanding place-based racism and fostering local interculturalism

Contemporary Australia is a highly multicultural society. Among the population, support for multiculturalism co‐exists with racist and discriminatory attitudes and behaviours in ways that have been described as 'unsettled multiculturalism'.

In Australia's culturally diverse cities, unsettled multiculturalism is particularly evident in the micro­‐geographies of neighbourhood communities. The significance of place-based contexts for the ways in which racism manifests or multiculturalism is embraced has generally received scant research attention. Available evidence suggests it is important to understand the complex variations across place contexts and apply this in tailoring effective anti-racism strategies and messages. The proposed projects aims to generate improved insights into how socio-­‐economic-­‐spatial settings frame inter-communal tensions and local racisms and explore effective strategies for promoting positive interculturalism.

The project responds to a number of pressing contemporary issues emerging in suburbs across Melbourne, a city that celebrates its vibrant multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism. Many newly arrived migrants are settling in the most socio-economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods where affordable housing is available. Evidence from community surveys conducted as part of the Victorian Government’s Neighbourhood Renewal strategy, which targeted Victoria’s most disadvantaged neighbourhoods, suggested high levels of expressed racism and intolerance for multiculturalism in the most multicultural neighbourhoods. Many migrant-background and some Australian-born residents nominated racism as a significant problem in their neighbourhoods. Examples of expressed racism included intolerance of religious and cultural customs, perceptions of preferential access to services and resources and associating migrant-background residents with criminality. Ethnographic work conducted previously by the team explores migrants’ struggles to experiences a sense of belonging in amidst complex and overlapping experiences of discrimination, stigmatisation, and economic and social marginalisation.

Migrant-background residents are often living in neighbourhoods where local social relations are generally strained through circumstances of local economic decline and stagnation and widespread experiences of social exclusion. These insights present imperatives to gain improved understanding of racism and inter-communal tensions in socio-economically disadvantaged place-based settings, and identify engaging and effective interventions to promote local interculturalism.


Deborah Warr [McCaughey Centre for Community Wellbeing, Faculty of Medicine, Dental and Health Sciences, UoM]

Mammad Aidani [School of Philosophy and Historical Studies, Faculty of Arts, UoM]

Jessica Gerrard [Education, Policy and Leadership, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, UoM]

Naomi Priest [McCaughey Centre for Community Wellbeing, Faculty of Medicine, Dental and Health Sciences, UoM]

Jessica Walton [McCaughey Centre for Community Wellbeing, Faculty of Medicine, Dental and Health Sciences, UoM]

Yin Paradies [Deakin University]