Mul­ti­cul­tural har­mony within our work­force

Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin - - BUSINESS - NI­COLE PHILLIPS SOUTH­ERN CROSS UNIVER­SITY

WITH na­tions of the world here on the Gold Coast for the Com­mon­wealth Games, there is no bet­ter time to cel­e­brate diver­sity.

Aus­tralia is one of the most mul­ti­cul­tural na­tions on the planet. Mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism brings many pos­i­tive in­flu­ences into our day-to-day lives like new and ex­cit­ing cuisines, art, lit­er­a­ture, sports and fash­ion. While these vi­brant ad­di­tions bring colour and flavour and broaden the mind, there is also a more se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion to our di­verse pop­u­la­tion — the in­flu­ence on our work­force.

Ac­cord­ing to the Aus­tralian Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion, mi­grants con­trib­ute more than $10 bil­lion to the Aus­tralian econ­omy in their first ten years of set­tle­ment. Yet while a mul­ti­cul­tural work­force is great for busi­ness, re­flects our pop­u­la­tion and helps to sep­a­rate ex­trem­ism from the main­stream, mul­ti­cul­tural har­mony isn’t straight­for­ward. Cul­tural mis­un­der­stand­ings and ex­clu­sion can lead to ten­sion and con­flict and or­gan­i­sa­tions have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to em­ploy strate­gies for mul­ti­cul­tural har­mony.

There are ben­e­fits to cul­tural dif­fer­ences be­ing em­braced and cel­e­brated. It helps to change con­ven­tional at­ti­tudes that other cul­tures have to trans­form and conform to ‘our ways’. Chang­ing at­ti­tudes can be a hard task, es­pe­cially if the dom­i­nant cul­ture in the work­place is stead­fast in its own be­liefs, but it can be ac­com­plished. By in­creas­ing peo­ple’s knowl­edge of other cul­tures, ac­cep­tance and un­der­stand­ing is born. Knowl­edge is fun­da­men­tal to chang­ing at­ti­tudes. Knowl­edge makes the un­known fa­mil­iar. When peo­ple are un­fa­mil­iar of an­other cul­ture, pre­con­ceived be­liefs can lead to neg­a­tive racial prej­u­dice and dis­crim­i­na­tion.

Racial dis­crim­i­na­tion is a com­plex is­sue and al­le­ga­tions can arise from mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tions, such as hon­est over­sights of ex­clu­sion. For ex­am­ple, the white male boss al­ways asks the opin­ion of his white male col­league and not the other em­ploy­ees. This may seem like dis­crim­i­na­tion since the other em­ploy­ees are not white and male, but the boss feels more com­fort­able with a fa­mil­iar col­league and he is un­aware that his ac­tions are cre­at­ing feel­ings of ex­clu­sion. The ideas and opin­ions of all em­ploy­ees must be con­sid­ered when mak­ing de­ci­sions and mi­nor­ity groups must be in­cluded in work­place af­fairs to elim­i­nate feel­ings of ex­clu­sion and the im­pres­sion of dis­crim­i­na­tion.

Un­for­tu­nately, racial dis­crim­i­na­tion in the work­place still hap­pens and al­le­ga­tions are se­ri­ous be­cause the Racial Dis­crim­i­na­tion Act (RDA) of 1975 makes racial dis­crim­i­na­tion against the law. It makes sure ev­ery­one in Aus­tralia is treated equally and work­places need to re­flect this law. Be­yond the work­place, chang­ing at­ti­tudes and in­clu­sion are strate­gies that can be em­ployed by ev­ery­one to­wards mul­ti­cul­tural har­mony in the world.

NI­COLE PHILLIPS IS A POST­GRAD­U­ATE STU­DENT AT SOUTH­ERN CROSS UNIVER­SITY

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