Multicultural harmony within our workforce
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