Challenges of Inclusion: Cultural Diversity, Citizenship and Engagement
1. University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs, Queensland, Australia
The debates about globalisation have pointed to the movements of people across the world – both wanted and unwanted migration. There is more than ever a greater interconnectivity across people with movements of finance, ideas, technologies and media very rapidly across the world. The new world order is one which is fast, shrinking spatially and culturally diverse.
However, this diversity is not understood or incorporated into social structuring. Social exclusion of minorities of culturally diverse backgrounds still occurs in all elements of public life. Conceptual discussion of social exclusion and inclusion relate these terms to disadvantage and participation in society. Since the 1990s these terms have attracted much academic, government and community attention all over the world. In a broad sense it refers to dimensions of deprivation, lack of access and barriers to social participation.
The measures traditionally used to define social exclusion or inclusion have included economic aspects such as poverty, income or unemployment or wealth while other non-monetary factors have been spatial, geography or sense of place, health and education. Although these debates have been accompanied by a rhetoric of participation, community and belonging, its focus has been too narrow and has largely been argued from a monocultural framework.
There are significant challenges which face countries such as Australia including challenges of equality, challenges of inclusion, challenges of economic growth and challenges of building community capacity and social capital. In the context of a globalised world these challenges pose difficult questions for the nation state and strongly test the basic frameworks which underpin our current institutional processes and systems. These frameworks include the role of the nation state (particularly the welfare state), human rights and citizenship rights. To be able to effectively address issues of engagement of government with communities, particularly marginalised minorities, it is important to bring to the fore considerations of citizenship rights, human rights and social inclusion.
This paper examines the challenges of inclusion for engagement with culturally diverse communities in the context of the nation state and globalisation. It draws on examples from Australia, a highly multicultural country, and critiques the current application of citizenship rights and democratic processes. Focusing on Australia, I put forward the argument that a different notion of ‘active citizenship’ is needed which incorporates cultural diversity. It is the contention of this paper that unless conceptualisation of citizenship, inclusion and human rights applications change, then genuine engagement cannot take place. The paper explores options for ways forward for overcoming social exclusion, building community capacity and differentiated citizenship rights to ensure that culturally diverse minorities can effectively engage with government and participate in decision making in all elements public and civic life.