Social cohesion refers to the development and maintenance of positive social relationships in society. A community working toward the well-being of all its members combats exclusions and marginalisation and develops a strong sense of belonging.

Australia has a remarkable extent of social cohesion given its diversity. However, maintaining this steadiness can be a challenge. Rapid social changes, particularly in growth areas, can result in disharmony between newly arrived groups and established communities. The fear of difference and its unknown potential has a damaging effect on community relations and breeds discrimination. The threat of terrorism has brought suspicion and hostility to Australia’s Arab and Muslim communities and, families seeking refuge and asylum are depicted as ‘queue jumpers’. The expectations of the Australian ‘fair go’ mentality, seems to have given way to the reality of disharmony and caution.

The results of The Scanlon Foundation National 2015 report on mapping social cohesion found that there is a strong support for cultural diversity, with 86% agreeing that multiculturalism has been good for Australia, while sense of belonging ‘to a great extent’ declined from 73% in 2011 to 65-66% in 2013 and 2014, in 2015 it is at 69%. Interestingly the report captured the difference in attitudes between young and older Australians, this is particularly evident in the matter of national identity and cultural diversity. 65% of young adults agreed with the provision of government assistance to ethnic minorities to maintain their customs and traditions compared with 34% of middle-aged Australians.

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This study would suggest that young adults are striving for a socially cohesive Australia, where cultural differences are embraced, positive relationships are fostered and the combat of exclusion and marginalisation are of great importance. This report seems vastly different from the content littering our news outlets; sensationalised stories of disharmony, ‘stop the boats’ and other dehumanising titles lead us to believe we are a country of intolerance.

For those who oppose migration, who feel the Australian way of life is threatened by invasion from those of distant shores and that allowing those who seek refuge will hinder our own prosperity, we are a country of migrant backgrounds. Developed through the emulsion of many cultures and backgrounds. Having an ideal society does not necessitate us to be all alike, but rather appreciate our differences and create a socially cohesive and harmonious country.

Here at RMCC, we understand the importance to social harmony, we work with children from refugee and migrant backgrounds to foster positive relationships in an environment where they feel supported and included.