BLUF

Some would argue that social cohesion in a multicultural country like Australia is unachievable—but this article suggests no real consensus on whether that’s the case.

Summary

Australia’s thinking about social cohesion is embedded in our traditional adoption of multiculturalismASPI’s deputy director Gill Savage argues that when social cohesion combines with economic prosperity, it helps create a secure and resilient nation. But how can ‘social cohesion’ best be defined? Here are a few examples:
  • Yusof et al. (2014) define social cohesion as ‘the bonding between people and groups (or “the glue”) that binds people in positive relationships.
  • The Australian Human Rights Commission defines social cohesion in the context of a society that ‘works towards the wellbeing of all its members, fights exclusion and marginalisation, creates a sense of belonging, promotes trust and offers its members the opportunity of upward mobility.
  • In October 2020, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said:    ‘if we focus on the things that actually enable communities to succeed and individuals to succeed, then multiculturalism and social cohesion is the by-product of that’.
ASPI recently highlighted that disinformation and foreign interference target social cohesion in democracies. Even the Australian Human Rights Commission posed whether democratic societies can have diverse populations and still maintain harmony. The question—which has no simple answer—is how Australia should frame social cohesion now and into the future?