Multiculturalism is embraced and then challenged. Global rights of Indigenous peoples extend to land rights and national apologies. The Cold War ends but Western nations identify new adversaries in Muslim and Middle Eastern nations through two Gulf Wars and war in Afghanistan. Politicians, public figures and the media participate in debates about migration, asylum seekers and population. Anxiety about threats to traditional notions of Australian identity focuses on migrants from Asia, Africa and Muslim nations. Australians continue to grapple with complex issues of living in a culturally diverse society.
Noted Australian historian Geoffrey Blainey makes a speech criticising Asian migration: 'Rarely in the history of the modern world has a nation given such preference to a tiny ethnic minority of its population as the Australian Government has done in the past few years, making that minority the favoured majority in its immigration policy.'
'Racism' featuring Prime Minister Bob Hawke and Opposition Leader Andrew Peacock, 1984.
Image: Geoff Pryor
Source: National Library of Australia
Series of landmark decisions officially recognise the land rights of Indigenous peoples in Australia. These include the Commonwealth Mabo High Court decision, 1992; Commonwealth Native Title Act 1993 and the Federal High Court Wik decision, 1996.
Independent member for Oxley Pauline Hanson gives her maiden speech to Parliament. She expresses fears of an Aboriginal 'land grab' and 'being swamped by Asians'. Her sentiments appeal to parts of the community resulting in the establishment of the One Nation Party. Many others are deeply offended and protests ensue.
Commonwealth Native Title Act Amendment reduces Indigenous Australians’ access to and control over lands.
Terrorist attacks in the USA on 11 September, 2001 and the Bali bombing on 12 October, 2002 inflame global anxiety about Muslims. In Australia, anti-terrorism laws are passed and the issue of asylum seekers escalates.
US Government-backed Human Genome Project completes the mapping of the human genome, identifying all human genes.
The Genographic Project seeks to map the migratory history of the human species by analysing the DNA from hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.
Race riots break out in Paris and Birmingham due to discrimination against Muslims and people of African origin, and tensions between the African and South Asian communities.
A rally in support of local life savers escalates into a riot at Cronulla, New South Wales due to tensions between local Anglo-Australian residents and Lebanese Australians from south of Sydney. Prior to the rally, radio broadcaster Alan Jones announces: 'My suggestion is to invite one of the biker gangs to be present in numbers at Cronulla railway station when these Lebanese thugs arrive. It would be worth the price of admission to watch these cowards scurry back onto the train for the return trip to their lairs... Australians old and new shouldn’t have to put up with this scum.'
Cronulla riots, New South Wales, 2005.
Over 1000 people protest against the building of a private Islamic school in Camden, New South Wales. Sudanese migration is reduced because, according to Kevin Andrews, Minister for Immigration, they 'don't seem to be settling and adjusting into the Australian way of life.'
Australian Government introduces the Northern Territory National Emergency Response ('intervention') to protect Aboriginal children from sexual abuse and family violence. It is a controversial policy, requiring the suspension of the 1975 Racial Discrimination Act.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologises to the Stolen Generations: 'We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.'
National Apology telecast at Federation Square, Melbourne, 13 February, 2008
Image: June Orford
Source: National Library of Australia
Indian students protest against violent attacks in Melbourne and Sydney. 'People are scared. Everyone has roommates and classmates who have been attacked.' Srikanth Guttapalia, 2009
'There is no place in our society for any crime which is racially based.' John Brumby, Premier of Victoria, 2009
Australia and Britain apologise to child migrants who were brought to Australia in order to increase Australia’s white population during the 20th century.
A law is passed in Arizona USA enabling police to stop and detain people they suspect are illegal immigrants, provoking racial profiling concerns. France deports Roma gypsies to Romania, destroying three hundred camps. In Australia, the issue of asylum seekers resurfaces in the lead up to the Federal election.
Political leaders in Europe and the UK describe multiculturalism as divisive and a failure, as thousands seek asylum from political unrest in North Africa and the Middle East. The Australian Government reaffirms multiculturalism as a key social policy despite some negative reports in the Australian media.
Today Australia still has no Bill of Rights.
Under the Migration Act, disability is still taken into consideration in assessing migrants for entry into Australia. Consequently, the Migration Act is exempt from the Disability Discrimination Act (section 52).
Governments, community organisations and individuals throughout Australia continue to advocate effectively for social justice, equality and diversity.
Walk for Harmony rally, 2009
Source: Museum Victoria