Nearly one in four Australians have recently experienced a form of major discrimination, while religious and racial minorities and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples face the highest levels of prejudice, according to the nation’s first Inclusive Australia Social Inclusion Index (IASII).
The new report, conducted by researchers from BehaviourWorks Australia (BWA), part of the Monash Sustainable Development Institute (MSDI), is the first of its kind to measure social inclusion across Australia.
Director of BWA, Professor Liam Smith, who sits on the board of Inclusive Australia (IA), said until now there have been very few tools to holistically measure Australia’s progress towards social inclusion.
“Research exists on the specific issues faced by specific minority groups in Australia, however it only tells part of our social inclusion story. The IASII bridges this gap by measuring multiple issues and factors,” Professor Smith said.
“Social exclusion costs the Australian economy billions each year in lost productivity. This report aims to measure ingrained attitudes and behaviours towards people from different backgrounds, perspectives and circumstances,” he said. “Social inclusion is about allowing people to fully participate in the social and economic life of the nation.”
The report draws upon three waves of survey data collected between 2017 and 2018 from approximately 6,000 Australians to benchmark social inclusion in Australia.
It captures the experiences of and attitudes towards groups including racial and religious minorities, LGBTI people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, women, people with disabilities, low income earners, young people and older people.
“Reducing prejudice, creating more opportunities for intergroup contact and friendship, and building minority groups’ sense of wellbeing are some of the challenges we need to address,” Dr Faulkner said.
“With discrimination being linked to reduced health and wellbeing, and harming the extent to which people feel part of the Australian community, it’s important that initiatives are developed to progress social inclusion in Australia.”
The IASII provides scores out of 100 on five key measures and explores both major and everyday discrimination, with Australia’s overall index score being 62 out of 100.
Research fellow at BWA, Dr Kun Zhao, said although the findings show there’s still room for improvement, the majority of Australians aren’t highly prejudiced and are willing to act when they see discrimination occurring.
“Our research shows a number of positive findings, particularly when it comes to the actions Australians are happy to take to support social inclusion,” Dr Zhao said.
“Half of those surveyed are prepared to listen to the stories of those who have been discriminated against, and this is promising given the large amount of research showing that contact between different groups is one of the major ways in which we can build empathy and reduce prejudice between people.”
The IASII will be published annually and provide evidence to help track progress and evaluate initiatives to improve social inclusion in Australia over time.
The research was commissioned by IA; an alliance seeking to reduce the negative impacts of exclusion.