Event Report: Workshop "Thoughts/Politics over Minorities in Australia: White Australia Policy/Neoliberalism/Relationship with Asia"

published: 2015-11-30

On October 3, 2015 (Sat.), Research Center for Ars Vivendi, Ritsumeikan University held at the Ibaraki Campus a workshop entitled “Thoughts/Politics of Minorities in Australia: White Australia Policy/Neoliberalism/Relationship with Asia”. This event was co-hosted together with the Institute of Human Sciences at Ritsumeikan University “Translational Studies for Inclusive Society” (Fundamental Research on Social Inclusion and Human Support) and it was also in cooperation with the Nanzan University Institute for Social Ethics.

Opening the workshop, Prof. Michael Seigel spoke on the history of minorities in Australia up to the multiculturalism of the 1970s. Starting with the origins of the country which was established as a penal colony by Great Britain, he then moved on to the relationship of the state with the native population and fears of invasion by the Western powers and Asian countries, explaining the complex path that eventually led to the 'white Australia policies', under which children of mixed blood were forcibly removed from their families; these children later became known as the 'Stolen Generations'. The following presentation by Prof. Yoshikazu Shiobara was devoted to changes of ethnic minority policies initiated since the 2000s to provide support to the native population and refugees. Ethnic minority policies in Australia on the whole recently started to show a marked color of neoliberal multiculturalism by connecting importance of cost reduction with independence as a breakaway from welfare dependency, and, as the presenter pointed out, the current welfare system in fact might impose a disproportionate burden on some specific areas. The last presenter, Ms. Yoko Harada, analyzed national identity of Australia and Japan from the point of view of international relations using the concept of 'orientalism' and pointing out a common denominator of policies of the two countries: an inferiority complex towards the West.

Following the presentations, comments were made by A/Prof. Fuminori Minamikawa, A/Prof. Masatoshi Kato, and Prof. Hiroya Sugita, after which the panelists engaged in a discussion. In the comments, the panelists raised such issues as specific features of minority policies in Australia distinguishing them from those of the U.S., changes in social divide and the social security systems, which can be discerned in the minority policies, and the relationship between the social welfare policies on one hand and policies promoting police state and national defense on the other. Lastly, a questions and answers session inviting participation from the floor was held and the participants of the workshop discussed such issues as the relationship between the minority support policies and market economy in Australia or the current nationalist tendencies such as islamophobia.

(Katsunori Watanabe, Eminent Associate Professor, Kinugasa Research Organization, Ritsumeikan University)