Racism and intolerance in Eastern Australia: A geographic perspective

James Forrest*, Kevin Dunn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


Racism has become a fact of life in Australia over the past decade or so, yet there are relatively few studies of its nature or extent, and still fewer on its geography. Using a social constructivist approach, this study draws on a survey of 5056 respondents to investigate attitudes to racism and cultural diversity in New South Wales and Queensland, and of perceptions of out-groups as instances of 'strangers in our midst'. On racism, results show the presence of a continuum of attitudes ranging from generally tolerant to generally intolerant, a presence which cuts across compositional (social or aspatial) characteristics to emphasise the existence of a distinctive geography, an everywhere different nature to racist and non-racist attitudes which transcends urban - rural and traditional social layers. On the other hand, perceptions of out-groups are not uniformly correlated with presence or absence of cultural diversity. In many cases, the ability to make judgements about significant 'others' or out-groups has been shown to relate more to abstract notions of self and national identity, reproduced in public by mainstream news media and political leaders. In particular, it may reflect an Anglo (or Anglo-Celtic) view on nationalism, which is a hallmark of the 'new racism': an assimilationist or ethnocultural view of Australian society which is different from the 'civic nation' ideal envisaged by multiculturalism. That the geography of attitudes and perceptions people have towards and about different cultural groups is so 'everywhere different' has important implications for attempts to address and redress issues of intolerance in Australia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-186
Number of pages20
JournalAustralian Geographer
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2006


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