2017 Social Cohesion Report

The tenth Scanlon Foundation national survey was conducted in June-July 2017. The report was released on 30 November 2017 in Melbourne. These findings build on the knowledge gained through the nine earlier surveys (2007, 2009-2016) which provide, for the first time in Australian social research, a series of detailed surveys on social cohesion, immigration and population issues.


Three different surveys were conducted with 1500 respondents. The survey had 77 questions, 56 substantive and 21 demographic. There were additional questions on national trust, immigrant selection, contact across ethnic groups, politics and a sense of well being.

Looking to Population growth, Australian population increased from 19.9 million in 2006 to 23.4 million in 2016. 28% of the population, the highest proportion among OECD countries were born overseas, being a totala of 6.87 million Australians. Half of the population is first or second generation Australian. Australia has a Diverse immigration intake – Among the 189,770 arrivals in 2015-16, there were 1000 or more persons from 29 countries.

Australia’s immigrants are increasingly drawn from the Asian region; In 2015-16 new migrant arrivals were predominantly from United Kingdom, New Zealand, China and India. 8% of the overseas-born population was born in China. 7% of the overseas-born population was born in India.

Main Findings

The 2017 report confirms:

  • 80% of Australians reject the notion of selecting immigrants by race,
  • 85% believe multiculturalism is good for this country. “It’s a very strong brand,” says Monash University Professor Andrew Markus. “You even go to rural areas and get amazing majorities of people who think it’s good for Australia.”
  • 74% reject the idea of selecting immigrants by religion, and
  • 56% of us believe the number of migrants Australia takes each year is either about right or too low.



Faith Groups

Members of faith groups other than Christian increased by 84% between 2006 and 2016 – from 1.1 million to 2 million.

The Report tells that while the census provides the best indication of the religions of the Australian population, it is only a partial measure as religion is an optional question in the census, and a change in word-order of the census question meant that there was a break in the series (or lack of direct comparability) between 2016 and earlier census findings. It is likely that the census undercounts adherents of many, if not all, faith groups, and this undercount increased in 2016.

As enumerated, the adherents of Christian faith groups remained largely constant at over 12 million between 2006 and 2016, while those indicating that they had no religion increased by 87% (from 3.7 million to 6.9 million), and those of faith groups other than Christian increased by 84%, (from 1.1 million to 2 million). The largest increases were among those of the Hindu faith, up 197% (from 148,100 to 440,300) and the Islamic faith, up 78% (from 340,400 to 604,200).

When considered at the Local Government Level, the enumerated main non-Christian faith groups increased between 2006 and 2016 in Canterbury-Bankstown
(Sydney) from 66,590 to 99,686; in Greater Dandenong (Melbourne) from 31,110 to 49,082.

Asked if in the selection of immigrants ‘it should be possible’ to reject applicants ‘purely on the basis of their race or ethnicity,’ or ‘their religion,’ 74%-80% disagree, only a small minority, in the range 16%-20%, agree.

Attitudes of Youth

But there is another country in Professor Andrew Markus’s figures: the Australia of the young. Seventy nine per cent of 18 to 24 year olds believe immigration from all corners of the world makes us stronger. Hardly any believe we should cull arrivals by race and religion. Their support for multiculturalism runs at 94%. Only 15% admit to negative feelings towards Muslims.

Will they grow out of such generous feelings? Will time turn them into crabby figures in their 70s whose fears and suspicions colour the life of the country?

Lead Researcher Professor Andrew Markus thinks not. “There are positive signs we are dealing with not just the phenomenon of age. We’re also dealing with the phenomenon of education . and of people engaging with the wider world through the internet.” To that list he adds the relative prosperity of the young these days. “The way that this generation engages with the world is different from the generation of their parents.”

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