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Category: Interviews »

Subject: Politics »

Multiculturalism in public policy

Hurriyet Babacan.

Hurriyet Babacan tells about the process of moving multicultural policy from theoretical aims to ensuring it is applied in tangible ways in the provision of government services.



Date Added:

01 May 2006


Hurriyet Babacan interviewed by Andrew Jakubowicz for MMA


mov (Quicktime);

File size:

8.3 MB


4 min 04 s


Hurriyet Babacan

Academic, administrator, activist

Former head, Multicultural Affairs Queensland

Multiculturalism in public policy

I was born in Turkey and migrated as an adolescent with my family, as migrants. And I’ve worked in the community sector, I’ve worked in government and I’ve worked in academia…

There are different elements of multiculturalism that a policy can address; it can’t certainly fix all of the social issues that a culturally diverse society faces. But certainly from the provision of services in government – I start that as the most basic and tangible point - I felt that within the Queensland Government there wasn’t an understanding of the policy, it was easily dismissed, there was no accountability mechanisms around that. And while there was a whole lot of kudos around festivals and grants, there was not necessarily a commitment across the ministerial and bureaucratic level in making sure that it was reflected in all elements of government policy, right across the different portfolios…

First, the policy framework needed to be stronger. It had the rhetoric but it was very broad rhetoric. It meant nothing if you didn’t have the commitment or the understanding, it was just essentially a whole lot of terms. First, the element was, how can we can make the policy stronger. So one of the key issues that challenged our area was trying to convince the political leadership of the government to make it stronger – and make the issues more explicit. The Premier is very committed to multiculturalism, he states that at every forum, he makes a number of ministerial statements in Parliament just about every week that Parliament sits. So at that level I think there is a changed perception of multiculturalism at the leadership level within Queensland Government that we haven’t seen in the past…

Multiculturalism is a very broad term and it could be pulled and pushed in each direction. So what were the components of it that needed to be made more tangible? Is it something for ethnics, is it something for a broader awareness of communities, what are we trying to get at? So we actually tightened it to four different areas. One was around the economic imperatives – that’s the one that sells unfortunately in the current climate. So benefits of productive diversity, benefits of trade – that has been adopted as a policy and now the department and government are working on how do we make that explicit in terms of implementation…

Is there accountability of directors general of government agencies? If you don’t have the support at the leadership level – what I find is that there’s a lot of good will at lower levels and sometimes middle management, and sometimes you have it at the leadership level, but the middle management is stagnant and resisting. So essentially there needs to be a top-down and bottom-up kind of approach around embedding multiculturalism in structures. Often the bottom-up is easier to take along with you through education, training and incentives, but the top-down is harder to achieve. So one of the key elements of this is – do you take the carrot and the stick? It’s also about taking people with you, not leaving them behind. So you can do things top-down but it still might not be meaningful…

But one of the things that the Premier has committed himself to do

is to look at multicultural performance agreements with each of the directors general. So starting August of this year each director general will need to do two things: one is account for their multicultural performance, two is to have multicultural action plans as part of their departmental strategic plans. So it embeds it at different levels and essentially tries to link performance – payment – of directors general to how the departments are performing.