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What is the Australian model for managing cultural diversity?

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Purpose ‐ This paper seeks to assess the Australian approach to managing a culturally diverse workforce by examining the outcomes of this approach. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The paper applies Syed and Özbilgin's relational, multilevel framework for managing diversity to study policies at three interrelated levels. At the macro-national level, the paper examines legal and public policy initiatives for managing cultural diversity. At the meso-organisational level, the paper discusses a variety of workplace diversity management approaches. This discussion encompasses the legal requirements for organisations to remove discrimination, and to create an equal employment opportunity workplace. A voluntary management approach known as "diversity management" is also outlined. At the micro-individual level, the paper examines unique employment-related issues faced by ethnic minority workers because of their ethnic, linguistic and religious identities. The multilevel perspectives are synthesised in a model labelled "the Australian model for managing cultural diversity". Findings ‐ The legal framework in Australia places only limited obligations on organisations to manage cultural diversity. As a consequence, while a range of organisational responses have proliferated, an integrated approach towards managing culturally diverse workers is absent. The paper argues that, unless cultural diversity is tackled at multiple levels and in a more integrated way, any attempt to either understand or manage such diversity may prove unrealistic. Originality/value ‐ The paper offers helpful advice to decision makers at the macro-national and meso-organisational policy levels vis-à-vis developing a realistic understanding of managing diversity through a multilevel framework.

Keywords: Australia; Equal opportunities; Migrant workers

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2010-01-01

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