‘At Least You're the Right Colour': Identity and Social Inclusion of Bosnian Refugees in Australia

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This paper explores the Australian resettlement of the largest recent refugee group, Bosnians. It is argued that Bosnians (and other ex-Yugoslavs) were Australia's preferred humanitarian immigrants during the 1990s because of their European background (based on social-cohesion and ‘resettlement-potential' arguments) and because of the presence of ex-Yugoslav communities in Australia which were expected to support newly arrived refugees during their early resettlement (the ‘community argument'). The ‘whiteness'/‘Europeanness' of Bosnians enabled them to remain largely ‘invisible' in the country they perceived as ‘white Australia' and to initially claim an ‘insider status'. For many people, however, this self-inclusion is thwarted in the second stage of resettlement when they are expected to find jobs and ‘acculturate', as the language barrier and their non-English-speaking background become a basis of difference and potential exclusion. Their economic and social inclusion thus appears to be determined by factors beyond visibility and remains limited almost a decade after the largest wave of Bosnians arrived in Australia.

Keywords: Australia; Bosnian Refugees; Identity; Race; Social Inclusion

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13691830500109720

Publication date: July 1, 2005

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