The opportunities and challenges of superdiversity


Dancers make their way through the city

Migration has long been an important feature of Australian life, with cities like Melbourne becoming “superdiverse” as people from over 200 countries make it their home. Professor Jenny Phillimore outlines the implications for public policy and public services.

The past twenty years have seen enormous changes in the way we live, as societies and cultures across the world have become integrated through communication, transportation, and trade. Globalisation, as this process has become known, has impacted on almost every area of life. Globalisation has accelerated the speed and scale of migration, brought changes to migration patterns, and led to the development of the phenomena of new migration.

The “old” European migrations of the 1950s to 1990s brought large numbers of relatively homogenous groups of people to Australia most of them from Australia’s former coloniser: the United Kingdom. New migration sees relatively small numbers of people from countries across the world arriving to very many places with which they have little or even no historical connection.

Steven Vertovec argues new migration is superdiverse because new migrants are diverse across a wide range of variables including ethnicity, immigration status, rights and entitlements, labour market experiences, gender and age profiles, and patterns of spatial distribution. The scale, complexity, heterogeneity and pace of new migration far exceeds that of the early Brit arrivals.

While the concept of superdiversity was developed in Europe, indeed the original analysis is based upon data from London, Melbourne provides the perfect example of a superdiverse city. Research comparing the 2001 and 2011 censuses in Melbourne shows rapid changes in the past decade. Further, none of the geographical areas defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics has people from less than 17 countries of origin, with Point Cook and Dandenong being the most diverse with people arriving from 138 and 132 countries respectively.

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