Belonging and Social Identity Among Young People in Western Sydney, Australia



This article explores young people’s everyday life in multiethnic Australian communities. The focus is on interethnic social identity and belonging to the Australian society. The research gives an insight into social relationships, social networks and attitudes to the Australian culture among young people living in multiethnic neighbourhoods. Conceptually, the research is framed around Bourdieu’s habitus discourse and the influence of social and cultural capital on young people’s perceptions and attitudes. A survey of 339 young people residing in Western and South Western Sydney, Australia, was undertaken in 2007. Ninety-five percent of the young people were from minority migrant backgrounds, and two thirds were born in Australia. The majority of them feel good about living in Australia, while only a small percentage rarely or never share this feeling. The findings demonstrate a more positive atmosphere and contradict evidence highlighted by pessimistic predictions of anti-immigrant and anti-multiculturalism critics. For many people of minority ethnic backgrounds, the Australian multicultural society works in a cohesive and inclusive way most of the time. The findings, even when sometimes contradictory, emphasise that the Australian multicultural society was working well in 2007. The young people in the research acknowledged to be influenced by the Cronulla riots, but it had a minor influence on their perception of social identity, social networks or feeling connected to Australia.


Social identity Young people Multiethnic neighbourhoods Multicultural policy Ethnic riots 



The paper is based on research undertaken in the project ‘Tapping the Pulse of Youth in Cosmopolitan South Western and Western Sydney: A pilot study’, The Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the Diversity and Social Cohesion Program by Professor Jock Collins, Professor Carol Reid and Dr. Charlotte Fabiansson.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Arts & EducationVictoria UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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