Page last updated at 05:39 GMT, Monday, 29 September 2008 06:39 UK

Australian racism 'still serious'

Anti-Islamic immigration slogan on protester's hat, May 2008
Some Australians still have strong views against immigration

Researchers in Australia have concluded that people are becoming more tolerant of cultural diversity.

But racism remains a problem, with one in 10 Australians believing some races are superior to others.

Professor Kevin Dunn at the University of Western Sydney led the study. Full results are due to be released later this week.

Australia's population of about 21 million includes almost half a million migrants in the past year to March.

Professor Dunn's study is intended for use in the preparation of anti-racism guidelines.

Racism high

The study, titled "Challenging Racism: The Anti-Racism research project", interviewed 12,500 people over almost a decade.

A key finding was that while Australians in general are welcoming of diversity, the view of national identity remains narrow.

Aboriginal children play in Alice Springs, file image
Indigenous Australians were also on the 'not belonging' list, the study found
The group most often singled out as "not belonging" in Australia was Muslims or people from the Middle East, Professor Dunn told reporters on the weekend.

"They stand out at the moment as the group that people would be most concerned about. There [are] stronger levels of social distance or fear of Islam or concern about Islam than of any other group at the moment," said Mr Dunn, a professor of human geography and urban studies.

Professor Dunn said indigenous Australians were the next group on the "not belonging" list.

He added there was evidence of an emerging antipathy towards black Africans after higher immigration from countries such as Sudan and Somalia.

About one in 10 people said they did not approve of intercultural marriages - about the same number who said they believed that not all races were equal.

"That's still quite high I suppose - there's a lot of concern that comes out of that," Mr Dunn said.

"It's better than in many other parts of the world, certainly in parts of western Europe where three in 10 people would hold those views," he said.

"But one in 10 is a lot. It means one person in every lunch room, one person in every locker room, five or 10 people on a train," he said.

However, more than 80% of people see cultural diversity as a benefit "and that's a good thing for Australian society," the professor said.

His findings also suggested that New South Wales is the country's most racist state.

This was explained by Mr Dunn as due to Sydney's role as the largest recipient of immigrants.

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