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Engaging Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities in Australian Party Politics

Civil Society
Elites
Political Participation
Political Parties
Candidate
Party Members
Qualitative
Political Activism
Anika Gauja
University of Sydney
Anika Gauja
University of Sydney

Abstract

In this Paper, I examine the representation and engagement of culturally and linguistically diverse communities in Australian party politics through a case study of two recent initiatives in the Australian Labor Party (ALP). The ALP is Australia’s oldest party and is one of the two ‘major’ parties that is able to routinely form government in the federal parliament. Like social democratic parties worldwide, however, the ALP’s membership has traditionally lacked gender and ethnic diversity. In this Paper, I present an ethnographic qualitative study of two groups that been recently been formed within the ALP to promote greater ethnic diversity within the party: Poliversity and the Labor Action Committee for Multiculturalism Policy (LAMP). Both groups share similar goals of increasing the representativeness (policy and background) of the party, but have undertaken very different organising strategies in order to do so: Poliversity is an independent yet affiliated organisation and LAMP exists within formal party structures. Using data from interviews conducted with group founders and active members, as well as observing and analysing online and offline activities, I compare the organising strategies and activities of these two newly formed organisations in order to understand their motivations, how they work with the party to engage cultural and ethnically diverse communities in partisan activities, and how they hope to increase representation amongst the party’s elected officials. This research will enable a better understanding of how political parties, through novel organising approaches within and the beyond the party organisation, can engage individuals and communities who would otherwise be reluctant to participate in partisan politics, let alone formally join a political party. It suggests that by engaging communities beyond the formal party organisation, background and policy representation can be achieved even if formal membership is in decline.