Syed, Jawad and Kramar, Robin (2010) What is the Australian model for managing cultural diversity? Personnel Review, 39 (1). pp. 96-115. ISSN 0048-3486

Purpose – This paper seeks to assess the Australian approach to managing a culturally diverse workforce by examining the outcomes of this approach.

Design/methodology/approach – The paper applies Syed and Özbilgin's relational, multilevel framework for managing diversity to study policies at three interrelated levels. At the macro-national level, the paper examines legal and public policy initiatives for managing cultural diversity. At the meso-organisational level, the paper discusses a variety of workplace diversity management approaches. This discussion encompasses the legal requirements for organisations to remove discrimination, and to create an equal employment opportunity workplace. A voluntary management approach known as “diversity management” is also outlined. At the micro-individual level, the paper examines unique employment-related issues faced by ethnic minority workers because of their ethnic, linguistic and religious identities. The multilevel perspectives are synthesised in a model labelled “the Australian model for managing cultural diversity”.

Findings – The legal framework in Australia places only limited obligations on organisations to manage cultural diversity. As a consequence, while a range of organisational responses have proliferated, an integrated approach towards managing culturally diverse workers is absent. The paper argues that, unless cultural diversity is tackled at multiple levels and in a more integrated way, any attempt to either understand or manage such diversity may prove unrealistic.

Originality/value – The paper offers helpful advice to decision makers at the macro-national and meso-organisational policy levels vis-à-vis developing a realistic understanding of managing diversity through a multilevel framework.

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