Australia is a federal state composed of five provinces and two territories, with a population that includes approximately 160 ethnic groups. The large number of individuals of different origin is mainly due mainly to the massive immigration after the Second World War, when official statistics recorded in 1997 4.5 million citizens whose native language was other than English, representing approximately 25% of the total population of the country.
In the ninth decade of the 19th century the highest number of immigrants was recorded (about 1.1 million people), exceeding the number of the U.S. immigrants by two-thirds. This process was due mainly to the government's lax attitude in Canberra, which enacted a special program to reunite families, and reduced the required conditions for immigration, including the visa documents required.
Although, in terms of population growth this has had a significant impact on the economic state, several problems were also encountered mainly because many people were not able able to integrate into the Australian labor market. In the early 90s, about 27% of the previous decade immigrants lived only on welfare provided by government, a situation that has generated considerable pressure on the budget, with negative consequences for the country's external debt.
Since the early emergence of the phenomenon of immigration, after setting up the federal state, Australian authorities have not defined the newcomers as "minority", but rather as "ethnic groups", a notion that has been perpetuated over time, regardless of the successive policies adopted in this issue. Ignoring that each of these ethnic groups in Australia had its own customs and traditions, Australian authorities initially tried to implement a tough policy which has been ineffective due to the high degree of diversity and social conditions, as well as the economic conditions existing in the first half of this century.
On the other hand, away from their countries of origin, their sense of isolation and rejection by the local population determined immigrants to meet each other more often, to build churches, to organize more cultural associations and to help edit their own publications, as well as perform translations of the local magazines and newspapers. This reality and the evolution of society gradually led authorities to pay more attention and importance of integration of immigrants. Thus, in 1970, Malcolm Fraser, Prime Minister of that time, introduced the concept of "multiculturalism" to define the true fabric of Australian society, officially abandoning the policy of assimilation as applied before.
Thus, especially in the major cities, such as Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Melbourne, "multiculturalism" has had a beneficial effect on the development of Australian society, when immigrants were able to quickly integrate and to make a significant contribution to the establishment of democratic relations. After 1990, however, the situation began to change, with the poor economy of Asian countries generating a massive immigration. The traditions, culture and their customs were quite different from those of the European nations and led to the creation of compact blocks.
In these circumstances, the necessity of a reformulation of this notion of multiculturalism for the Australian authorities is becoming more and more evident and something new is needed for a better development of the society.