The Cultural Atlas
The Cultural Atlas is a collaborative project between SBS, International Education Services (IES), and Multicultural NSW. Created in 2016, it aims to inform and educate the public in cross-cultural attitudes, practices, norms, behaviours and communications. These cultural observations are contextualised with up-to-date statistics about Australia’s migrant populations and information on their trends of arrival and settlement. The goal is to enhance social cohesion in Australia and improve outcomes for individuals and organisations operating in an increasingly culturally diverse society.
All published content in the Cultural Atlas is the result of a collective effort between researchers, editors and members of the Australian community that have cross-cultural identities or familiarities. We would particularly like to acknowledge the contribution of many of Australia's multicultural community members, who took the time and effort to provide relevant information about their culture. You can read more about our research process and see a list of our collaborators.
The Purpose of Cultural Profiles
The Cultural Atlas provides a unique opportunity for users to gain a broad understanding of the norms and behaviour that would generally be familiar to people from the culture of description. At a personal level, we hope the Cultural Atlas offers its users the chance to inform their judgements of cross-cultural experiences with a deeper understanding.
However, please remember that cultural descriptions cannot be universally applied to all individuals within a particular culture. The purpose of this information is to offer insight into the kind of cultural and social environment a first-generation migrant is likely to be familiar with, rather than to describe the individual. Cultural profiles should not be relied upon to form expectations or stereotypes of an individual’s behaviour based on their place of origin.
Be aware that descriptions of dominant cultures are not representative of all individuals’ experiences. While the Cultural Atlas provides descriptions of dominant cultural practices and norms, every society contains many microcultures that may differ from this cultural mainstream in identifying characteristics. People’s experience within a culture may also vary on a personal basis, depending on one’s age, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality or other factors.
It is also important to note that those migrants who have been settled and acculturated in Australia for decades may have a different understanding of their originating culture and society from those living there today. Understandings vary depending on how frequently someone has visited their place of birth since migrating as well as other factors. As cultural traditions diverge and transform with every generation, many cultural descriptions tend to be less representative of second-generation migrants.EXPLORE CULTURAL PROFILES
Determining Culture and Identity
The Cultural Atlas attributes cultural profiles to each migrant population identified by the Australian Government’s records. This government data on the overseas-born population generally categorises people by country. Using national cultures as a general point of reference allows for consistency and provides contextual history in the Cultural Atlas’ profiles.
We recognise and respect that cultures are not confined by national borders, nor are they homogenous within them. People may come from the same country of birth, but they do not always have the same cultural background and experiences as others from that nation.
There are circumstances in which the Australian Government has apportioned a separate migrant population data set to a region that is not internationally recognised as a sovereign nation-state (e.g. Taiwan, Hong Kong, Palestinian Territories). Such cultural profiles have been provided as separate entities in accordance with standard migration research and corresponding academic practice. This choice is not intended to imply the population has sovereign status.
We acknowledge that some people belonging to minority groups may feel misrepresented by their official nationality and prefer to be culturally identified in another way altogether, such as by their ethnic, religious, linguistic and/or social identity. Dedicating a cultural profile to every minority identity is beyond the scope of Cultural Atlas. Nevertheless, we recognise these real and legitimate positions and have sought to acknowledge their presence and self-determination in the places they occur.
Representing Opinions and Positions
The Cultural Atlas aims to give the most relevant advice on how to interact sensitively with different migrant communities. This will sometimes involve providing the social or political opinions of a particular group in order to offer the reader an understanding of their cultural perspective. In some cases, one cultural group's opinions or position within a debate may challenge another's.
Any political opinions described are representative of those that have been expressed by migrant community groups and do not represent the positions of the Cultural Atlas, SBS, IES or Multicultural NSW. Each cultural profile is written in collaboration with people that share cross-cultural familiarities, and aims to reflect their points of view.
An Australian Context
The Cultural Atlas has been designed for an Australian audience. Therefore, information on cultural communication alludes to an Australian norm to describe verbal and non-verbal behaviours. You can visit our profile on Australian Culture to understand what this is. However, we do not suggest that Australian culture presents the ideal model by which other cultures should be judged.READ THE AUSTRALIAN CULTURAL PROFILE
A Migrant Context
The Cultural Atlas aims to improve social cohesion in the Australian context. Therefore, the information tends to reflect those migrants that Australians are statistically more likely to interact with. This may involve giving particular attention to certain groups that have greater access to migration pathways to Australia (e.g. those from specific social or economic groups).
As an example, one may find that a large proportion of migrants in Australia belong to a minority religion in their country of origin. In such circumstances, the information in the Cultural Atlas may give particular attention to this religion (despite it accounting for a small portion of the country’s total population) to reflect the common migrant backgrounds that Australia receives. This concentration is not intended to give a disproportionate view of the culture or ascribe any superior value to a particular social group.
Nina Evason is a specialist in the Culture, Diversity & Inclusion sector, with seven years of experience in researching and developing content for cross-cultural learning. She has specialised knowledge in multicultural affairs, having worked with 40+ migrant community groups across Australia.
Nina has an academic background in peace and conflict studies, public policy and international relations. She has a BA (Dean’s Commendation for Academic Excellence) and is a qualified ESL Language Instructor. Nina has also been involved in the development of the Cultural Competence Program and the Inclusion Program.
Chara Scroope graduated from the University of Queensland as valedictorian in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) and Bachelor of Social Science. Her humanities and social science background developed her passion for learning about and sharing the many lived human experiences of different cultures, religions and philosophies throughout history. She is currently undertaking her research masters in classical Indian philosophy.
Luke Latimer, Leon Coningham, Robert Macias, Kyle Annett, Michael Pepping, Sherry Wang