Separation of Church and Trait?

Posted by Anne Macindoe on 2 September 2013 | 0 Comments

One Melbourne council recently gave the green light to a unique project.  The Shia Muslim Al Sadiq Foundation will build a mosque on its Coolaroo property.  Right next door to an Assyrian church.

Tensions are running high.  Members of St Mary's Ancient Church of the East claim the planning decision is tactless and provocative.  Their Muslim neighbours say they only want to worship in peace.

This issue has spilled over into mainstream media, from local talk-back radio to national TV news.  Everyone, it seems, has a view.  And those perspectives are largely polarised. 

Is this a test of multicultural Australia?  Not really.  It is more a demonstration of how integrated religious beliefs are with lifestyle and culture.  Especially the cultural heritage of migrant groups.

Religious or Cultural Identity

Multicultural Australia is rich in cuisine, language, customs and faith.  But for many, cultural identity is so closely linked to creed that one is almost indistinguishable from the other.  Indeed, faith is often the mortar that binds a migrant community, providing:

  • a safe haven to which many grow a strong sense of belonging,
  • networks that may help with access to jobs and financial support,
  • a place people commonly use a first language other than English,
  • day-to-day guidance, including consumer decision making,
  • lasting links to cultural heritage.

In this sense, spiritual traditions become a key element in cultural grouping and communicating with multicultural Australia.  A little such awareness may have diffused the angry scenes at that infamous City of Hume planning meeting.

The Australian Worship Mix

Australia’s religious diversity is changing.  Dramatically.  Census Data since 1901 shows a steady decline in actively practising Christians.  At the same time those identifying with Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism is on the rise.

That’s not really a surprise.  Today, more people born in India call Australia home than the combined total of Greek and Italian migrants.  Even though almost 30% of the world population are practising Muslims, this group still represents just 2.2% in Australia.

















Figure 1: "Cultural diversity". 1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2008. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 7 February 2008.

Marketing’s Holy Grail

Pick up any marketing guide and you’ll see the same thing:

  • Step 1.  Define your audience
  • Step 2.  Know your audience

Create communication of any kind without taking these steps and your cut-through rate will be near zero.  Getting to know and understand your market delivers a very different outcome.

Multicultural marketing does present unique challenges.  The connection between belief and culture is almost like left and right feet.  Your communication won’t move ahead smoothly without both.  So, developing culturally sensitive and aware communication obliges us to understanding the role of faith within cultural groups.

For many that’s simply one part of a cultural heritage.  For others, this innate element of cultural identity can even become a flashpoint.  Just as the town planners have discovered.

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