Acculturation theory and research in New Zealand and Australia

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Australia and New Zealand share a common history involving the colonization of indigenous peoples (see Chapter 7) and a past and present emphasis on attracting and retaining skilled migrants from international sources to meet labor market demands. As such, both countries have become culturally plural nations that are struggling with issues of multiculturalism and national identity and how to deal with diversity in ways that maximize its benefits and minimize its risks for both social cohesion and individual well-being. Despite sharing a common history and contemporary goals, New Zealand and Australia have approached sociopolitical issues pertaining to culture and diversity in somewhat different ways. Australia, for example, has more multicultural policies in place (Multicultural Policy Index, 2010) whereas the symbolic status of indigenous peoples (e.g., te reo Māori recognized as an official national language) and the importance of their contribution to defining a national identity (e.g., implicit associations including both Māori and Europeans in defining nationhood) appear more favorable in New Zealand (Sibley & Barlow, 2009; Sibley & Liu, 2007; Ward & Liu, 2012). There are also differences in views on how best to accommodate refugees due in part to easier illegal access to Australia by “boat people.” New Zealand appears to take a more humanitarian approach as evidenced by the willingness to resettle refugees rejected by Australia (e.g., the Tampa affair) at the same time that Australia introduced the “Pacific Solution” to transport asylum-seekers to detention centers in small Pacific island nations. In this chapter we update the chapter by Sang and Ward (2006) in the first edition of the Handbook and review theory and research on acculturation in New Zealand and Australia with emphasis on work done in the last decade. We rely on the framework provided by Berry and Sam in Chapter 2 of this volume to organize this material. The framework spans cultural and individual levels, recognizing the impact of intercultural contact on changes in both the cultures and the individuals in contact. With respect to individual-level changes emphasis is placed on behavioral shifts, the management of acculturative stress and the preference for and implementation of acculturation strategies and their respective consequences for adaptation in sociocultural, psychological and intercultural domains.




Ward, C., & Mak, A. S. (2016). Acculturation theory and research in New Zealand and Australia. In The Cambridge Handbook of Acculturation Psychology, Second Edition (pp. 314–336). Cambridge University Press.

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