The Reconfiguration of Civil Society through Ethnic Communal Development

Walter Frank Lalich


Abstract

Migrant communities participate in the reconfiguration of civil society in places of settlement. Among the consequences of the large-scale culturally diverse postwar migration was in the regeneration, broadening and diversification of Australian civil society. This contribution outlines with unique data generated from ethnic communal organisations in Sydney the process of confluence of migration and civil society out of settlement constraints. Consecutive waves of migrants experienced settlement constraints that impaired the quality of their lives in a welfare state. Migrants, mostly left to themselves, acted collectively to improve the quality of their existence, to enable co-ethnic communication, and to mediate with the rest of society. They established thousands of grassroots organisations through collective mobilization of scarce resources. Many ethnic collectives through collective action appropriated their own communal places to satisfy spiritual, educational, welfare and other secular needs alongside the other forms of institutional development. Ethnic communal places, representatives of the re-territorialized cultures, heritages and elements of civil society, signify migrant inclusion in Australian social structures, including in civil society. Through development of community capital, ethnic collectives impacted on civil society in an environment experiencing limited cross-cultural social exchange. This development is representative of the unique structure of Australian civil society.

Keywords

civil society, migrants, collective act, communal places, participation

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