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The migrant voice in public policy deliberations: The health story in Australia and Canada

Catherine Clutton, Australian National University

Tue 7 April 2015

11:00am - 12:00pm

Fishbowl, Building 24, University of Canberra


If there is a criticism of deliberative democracy it is that those who are included in deliberations frequently represent the well-educated, articulate, generally male, dominant majority who can engage in rational debate.  This effectively excludes citizens who are less articulate, who may prefer different styles of interaction, or who are otherwise subject to discrimination such as women and visible minorities.  Many immigrants fit the profile of those who are generally excluded.

My research project takes the policy maker’s perspective and focuses on the engagement of immigrants in the development of health-related public policy, comparing Australia and Canada at both the national and State/Territory/Provincial levels.  Noting that both Australia and Canada have explicit national policies in favour of multiculturalism and citizen engagement, it is pertinent to review how public officials engage with citizens from increasingly culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

In this context critical multiculturalism provides an opportunity to examine the institutional structures in place that may exclude immigrants from participating in government deliberations.  Equally, the norms of deliberative democracy provide a framework to enable the inclusion of immigrant voices.  Together, the facilitating features of these frameworks should enable the inclusion of immigrant voices.  Within these frameworks I ask whether and how paying greater attention to cultural competence can enhance public policy deliberations and thus policy outcomes.  Today’s presentation will be illustrated with findings from my fieldwork to show how governments are addressing the objective of inclusion expressed in these frameworks.

About the speaker

Cathy Clutton is a PhD Candidate at the ANU Medical School, College of Medicine, Biology and Environment.   Cathy has over thirty years’ experience of public administration with the Australian Government (1978-2012), almost all of which was in the federal health portfolio.  The majority of this time was spent with the National Health and Medical Research Council.  Her responsibilities have included developing and managing programs that provided support for community organisations, developing evidence-based clinical practice and public health guidelines and policy, and providing support for health and medical research in Australia, including the ethical conduct of research.  A recurring theme in her work has been citizen engagement.

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