Understanding diversity in Coffs Harbour: who makes up a 'community'?

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Publication details

Norton, M & Moloney, G 2016, 'Understanding diversity in Coffs Harbour: who makes up a 'community'?', abstract presented to the Southern Cross University 13th Annual Honours Psychology Research Conference, Southern Cross University, Coffs Harbour, 7 October.

Abstract available on Open Access


There is a paucity of research examining how resettled humanitarian migrants are understood by their host communities. The current research draws from the theory of social representations to investigate community understandings associated with resettled migrants. The research also examined whether a relationship existed between understandings of ‘community’ and evaluations of migrant groups. An online survey was completed by residents of a regional town in NSW, which has been a place of resettlement for humanitarian migrants since 2001. The survey involved a double-word association task that, firstly, prompted participants to list the most salient groups within the community and then the meanings commonly associated with each group. Next, participants completed a general evaluation scale for each group elicited in the word association task, along with a 10-item scale that measured what was understood by ‘community’. Exploratory factor analysis revealed 3 different, but related, aspects of community: ‘commonality’, ‘diversity’ and ‘geography’. Within group analyses showed significantly higher mean scale scores for the diversity subscale compared with commonality and geography. This suggests that participants understood ‘community’ better in terms of human diversity, than they did in terms of commonality between people or as a mere geographical location. Frequency analysis of the word associations revealed that humanitarian migrants were identified as one of the ten most salient groups in the community. Comparisons of the evaluation ratings revealed groups identified as ‘Sudanese’, ‘Refugees’ and ‘Indigenous’ were rated below the scale mid-point suggesting that, in the main, they were evaluated more negatively than groups identified as ‘Surfers’, ‘Australian’, ‘Families’, ‘Retirees’, ‘Caucasian’ and ‘Sikh’ all of which scored above the scale mid-point. No significant correlations were found between the community factors and evaluations of migrant groups, suggesting that understandings of community did not impact on evaluations