This paper argues for a reconsideration of social cohesion as an analytical concept and a policy goal in response to increasing levels of religious diversity in contemporary Australia. In recent decades, Australian has seen a revitalization of religion, increasing numbers of those who do not identify with a religion (the “nones”), and the growth of religious minorities, including Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sikhism. These changes are often understood as problematic for social cohesion. In this paper, we review some conceptualizations of social cohesion and religious diversity in Australia, arguing that the concept of social cohesion, despite its initial promise, is ultimately problematic, particularly when it is used to defend privilege. We survey Australian policy responses to religious diversity, noting that these are varied, often piecemeal, and that the hyperdiverse state of Victoria generally has the most sophisticated set of public policies. We conclude with a call for more nuanced and contextualized analyses of religious diversity and social cohesion in Australia. Religious diversity presents both opportunities as well as challenges to social cohesion. Both these aspects need to be considered in the formation of policy responses.
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