The problem with over-generalisations
At .id, we love a good story. But we believe that an essential component of a good story includes its establishment in some sort of credible evidence, data or fact.
After this week’s occurrences in the media, I’ve felt the need to do a bit of a fact check. With resources such as the ABC Fact Check unit now closed, the responsibility falls upon us all to scrutinise what our politicians are saying.
This week, the media has been reporting comments made by the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. It is his view that former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser made a mistake in including Lebanese-Muslims in the Special Humanitarian Program migration stream in the 1970s. His reasoning was that the majority of those who have recently been charged with terrorism-related charges (22 of 33) have been of a Lebanese-Muslim background. But is it unfair to aim such comments at community when based on 22 of its members? What proportion of the total Lebanese population in Australi do these 22 people represent? Of course, I turned to .id’s evidence base of Census data to find out.
The evidence-based story
At the time of the 2011 Census, there were 203,139 people with Lebanese ancestry in Australia. Of those, the vast majority, 128,639 or 63.3% were in fact born in Australia. A further 65,902 or 32.4% were born in Lebanon. Of those born overseas, 29.6% arrived between 1970 and 1979 and 19% arrived between 1980 and 1989.
Those Lebanese migrants who arrived in Australia during the 1970s and 1980s were fleeing the Lebanese Civil War. The causes of the War were multifaceted, and many religious and ethnic groups within the country were or felt targeted.
Of the current Lebanese community, less than half (82,369, 40.6%) are Muslim. Other prominent religions practised by the community are Western Catholicism (52,004, 25.6%) and Maronite Catholicism (28,220, 13.9%).
So back to these 22 Lebanese-Muslims that have faced terrorism charges – just how representative are they? Not very, as the data shows. Of the total Lebanese community in Australia, these 22 people represent 0.01%. Of the Lebanese-Muslim community specifically, it’s 0.03%.
The stories we tell can be powerful, especially when broadcast by the media, which is why it’s a problem to base generalisations about a community on such a small portion of its members. Let’s remember the story about the fantastic contributions the wider Lebanese community has made to Australian society, and the many business people, doctors, athletes, politicians, and entertainers that are part of this diverse community.
.id’s online demographic tools provide an evidence base of information that can be used to tell stories based on reliable data. You can access .id’s online resources for free to find stories based on evidence. What story will you tell?