Cultural Variation in Australia: Ethnicity, Host Community Residence, and Power-Distance Values

Diane Sivasubramaniam, Jane Goodman-Delahunty


Effective communication within a multicultural society necessitates an understanding of how people’s values might vary according to their cultural background and immigration history. Etic approaches to the study of culture have indicated that national cultures are differentiated on the dimension of power-distance. Power-distance refers to the degree of inequality or hierarchy that people believe to be appropriate in societal and organisational authority structures. Recently, researchers have begun to investigate power-distance at an individual level. However, psychologists have not yet investigated systematic variation in power-distance within multicultural communities. This study examined whether power-distance varies within Australian society according to race/ethnicity. Based on previous research, we hypothesised that systematic variation in power-distance values would emerge within a university sample surveyed in Sydney, Australia. Results indicated that participants’ power-distance values varied across ethnic groups, but did not always correspond with power-distance indices of participants’ reported racial/ethnic backgrounds, qualified by length of residence in Australia. The power-distance variations described in this paper are discussed in terms of their implications for multicultural communities, and in particular, the way that people of different ethnic backgrounds within Australian society comprehend and evaluate their interactions with authority figures, such as employers.


Acculturation; Power-distance; Cultural values

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