Psychologist urges Government to follow Obama’s lead

19 May 2016

Australia has a proud history of multiculturalism. However, that cohesion is currently threatened. We are at a critical juncture where policy decisions can inflame or exacerbate divisions.

In the wake of recent political commentary about refugees, a leading Australian psychologist has called on the Australian Government to take a leaf out of the US Obama administration's book by directing its agencies to consider behavioural science in policy making.

Professor Michael Kyrios, Director of The Australian National University (ANU) Research School of Psychology and President of the Australian Psychological Society, will host a Roundtable event in Melbourne on Friday for Australia's top psychologists to discuss how psychology can help unite Australians.

"Australia has a proud history of multiculturalism. However, that cohesion is currently threatened. We are at a critical juncture where policy decisions can inflame or exacerbate divisions," Professor Kyrios said.

"The more cohesive our society, the happier it is and the fewer people we have out on the fringes. It's the people on the fringes that are most at risk for things like racism and radicalisation.

"There have been times in Australia's history where multiculturalism has gone off the boil leading to groups becoming disenfranchised, and the more they became disenfranchised the more radicalised they became."

Professor Kyrios has called on the Australian Government to follow the lead of US President Barack Obama who signed an executive order in September last year directing all federal agencies to incorporate behavioural science into their programs and policy making.

"We would love to have the Australian Government make such a statement supporting evidence-based policy development," he said.

"The big issues of the day, like Islamophobia, racism and even wellbeing are psychological issues as much as they are political or economic issues.

"We hope to highlight the role of psychology in the major issues of our time. We hope to have further impact on policy makers, on the benefits of having psychologists involved and use of psychological data involved in developing policy."