Asian Immigration Growing Fast In Australia : Census

Asian immigration growing fast in Australia: census

January 29, 2009

SYDNEY (AFP) Australia's Asian population is growing rapidly as more immigrants from across the region pour into a country once despised for its racially exclusive policies, official statistics showed Thursday.

China and India provided increasing numbers of immigrants, while traditional sources of new arrivals in the so-called “Lucky Country” — such as Britain and Italy — suffered a decline, a review of the latest census revealed.

The “Portrait of a Nation” provided by the Australia Bureau of Statistics after analysis of the 2006 tally shows that a quarter of the country's population was born overseas.

Between 1996 and 2006, the overseas-born population grew by 13 percent from 3.9 million to 4.4 million people “and featured a major increase in Asian immigration,” the figures showed.

The former British penal colony, which has become a sought-after destination for its laid-back sun-and-surf lifestyle, was until 1973 ruled by a “White Australia” policy restricting immigration to Westerners.

“Country of birth groups which increased the most between 1996 and 2006 were New Zealand (by around 98,000 people), China (96,000) and India (70,000),” the census revealed.

“In contrast, European country-of-birth groups declined sharply over the same period — Italy by 39,000 people, the United Kingdom by 35,000 and Greece by 17,000.”

However, while the ratio of Asian immigration to European arrivals changed — with six of the 10 most common birthplaces of migrants being Asian countries — Britain still accounted for the most new residents with 92,000.

Apart from China and India, countries providing increasing numbers of immigrants included Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea and South Africa.

The South African immigrants accounted for 26,300 arrivals between 2002 and 2006 — four percent of the total — behind China with 62,000 or 9.5 percent, and India with 54,100 or 8.3 percent.

Asians, accounting for 27 percent or 1.2 million of the overseas-born population, now vastly outnumber indigenous Australians who have been marginalised since the first European settlement more than two centuries ago.

Aborigines made up just 2.4 percent of the population, or 455,000 people, at the time of the census in 2006.

Apart from the South Africans in Australia, who are believed to be mainly white, African immigrants were largely refugees from countries such as Sudan and Zimbabwe who arrived in 2002 or later.

Around 80 percent of immigrants live in cities, and a separate report issued Thursday indicated that Australians living in small rural communities are much happier than their city counterparts.

Places of great natural beauty and farming areas with a strong sense of community and ties to the land scored most highly, according to the latest Australian Unity Wellbeing Index report.

The nation's biggest city, Sydney, was the least happy place in Australia, with the inner city and suburbs to the south most unhappy, said report author Bob Cummins.

Those areas are also some of the most racially troubled in the country.

The research showed wellbeing began to slide when the number of people in a community not born in Australia exceeded 40 percent, Cummins said.

“This appears to be caused by a lack of connection,” he said.

The report examined surveys of 35,000 Australians taken between 2002 and 2008.