Census 2016: Australia the world's least racist country?

A small note on the Chinese in Australia.  Salty Bernard below says we have 510,000 Chinese-born residents. That is both true and misleading.  The China-born persons of Han Chinese origin are probably only half of the total Han Chinese immigrants.  Many of the people from Vietnam and Malaysia particularly are Han Chinese by ancestry and know it.  Additionally many have been in Australia for a long time now and have children and grandchildren born here.  So the number of Australian born Han could well be greater than the number born overseas.

I repeatedly in my daily life come across people of unmistakeably Han ancestry who speak Australian English as well as I do: They have obviously grown up here.  So I estimate that there are around 2 million Australians of Han ancestry, which makes the total population around 5% Han.  We are lucky to have so many bright, hard working and peaceful people among us.

So the Han give demographers a few problems.  The "Overseas" Chinese who have come to Australia from Southest Asia identify strongly as Han so for most purposes should be lumped in with the China-born Han.

But an upcoming process will create even greater definitional difficulties.  Young Han women in Australia are generally short in stature and seem to be universally determined to marry a tall man.  And if a tall Han man cannot be found a tall Caucasian man will do.  In my observation, that is actually universal.  Young Han women ALWAYS have a tall man with them if they have anyone at all. They know how to get what they want.  Looking at it from the other way, around 50% of tall Caucasian men will have a little Asian lady on their arms if any. That will undoubtedly produce a large crop of Eurasian children in the not too distant future.  How will the demographers classify them?

The phenomenon I have just described also does pretty well as an indication that neither Han nor Caucasian Australians are racist.  In the Bogardus scale of social distance, marriage is the highest level of non-racism

Australian migrants have to really want to come to this country. We are not like Europe or Africa or the Americas where migrants can trek from one country to another across a land border. And Australia isn’t conveniently positioned between continents teeming with humanity. We’re a bit out of the way … in fact we’re a long way out of the way. Which means that if migrants do decide to make the journey to Australia, then getting back to see family and friends is difficult. I think our isolation, the tyranny of distance, delivers an urgency to the Aussie migrant’s yearning for success.

Come to Australia, mate, work hard, pay your taxes, make a civic contribution, perhaps raise a family and share in the resources of our bountiful continent. Large-scale migration shapes the culture of the host population. Migrants lift the bar; they have something to prove; they measure their success by the success of their children (and often set up by the exceptionally hard work of the migrating parents). Without migration Australia would have remained a white Anglo enclave, a colonial outpost of Britain. Migrant effort, energy, enterprise and muscle have shaped this nation and changed the way we eat (pasta), style our homes (back veranda is now alfresco) and greet each other (cheek kissing) along the way.

All of which leads me to conclude that Australia is the greatest migrant nation on earth. And here is why I believe we can make that claim. According to the latest census figures 28 per cent of the Australian population was born overseas, up two percentage points in the past five years. This proportion in the US, Britain and Spain is barely 13 per cent. Only New Zealand (25 per cent) and Canada (20 per cent) come close to the Australian figures.

If we include residents with at least one parent born overseas then this proportion rises to 49 per cent. Or at least this was the proportion last August; by now we probably have topped the 50 per cent mark. There are more than 6.1 million migrants living in Australia — up 870,000 from the 2011 census — which represents an increase of 174,000 per year.

In Greater Melbourne, Perth and Sydney migrants comprise between 36 per cent and 39 per cent of the population (and even higher proportions in tighter definitions of these cities). This proportion in Greater New York is 37 per cent, in Paris it is 25 per cent, in Berlin it is 13 per cent, in Tokyo it is 2 per cent and in Shanghai it is less than 1 per cent. The Germans get all angsty when Berlin pushes much beyond the 13 per cent mark; Greater Sydney is sitting at 39 per cent and rising. And if we again include local residents with at least one parent born overseas, then 65 per cent of Sydney’s population is a migrant or closely connected to the migrant experience.

I do not see how anyone can credibly make the case that Australians are fundamentally racist — racist incidents perhaps, but not fundamentally racist — when close to 40 per cent of the population in our biggest city consists of migrants. If Australians had a fundamental problem with migrants then the issue would have been brought to a head long before Sydney got to be a more cosmopolitan city than New York.

There is no rioting in our streets. Generally we all get along. There are, of course, serious issues that we are dealing with in regard to refugees. However, I cannot cite another nation with metrics even approaching Australia’s generosity in accepting migrants.

Australia’s largest migrant groups are the British (1.088 million) and New Zealanders (518,000). The Brits arrived en masse after World War II as “ten-pound Poms”, while enterprising New Zealanders have always sought to test their mettle in the bigger market of Australia. However, through the 2020s it is likely that there will be a switch in our largest migrant populations. The Brits are dying off and the recovery of the New Zealand economy has stemmed the flow of Kiwis.

The rising migrant forces in Australia are unmistakably Asian. The latest census counted 510,000 Chinese-born residents, increasing at a rate of 38,000 a year, which means they probably already have surpassed the Kiwis as Australia’s second largest migrant group. Then come the Indians with 455,000, increasing at a rate of 32,000 a year. Then there are the Filipinos with 232,000 and the Vietnamese with 219,000.

The Chinese are our leading source of new migrants; they probably have replaced the Kiwis as our leading source of visitors; they form the largest body of overseas students; and China is our leading export market and source of imports. I think it’s time we made Mandarin a compulsory second language in the school curriculum. Indeed I think it is in the national interest for Australians to understand some Mandarin (and at times in business not to let on that we understand some Mandarin).

There are migrant hotspots in every major city, especially among non-English-speaking settlers. The Chinese make up 9 per cent of the population in Hobart’s Sandy Bay. In Darwin’s Coconut Grove Filipino migrants comprise 10 per cent of the population. In Brisbane the Chinese comprise 23 per cent of the population in Macgregor, Indians cluster in Runcorn (9 per cent) and the Vietnamese congregate in Inala, where they comprise 20 per cent of the population. In Adelaide, for some reason English migrants love McLaren Vale where they account for 15 per cent of the population.

Generally British and New Zealand migrants integrate seamlessly into the Australian social fabric. Contrary to popular opinion New Zealanders do not dominate the Sydney suburb of Bondi, where they form just 3.4 per cent of the population. In fact the newest Kiwi enclave is a long way from hip Bondi; it’s Marsden in suburban Brisbane, where they form 13 per cent of the population. The Brits do congregate, but mostly as retirees in lifestyle locations such as Melbourne’s Mount Martha where they also comprise 13 per cent of the population.

The migrant component to the Australian population swishes and swirls to every nook and cranny on the continent. I say this imbues Australians with a global perspective not found elsewhere. We have developed an absorbent culture that soaks up and showcases migrant influences. Perhaps because we are so removed we see overseas and cosmopolitan influences as a mark of sophistication. Quinoa salad, anyone? ....

Which brings me to a final observation about Australia’s migrants. They make the journey to Australia to secure a better life for themselves and their families.

And in so doing I think they make choices based on work availability and perceived quality of life. Sydney may offer the next generation of migrants work opportunities in financial services, but it is the first generation that wants to buy a home, perhaps as a symbol of their success in the new world. And when you think about it, this aspiration to work and to own a home aligns nicely with fundamental Australian values.


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