Australian Financial Review
21st June, 2012
India tops migrant mix
By PIP FREEBAIRN
First they were British and Irish, then Greeks, Italian and Vietnamese, but now the fastest growing wave of migrants to Australia are Indians.
The 2011 census showed yesterday that the number of Indian migrants in Australia has doubled since five years earlier with around 150,000 new migrants arriving here.
The proportion of Australian residents born in India rose from0.7 per cent in 2006 to 1.4 per cent in 2011 as their number increased from 147,106 to 295,362.
Their growing contingent joins longer-standing migrants such as Yadu Singh, the president of Indian Australian Association of NSW. He came to Australia in 1991 to train as a cardiologist and enjoys the quality of life. He denies that Australia is perceived as racist and dangerous.
“Despite all the nonsense, Australia is a welcoming country and Indians know that. It was the Indian media that overreacted to the events a few years ago.
“Indian migrants know while there are a few [racists], the rules and regulation of this country are not in anyway racist.”
Dr Singh is referring to a series of incidents in Melbourne in which robberies and assaults on trains and in public places were perceived as being racially motivated.
Most Indians live in NSW, followed by Victoria, and most are located in capital cities. Melbourne had the highest proportion of Indian-born residents, at 2.7 per cent. But a regional bonus in the points test for permanent migration status means some Indian migrants are now branching out to Newcastle, Wollongong, and Bathurst.
Indian-born Australians are most likely to speak English at home, followed by Hindi and Punjabi, a language spoken in Northern India and regions of Pakistan.
The census reveals that the number of Punjabi speakers grew the fastest of any language in Australia – by 207 per cent between 2006 and 2011.
The growth of Hinduism has also matched the growth of Indian migration. While only 1.3 per cent of residents identify as Hindus, its numbers of adherents have almost doubled from 148,000 in 2006 to 275,534 in 2011.
Census director Andrew Henderson said the growth of Indian migration meant the Indian-born had overtaken Italian-born as those migrants moved into their second generation. “It is fundamentally shifting the cultural mix in Australia,” he said.
Australia and India share a number of cultural touchstones, not least widespread English usage in both nations and a legacy of common colonial histories. Cricket also binds the two nations, with Test matches that involve India in Sydney and Melbourne attracting large vocal crowds in support of the visiting team.
Indian permanent migration to Australia hit a monthly peak of almost 1800 in early 2008, before dipping to 680 in 2010 but has recovered to 1350 arrivals a month in early 2012.
Many Indians come to Australia not just for economic opportunity but to take advantage of the education system. Dr Singh said Indians who came to Australia tended to be young and highly educated and were often seeking further training in accounting, medical degrees, or nursing.
Indian-born Australians tend to be younger than the median age of the total population, 36 compared to 47.
Hass Dellal, the head of Australian Multicultural Foundation,which advises government, said the new wave of migration indicated that Australia was engaging more in the region.
“But we are not taking advantage of the opportunities it brings, economically or culturally. We need things such as languages in schools so that we can make the most of the advantages of our multicultural society.”
- Snapshot of a nation: what the census reveals about us (theage.com.au)
- Snapshot of a nation: what the census reveals about us (smh.com.au)
- Land of many cultures, ancestries and faiths (theage.com.au)