Australian Bureau of Statistics
1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 1995
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 01/01/1995
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ETHNIC AND CULTURAL DIVERSITY IN AUSTRALIA
The above table indicates that those arriving in Australia from the 'older' migration countries have already produced a considerable second generation. Such groups include those from the United Kingdom, Italy, Greece, Germany, the Netherlands, Malta, Ireland and Austria. In all of these the second generation outnumbers the first. This reflects the fact that under the restrictive immigration policy in place before 1975 admissions were largely restricted to Europeans. It also reflects the decline in such admissions caused by rising living standards in Europe and the replacement of such intakes by those from Asia once this became possible. Among smaller groups where the second generation outnumbers the first, are those coming as refugees after World War II, including Latvians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians and Estonians.
Birthplaces on a regional basis is another way of illustrating shifts in the origins of the population since 1975. Table 2 shows birthplaces on a regional basis by percentage of the total population.
Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Groups
Birthplace has been collected in Australian censuses since 1871 and was produced for British and a few other birthplaces well before that. Indicators of ethnic origin were also provided for non-Europeans until 1966 and have been published for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders since 1971. There is a wealth of information about non-Europeans although much of it is based on racial categories which many social scientists would now regard as very dubious. Because of the historic obsession with race those of mixed descent were also classified as such although they may have been culturally quite assimilated to the Anglo-Australian mainstream. Indigenous people choosing to identify themselves as having Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin are so classified in recent census enumerations. Perhaps partly because they are based on self-identification, Aboriginal (and particularly Torres Strait Islander) counts have been volatile in recent censuses, although this is much less apparent in the latest census. New Zealand has followed the same path in enumerating Maoris under the Maori Affairs (Amendment) Act of 1974. The definition of indigenous peoples becomes very important when a special legal or constitutional status is extended to them. In New Zealand, Maoris have been entitled to four members of parliament since 1867. In Australia, Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders form the constituency for elections to the regional level of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.
No other ethnic minorities in Australia now have the special status of indigenous people nor do they suffer under the legal discrimination which non-Europeans experienced in the past. Their definition is thus mostly of concern to themselves and has no legal implications. However, many services are now delivered on an 'ethnic-specific' basis under the Commonwealth Access and Equity approach which seeks to equalise opportunities to enjoy public provision. In this delivery, language is usually taken as the most important 'barrier' to equity. However, 'cultural barriers' are often mentioned in official formulations, though rarely spelled out very specifically. As already argued, birthplace is often an inadequate measure of ethnicity. Most societies are multicultural and those emigrating to Australia are frequently drawn from ethnic minorities in their own birthplace. Moreover, many ethnic groups have large diasporas, of which the most extensive are those of British, Irish or Chinese origin.
The size of an ethnic group can never be definitively determined because the concept of an ethnic group is elastic. There is an element of choice in immigrant situations where the only division is between citizens and non-citizens. Once Australia abandoned racial classification of immigrants, which it finally did in 1973, there was no official reason for delimiting ethnic groups.
Birthplace became an unsatisfactory surrogate for ethnicity, to be joined by religion in many cases and, from 1976, by language. To illustrate varying definitions of an ethnic group, some 1991 figures of birthplace, religion and language are given in the following table.
Clearly there are many different dimensions to ethnicity. Even an attempt at tabulation of measures, as above, raises many difficulties. Nor does the 1991 Census ask for self-identification, other than for Aborigines. However, in a single departure, the 1986 Census followed American and Canadian precedent in asking respondents to nominate their ancestry, allowing for dual ethnicities such as Anglo-Indian or Greek-Australian. Results were tabulated on the basis of the first ethnicity in a dual definition. This resulted in various major proportions as shown in the following table.
This attempt to get Australians to nominate their ancestry showed that over 46 per cent classed themselves as 'Anglo-Celtic', including a considerable number of English, Irish and Scottish mix. To these might be added most who called themselves simply 'Australian'. This gives an 'Anglo-Australian' total of about two-thirds of the population. One mystery in the figures is the low percentage prepared to call themselves Irish or Scottish. It is probable that many of these preferred to be Australian, as calculations by Dr Charles Price, the leading expert in ethnic composition, estimated that 17 per cent of the population were of Irish and 12 per cent of Scottish descent in 1988. The figures for other ancestries, including small groups, were much closer to Dr Price's estimates. It seems from the 1986 figures that Australians of British or Irish descent, who make up by far the largest component of the population, do not attach much significance to their ancestry, while those from non-British minorities are more precise. This, at least, is what common sense would suggest. It is also clear that those who decry the term 'Anglo-Celtic' are overlooking a large part of the population which does descend from mixtures of the English, Scottish and Irish settlers of the past.
In all societies there is a tendency for immigrant and ethnic minority groups to concentrate in particular areas. These are often wrongly termed 'ghettos', suggesting isolation from the majority, poor and even criminal characteristics and undesirability. However, there are few recent instances of such deprived concentrations in Australia, compared, for example, with the situation in the United States or the United Kingdom. Immigrants to Australia have been carefully selected although social deprivation can be found amongst many refugees and some relatives of previous settlers. There are few slum areas in Australian cities comparable to those found in Europe and North America, and none comparable to those found in the rest of the world. The worst housing and living conditions are those of Aborigines in rural and outback areas, which are often far worse than for any other identifiable group in Australian society. This low incidence of slum ghettos reflects the relative affluence of Australia since the 1880s and the newness of much housing. There are, undeniably, suburbs of relative deprivation on the outskirts of the major cities. These are not necessarily inhabited by ethnic minority groups.
Australians have a long history of opposition to 'ghettos' which can be traced back for over a century. Certainly, on the goldfields the large Chinese populations had often been confined to certain areas by official decree. But when a group of destitute Italians arrived in New South Wales in 1881, they were told by the New South Wales Government that there could be no public assistance for them if they sought to settle together: 'the customs of the country and other circumstances render it undesirable, indeed almost impossible, for them to settle down altogether in one locality. Even if this were practicable it would not be for their own good to do so'. (Address to the Italian Immigrants, Sydney, 21st April 1881).
The Irish were believed to concentrate in urban ghettos, as they had done so in the United States and Britain. However, inspection of nineteenth century census data suggests that most Irish lived in rural areas until the 1890s. There were only a small number of metropolitan concentrations in areas such as Surry Hills and Paddington in Sydney or North Melbourne or Richmond in Melbourne. Even in those areas there was always a considerable mixing of British immigrant origins. The only areas with a Catholic majority were small rural settlements such as Boorowa (New South Wales) and Koroit (Victoria). A stronger ethnic concentration in rural areas was of Germans in South Australia. Until the implementation of the White Australia Policy in 1901, there were strong concentrations of Chinese and Pacific Islanders in parts of North Queensland.
The German Lutheran villages of South Australia represent almost the only survival of these nineteenth century concentrations, along with the Chinatowns of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. More recent rural settlements began to develop from the early twentieth century, although they were always limited by the itinerant character of many immigrant workers. Italians have been the most numerous non-British settlers, shaping the character of several sugar towns in North Queensland (such as Ingham), in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area (Griffith) and along the Murray (Cobram). Other small groups concentrating before World War II included Albanians around Shepparton (Victoria) and Croatians in the Swan Valley (Western Australia). These small settlements were strengthened after the War, with the beginning of the immigration program in 1947. Subsequent settlements were also mainly of southern Europeans, though there was some Dutch settlement in areas such as northern Tasmania, King Island and in Gippsland.
It was in the cities that very large concentrations began to build up after 1947, reviving once again dormant fears of 'ghettos'. Earlier concentrations of Jews had existed for many years, especially in St Kilda, Carlton and Caulfield in Melbourne and in Bondi in Sydney. Because of the impact of White Australia, the Chinatowns were dying out though there has been a continuous Chinese presence in Little Bourke Street, Melbourne for 140 years. A small Lebanese community had its centre in Redfern, Sydney, but many of its members were hawkers and shopkeepers in rural areas, as were many Chinese and Jews. Otherwise, Australian cities were very monocultural apart from the divide between Catholics and Protestants. Even that division was not very clear cut, although Protestants tended to be concentrated by the 1940s in middle class areas such as Camberwell in Melbourne or the North Shore in Sydney, while Catholics were more commonly found in working class areas.
These settlements were usually very small but aroused hostile comment because of their visibility. The displaced person arrivals from 1947 did not form such visible communities. They were initially housed in rural camps such as Bonegilla, Bathurst or Greta (New South Wales) or in construction camps for public works such as the hydro-electric schemes of Tasmania or the Snowy Mountains. Although they eventually tended to settle in particular suburbs, they did not do so in large enough numbers to attract attention. Nor did they develop visible commercial centres comparable to the Chinatowns or the small Italian shopping centres in Carlton (Melbourne) or Leichhardt (Sydney).
Most of these small settlements provided a nucleus for much larger concentration as the post-1947 immigration program got under way. But this proved to be a temporary phase. While Italians initially settled in Leichhardt and Carlton, they soon spread outwards, with much larger populations eventually to be found in the Drummoyne area of Sydney and the Coburg area of Melbourne. New areas opened up, including those close to migrant hostels in the big cities, though not in most rural areas. This became particularly important as these hostels were increasingly limited to refugees from countries which had no previous major presence in Australia. The location of hostels was very important in establishing the Vietnamese communities in Cabramatta (Sydney), Springvale and Footscray (Melbourne), Darra (Brisbane) and Woodville (Adelaide).
Most postwar non-British immigrants have gone initially into industrial employment and many have stayed there. Consequently, the largest communities are based on industrial suburbs. These often develop a multicultural character, rather than being dominated by one or even a few ethnic groups. Most important in this development have been the so-called 'green field' industrial sites to the west of Melbourne and Sydney. Similar sites to the north and south of Adelaide attracted mainly British migrants, who were given special concession in the allocation of public housing in the 1950s and 1960s. More typically, British migrants, like the Dutch and Germans, gravitated to the new outer residential suburbs on the opposite fringe from industrial development, especially in eastern and bayside Melbourne, the Sydney North Shore and the south-eastern suburbs of Perth.
The stages of settlement vary in the major cities. As the metropolitan city with the lowest proportion of non-British migrants, Brisbane showed an older pattern of concentration in the inner suburbs of West End (Greek), Fortitude Valley (Chinese) and Newstead (Italian). This was broken by Vietnamese settlement around the Wacol migrant camp and by Aboriginal concentration in the public housing of Inala. Newcastle, another major city with a small migrant population, shows a similar pattern with concentrations in the older areas such as Hamilton. Elsewhere there is a very wide spread in working class suburbs, with a developing settlement in some important middle-class areas as well. The Jewish population of Australia is very heavily concentrated in middle-class areas such as Caulfield and St Kilda in Melbourne and Waverley and Ku-ring-gai in Sydney. The larger Muslim population, in contrast, lives overwhelmingly in industrial areas such as Canterbury and Auburn in Sydney or Brunswick and Coburg in Melbourne.
Bearing these variations in mind, the normal settlement patterns for non-British migrants follow three stages: firstly, settlement in inner-city areas or near migrant hostels; secondly, movement outwards along public transport routes; and thirdly, dispersal into more middle-class areas particularly for the younger generation. Some ethnic groups, most notably the Maltese, have settled in and remain in, outer industrial suburbs with little movement. Some, like the Dutch and Germans rarely passed through the first stage but went directly to outer residential suburbs. Many Chinese students settle near universities while middle-class Hong Kong and Japanese migrants go directly to middle-class suburbs. But the bulk of immigrants from southern Europe, Indochina, the Middle East and Latin America, follow the stages outlined above. Institutions and shopping centres tend to lag behind residential movement, so that the main Italian shopping centres are still Lygon Street, Carlton or Norton Street, Leichhardt. More recently arrived groups such as the Vietnamese still live close to their commercial and institutional centres in suburbs such as Cabramatta or Bankstown in Sydney or Richmond, Springvale and Footscray in Melbourne.
The concentration of various groups can be gauged by figures for local government areas in the major cities (and by Statistical Local Areas in the unified City of Brisbane). Some of the largest concentrations are of British migrants in suburbs such as Elizabeth, Salisbury, Tea Tree Gully and Noarlunga in Adelaide or Armadale, Kalamunda, Gosnells and Wanneroo in Perth. But these attract little attention and they are not included in the following table which is based on language use. The Dutch, Germans, Chinese, Filipinos, Indians and Sri Lankans are widely distributed in residential suburbs. The most concentrated Chinese groups are those from Viet Nam who often settle in the same areas as Vietnamese, which other Chinese do not. Aborigines in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth tend to be found on the outskirts, particularly in areas with public housing. Like many other ethnic groups they often have social centres in the inner-city but do not necessarily live close to these.
The potential political impact of such heavy migrant concentrations has yet to show much result at the national level, although it is apparent in some State Parliaments. A ranking of federal electorates with over one-quarter of Non-English Speaking Background (NESB 1) people, the southern European-born and South East Asian-born percentage is given in the following table.
These electorates were all won by the Australian Labor Party in 1993, except for Wills, which was held by an Independent having previously been represented by Prime Minister Bob Hawke. Lowe was won from the Liberals. All these electorates are in Sydney (9) or Melbourne (9). Despite their ethnic composition, only one (Calwell) is represented by an MP born in a non-English-speaking country.
The ethnic diversification of Australia over the past 50 years has caused few serious social problems. The serious social disadvantages of Aboriginal people have had more political impact and attracted more programs and funding than those of immigrants, where the largest public expenditures have been on teaching English. The main problem has been encountered in recent years by those unable to speak English and finding it difficult to gain employment in a high unemployment economy. This problem was not faced in the same way by arrivals before 1975 except in short-lived depressions. Another problem has been the persistence of xenophobic attitudes often traceable to Australia's past, and particularly opposition to Asian immigration. A further issue has been public scepticism about multiculturalism and especially about periodic disputes between a small number of organised ethnic groups.
To deal with such issues all Australian governments, national, State and Territory, have adopted multicultural policies and set up relevant institutions. Among the most important of these have been the Office of Multicultural Affairs, created within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in 1987. State Governments have set up ethnic affairs commissions in most cases or allocated resources for equivalent sub-departments. The Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs retains a responsibility for funding ethnic-specific welfare agencies and migrant resource centres. A major institution has been the Special Broadcasting Service, whose multilingual television coverage has recently been expanded outside the capital cities. All these provisions are designed to maintain social harmony and to integrate ethnic groups within Australian society on the basis of tolerance and citizenship. The absence of serious social conflict suggests that this strategy has been a success, although the control and planning of immigration is an important factor, as is the absence of other major social tensions in Australian society.
AUSTRALIAN BUREAU OF STATISTICS (1984), The measurement of ethnicity in the Australian census of population and housing, Canberra, ABS
BUREAU OF IMMIGRATION AND POPULATION RESEARCH (1993), Statistical Focus: Birthplace and Related Data from the 1991 Census, Canberra, BIPR Statistics Section
BURNLEY, I., ENCEL, S. AND McCALL, G. (eds.) (1985), Immigration and Ethnicity in the 1980s, Melbourne, Longman Cheshire
CENSUS APPLICATIONS (1991), Birthplace, Language, Religion 1971-1986, Canberra, AGPS for Bureau of Immigration Research
JUPP, J. (ed), (1988), The Australian People, Sydney, Angus and Robertson
JUPP, J. (ed), (1991), 'Managing Ethnic Diversity: How does Australia compare?' in Castles, F.G. (ed) Australia Compared, Sydney, Allen & Unwin, pp 38-54
JUPP, J. and McROBBIE, A. (1989), Australian Languages: an Introductory Atlas, Canberra, Centre for Immigration and Multicultural Studies
JUPP, J. and YORK, B. (1994), Birthplaces of the Australian People: Commonwealth Censuses, 1911-1991, Canberra, Centre for Immigration and Multicultural Studies
JUPP, J., YORK, B. and McROBBIE, A. (1990), Metropolitan Ghettos and Ethnic Concentrations Wollongong, Centre for Multicultural Studies
KOPRAS, A. (1993), Comparisons of 1991 Census Characteristics: Commonwealth Electoral Divisions, Canberra, Department of the Parliamentary Library
PRICE, C.A. (ed), (1991), Australian National Identity, Canberra, Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia
Source: Year Book Australia, 1995 (ABS Catalogue No. 1301.0)
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