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The Chinese community in Australia



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Embargo 3pm Sunday 16th October 1994 NEWS ^BO fiSuTOFIM M IGRATION^^ K & POPULATION R E S E A R C H ^

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The Chinese Community in Australia

Australia’s growing Chinese community is becoming younger and increasingly well qualified, according to a new report released today.

The report says that the China-bom population has more than doubled in the last five years, rising from 36 554 at the time of the 1986 Census, to 77 799 in 1991.

This increase was primarily due to a large number of China-bom private overseas students and to the Government’s decision to grant four-year entry to all Chinese students in Australia at the time of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing in 1989. (Many of these students are currently applying for permanent residence in Australia under new visa classes announced by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Senator Nick Bolkus, in November 1993.)

The report, Community Profiles 1991 Census - China Born, is the latest in the series of profiles published by the Bureau of Immigration and Population Research. This series examines the immigration history and settlement of particular ethnic groups based on the 1991 Census.

Launching the report in Sydney today, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Senator Nick Bolkus, said that Australia’s Chinese community embodied a great sense of optimism and growth. ‘The early history of the Chinese in Australia is one marked by discrimination and hostility’, he said. ‘The Labor Government has sought to redress the injustices of the past, in the 70s by abolishing the White Australia Policy, and in more recent

times, offering sanctuary to those students in Australia at the time of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

‘When you consider that the Chinese community has been part of Australia for more than 150 years, there is simply no excuse for failing to recognise their achievements and profound contribution to this country.

‘And today, as Australia develops its economic and cultural relationship with Asia, our own Chinese community is young, dynamic and increasingly involved in every field of endeavour - the arts, media, politics, community work - and more than ever in business.’

The profile provides a statistical overview of the Chinese community in^Australia. According to the profile, in 1991, China-bom people represented 2.1% of the total overseas-bom population. A further 28 680 Australia-bom people were second generation, that is with one

or both parents bom in China.

Melbourne: P.O. Box 659, Carlton South VIC 3053 Ph: (03) 342 1100; ISO (613) 342 1100; Facsimile: (03) 342 1101; ISO (613) 342 1101 Canberra: RO. Box 25, Belconnen ACT 2616 Ph: (06) 264 3395; ISO (616) 264 3395; Facsimile: (06) 264 3780; ISO (616) 264 3780;

Of the China-bom, 69.3% had settled in Australia since the beginning of 1981. Many settled here as adolescents and young adults from the late 1950s. Consequently, the China-bom are an older community in comparison with other Asian groups, though younger than many European communities in Australia. However, the influx of China-bom in more recent years, mainly the large number of Chinese students, has led to a substantial drop in the age of the

community. In 1991, the median age of all the China-bom in Australia was 38 years, down from 46.5 years in 1986. By comparison, the median age in 1991 for all Australia-bom was 28 years, all overseas-bom 42 years, and the total Australian population was 32 years.

Most of the China-bom live in New South Wales (57%) or Victoria (25.7%). In Sydney, a high proportion of the China-bom live in the middle to outer western suburbs within the municipalities of Ashfield, Canterbury and Marrickville and the city of Fairfield. However, in

Melbourne the preferred areas of settlement are more diverse, ranging from inner city suburbs like Brunswick and Northcote to the outer eastern city of Dandenong.

Every community profile provides a brief history of that community’s migration to Australia. According to the China-bom profile, Chinese immigrants have been settling in Australia for more than 150 years, though Chinese historians claim that the first Chinese visited Australia

as far back as 26 centuries ago. The first Australian recorded presence of Chinese dates back to 1827, when a few Chinese domestic servants and contract labourers were brought here. But significant numbers of Chinese people came when gold was discovered.

The report notes that the public attitude to the very early Chinese immigrants was one of indifference, but that animosity towards them first started on the goldfields as the supply of gold began to dwindle. It was the willingness of the Chinese to work hard and their frugality and physical appearance which set them apart, and they became the scapegoats for the frustrations of the other miners. As the Chinese moved out of the goldfields and into the cities, they once again encountered discrimination, especially in situations where they were in economic competition with other groups.

Discrimination also occurred on official levels. The Immigration Restrictions Act 1901 was one of the first acts of the Federation of Australia. The act was a forerunner to the White Australia Policy. When this policy was abolished in 1973, so too were university fees, and together this hailed a new wave of Chinese immigration to Australia. As well, by the 1980s the Australian Government actively targeted Asian students to study in Australia. The number of China-bom private overseas students in Australia increased from a mere 38 people

in 1983 to a peak of 16 642 in 1990.

Embargo 3pm Sunday 16th October 1994

Media contact: Author James Coughlan, Department of Psychology and Sociology, James Cook University of North Queensland, Ph (077) 815 157 or home (077) 250 027.