Australia’s clean environment, unique nature and multicultural population together with its healthy economy have made it a popular choice for immigrants. For those considering a move, here are some steps to take before starting the journey, including a brief history of migration ‘Down Under.’
A migrant nation
Australia has a history of immigration, from the ‘First Settlers’ who arrived from Britain in the 18th century, to the post-war European migrants, Vietnamese in the 1970s and newer arrivals from China, India and elsewhere.
When European settlement began in 1788, Australia’s population was estimated at around 400,000. The first migrants comprised convicts transported from Britain and Ireland, with around 80,000 arriving in Sydney through to 1840.
‘Free’ settlers soon followed, but the discovery of gold in the 1850s spurred a bigger wave of migrants. Some 600,000 arrived during this decade, including from Britain and Ireland but also Europe, China, the United States and nearby New Zealand and South Pacific.
By the time of Federation in 1901, Australia’s population was close to 4 million, of whom around one in four was born overseas. While most were of British or Irish heritage, there were also a large number of Europeans, particularly Germans, together with Chinese.
However with Federation came a change of policy, with Australia focusing on British and Irish migrants and effectively excluding immigrants from Asia or elsewhere.
Yet after World War II, the Australian government adopted a new policy: “populate or perish”. Immigrants, particularly British, were actively sought to boost the population, yet a large number also arrived from war-torn Europe, including Italians, Germans, Greeks and Poles.
Australia gradually eased its immigration policy, however it was not until 1973 when the ‘White Australia’ policy ended and all migrants were afforded equal treatment.
Following the Vietnam War, a large number of immigrants arrived from Vietnam and Cambodia, later being joined by others from East Timor, China and the Middle East.
British immigrants, previously the largest group, dropped to second behind New Zealand before being overtaken by China, with new arrivals coming from India as well as refugees from Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Since 1945, when Australia’s immigration department was established, some 7.5 million people have settled in Australia. This has helped boost the population to more than 25 million and make Australia a multicultural society.
The 2016 census showed nearly half of all Australians were born overseas or have at least one parent who was, with more than one in five Australians speaking a language other than English at home. The most common countries of birth after Australia were England (5 per cent of the population), New Zealand (2.5 per cent), China (2.3 per cent) and India (2.1 per cent).
The latest census also recorded 42,421 Japanese living in Australia, up nearly 20 per cent from the 2011 census. New South Wales state had the largest population of Japanese with some 14,000, followed by Queensland’s 12,400, Victoria’s 8,500 and around 4,200 in Western Australia.
In fiscal 2020, there were more than 7.6 million migrants living in Australia, with nearly 30 per cent of the population born overseas, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The same year saw net overseas migration to Australia of 194,400 people.
However, with Australia’s borders largely closed currently due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of new immigrants is expected to significantly decrease until borders reopen.
Migrating to Australia
Migrating to another country is a big step to make. Fortunately though, the Australian and state governments together with various non-profit organisations provide a range of assistance to migrants, making the transition easier.
The Victorian government recommends a number of steps before making the move:
- Step 1: Research your employment options – the Victorian government provides information to make finding a job easier; there are also various employment sites, the largest being com.au
- Step 2: Plan your move with a pre-departure checklist – this includes finding a place to live, developing a budget and potentially using a registered migration agent to ease the process
- Step 3: Apply for a visa – a range of visas are available, including business and investor visas, skilled migration visas, studying and training visas, family and partner visas and others. Three common ways of becoming a permanent resident include through a family-stream, work-stream or business/investor-stream permanent visa.
The Australian government’s “Beginning a Life in Australia” booklet provides helpful settlement information for newly arrived migrants and is available in 39 different languages, including Japanese.
The Queensland Government also provides a range of information, including Australian wages and conditions, public holidays and recognition of overseas qualifications.
Remember that moving overseas can be challenging, but it can also offer new opportunities and experiences that you likely would never encounter at home.
And if you need further assistance, don’t forget to talk to Hello Kids about how we can make your journey to Australia easier!