John Dagge, Christian Science Monitor, June 28, 2011
Asian-born Australians are on the brink of overtaking their European-born counterparts for the first time in the country’s history. More than 2 million Asians now call Australia home, according to new figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). The number of Asians in Australia has almost doubled in a decade, from 1.03 million in mid-2000 to 2.1 million in the middle of last year. Around half–like Kumar–have come as students, the remainder as skilled migrants or through family reunification programs.
This in a country that formerly drafted immigration policy in an effort to protect against the “yellow peril.”
To be sure, Australia still battles racism.
“Close to 1 in 10 people in Australia are born in Asia,” says Bob Birrell, a director at Monash University’s Centre for Population and Urban Research. “There is nothing like that in other countries including the US or Canada, which are considered highly multicultural. It is a massive shift and it has happened over a very short time span.”
The ABS data measured residents, meaning not all those counted will become citizens.
It’s an incredible transformation for a country that ran a “white Australia” immigration policy until the early 1970s–a policy that overwhelmingly targeted Asians. In 1947, just 0.3 percent of Australians had been born in Asia. Last year, the figure stood at 9 percent. European-born Australians make up 10.8 percent of the country’s 22.6 million people–a long way from the 17 percent they represented several decades ago.
Controversial politician Pauline Hanson gave birth to a new political force when, during her maiden address to the Australian Parliament in 1996, she warned that the country was “in danger of being swamped with Asians.”
Running on an anti-immigration platform, her One Nation party collected close to a quarter of the vote in the 1999 Queensland State elections. In April, Hanson ran for a seat in the parliament. She lost, garnering less than 2.5 percent of the vote.