Landmark research into multiculturalism 2016
Australia has experienced sustained population growth for many decades. In 1996 the population was 18.3 million, at the end of 2015 it was close to 24 million.
Immigration is never an easy program for governments to manage across a number of dimensions, including economic, social and environmental. Difficulties include the need to balance a range of competing interests.
Australia’s 2016 immigration program provides for 190,000 permanent places, 68 per cent in the Skill stream and 32 per cent in the Family stream. In addition, there are 13,750 places in the Humanitarian program, with a special provision over several years for 12,000 refugees from the Syrian conflict. It is a complex program to administer.
Are immigrants happy or unhappy? What do they like best and least about Australia? What’s it like to be Muslim here? Or a New Zealander?
New Zealand Special Category visa holders face a unique set of challenges when they live in Australia. In addition to not having access to a number of social services and citizen supports, they also report experiences of discrimination.
The Australia@2015 study shed light on what it’s like to be a Muslim in Australia today. Muslims are often misconceived as a unified group. The reality is that Australian Muslims are as diverse as the Australian population, divided by culture and ethnicity, religiosity, and by generational difference.
Not only do Muslim people attract negative sentiments from generational Australians, but other immigrant groups too. One of our focus groups with Chinese-born participants found members of that community were afraid to live in areas with Middle Eastern inhabitants, fearing radicalisation and extremism. Despite this, the overwhelming majority of Muslim respondents expressed their appreciation for Australia and freedoms including democracy and work rights for all.
Getting an income can be tough without work rights or access to government assistance. How many people are struggling to pay bills? Are third-gen Aussies doing it tough too?
The Australia@2015 study reinforces the difficulty faced by new arrivals to secure an income. 53 per cent of Independent Skill visa holders say they are just getting along, struggling to pay bills or poor – more than double that of Business visa holders. Some say that the online job application process is working against them and that they are overlooked based on their names, ethnicity and assumed religion and that this doesn’t occur when they anglicise their names on resumes. Unsurprisingly, those on Humanitarian visas are doing it toughest – with 44 per cent not in the workforce.
How welcoming is Australia? Do immigrants feel they belong? Who doesn’t feel welcome and what countries are they from?
One factor differentiating current immigrants from earlier generations is the enhanced connectedness they have with their former home countries. 71 per cent of those who arrived in Australia between 2011-15 keep in contact with friends or relatives by SMS or social media daily or several times a week. That’s 6 per cent more than arrivals from 2001-05. Close to one in three arrivals between 2001-15 watch TV shows from their former homes at least several times a week. However Australia@2015 did not find evidence that this level of contact with former home countries impacts negatively on identification with Australia.
Where in Australia wouldn’t you feel safe walking at night? Are local areas with lots of immigrants getting better or worse? This is what third-gen Aussies and new arrivals had to say:
A total of 2287 people completed the Australia@2015 study in the following Local Government Areas with high immigration:
Urban segmentation in Australia isn’t new – being a feature of Australian life since the arrival of European immigrants in the 1940s. However some recent arrivals believe this is increasing once more, with immigration areas growing and other ethnicities leaving. Even within their own cities, many immigrants state the vast differences between high-immigration areas and monocultural, more gentrified areas – saying how out of place they feel in such localities.
Which professions do immigrants and ancestral Australians trust the least? Can most Australians be trusted or do you have to be careful? What do people think about police, politicians, the Department of Immigration?
There are vast differences regarding a sense of trust and Australian people depending on where someone is from. New Zealanders have low trust in Australia, while those from Afghanistan report significantly higher feelings of trust – often four times above that expressed by New Zealanders in response to questions. Of the visa groups, Business 457 visa holders report the highest level of trust in Australian organisations and people, however this is unsurprising due to the fact they come to Australia with secured employment and often associated housing assistance and more.
Which people experience discrimination and racism the most? Muslim people? Those from Iraq or China? Indigenous Australians? Does ancestry affect tolerance?
The majority of Australians support the current immigration program, with 60 per cent of Australia@2015 survey respondents stating that they are happy with the current level of immigrant intake.
But opinion is not completely clear-cut. When asked what they like least about Australia, 18 per cent of third-generation Australians said ‘racism and discrimination.’ A further 19 per cent stated ‘too much immigration.’