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Australia Now Home to More Migrants From Asia Than Europe

  • Phil Mercer

A family poses for a photograph in the World Square shopping center located in central Sydney, Australia, June 26, 2017.

Australia's new national census shows for the first time that more migrants are now arriving from Asia than Europe as the country's demographics change rapidly. Among the findings: almost half of all Australians were either born overseas or have a foreign-born parent.

Australia is becoming less white and has never been as culturally diverse. More residents are living in capital cities than ever. The national census is held every five years and gives an in-depth look at how the country is changing.

“The census shows Australia is more culturally diverse than ever before with almost half of Australians either born overseas, or with at least one parent born overseas," said David Kalisch of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which conducted the survey released Tuesday. "Australia is growing, particularly in our capital cities, where more than two-thirds of Australians live.”

For the first time more migrants are arriving in Australia from Asia -- mostly India and China -- rather than Europe. The 2016 census has revealed that 40 percent of the overseas-born population were born in Asia, compared to about a quarter in 2001.

FILE - A shopper looks at her phone in front of a sales sign displayed in a window of a retail store at a shopping center in central Sydney, Australia.
FILE - A shopper looks at her phone in front of a sales sign displayed in a window of a retail store at a shopping center in central Sydney, Australia.

Fundamental changes

Rebecca Huntley, a social researcher, says Australia is undergoing fundamental changes.

“We've always been a migrant nation. What's interesting to see is the changing make-up of that migrant community, and so what we know is that we're becoming very broadly less Anglo and more Asian," Huntley said.

Since 2011, 1.3 million new migrants have moved to Australia, including 163,000 from India, and more than 190,000 from China. Mandarin continues to be the second-most commonly spoken language in Australia after English, according to Liz Allen, a demographer at the Australian National University.

“Mandarin and Arabic are really featuring this time around, which, I think, would be no surprise to many people around the country, and that reflects our change in the guard... away from the more traditional sources of overseas migration that we have had in the past," Allen said.

The Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 prompted the Australian government to grant permanent visas to 42,000 Chinese students. It would become part of the biggest wave of Chinese migration to Australia since the gold rush of the 1800s.

Jason Zhu’s parents were among thousands of new Chinese settlers who moved to Sydney.

“The quality of life is a lot better, a lot more peaceful, but a lot more easy-going than probably China, where it's very competitive," Zhu said. " My family came around, I think, the 1990s, just before I was born, they came here. My dad came here first in the 1980s and then my mum came over a couple of years later.”

Office building are lit with colorful projections of light on the first night of the Sydney Vivid Festival light and sound show in Sydney, Australia, May 26, 2017.
Office building are lit with colorful projections of light on the first night of the Sydney Vivid Festival light and sound show in Sydney, Australia, May 26, 2017.

Desired destination

Ramesh Sharma came to Australia from India in 1995 and runs a restaurant in Sydney. He would not live anywhere else.

“I have not met anyone who doesn't want to come here and doesn't want to live here," Sharma said. "Things are getting tighter and tighter. Everybody wishes to come here and live. This is a beautiful place, and we are fortunate that we are here.”

The census was carried out last August, but computer glitches forced the official website offline for almost two days. Despite the problems, statisticians insist that the census data is reliable and accurate.

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