Australia – still a nation of immigrants?

By Wen Ya Source:Global Times Published: 2012-4-13 0:40:00

People walk in and out through a Chinese-style gate in Chinatown in Sydney, Australia. Photo: Wen Ya/GT

Jesse Pan was a college graduate in 1980s in China at a time when those having completed higher education were in high demand. As graduates at the time took decent jobs in China two decades ago, she came to Australia from her hometown in Shandong Province and worked in Sydney.

She currently works as a shop manager in Sydney's Chinatown. This is barely a step up from shop assistant; she still stands in the shop and helps customers. Her work is quite commonplace, yet she never complains and feels very satisfied with life.

"I like my life here: peaceful and comfortable. I have never vied with others," Pan told the Global Times.

She sends her daughter to the best high school in Sydney, realizing one of the biggest wishes of Chinese parents for their kids - a good education.

Her daughter can speak fluent English like all the second generation of Chinese immigrants, but she doesn't have the same ability in Chinese, worrying Pan that her child will lose her roots in China.

"Though I have taught her Chinese every day, I found her understanding in Chinese is sketchy. She can't tell the difference between some words even I have shown her several examples," Pan said.

Not an ideal place

Not all Chinese people are satisfied with their life in Australia. Many Chinese work as shop assistants, waiters and drivers in Australia despite completing higher education.

Wang Yue, 27, works in a clothes shop despite earning her master's degree at the University of Technology, Sydney last year. She tried to apply for office positions but was unsuccessful.

"Though it is said that everyone is equal in this country, most Australian companies like to employ local people. This is a kind of discrimination," Wang, who is considering returning to China, told the Global Times.

Distant local community

Quite a few Chinese immigrants live a comparatively lonely life in Australia. To them, the local community is difficult to mingle with.

Though Li Liang (pseudonym), 40, from Guangdong Province has worked in Australia as a taxi driver for about 20 years, he feels he has been unable to integrate into the country.

"Some locals don't want us to integrate as they think Chinese seize their job opportunities," Li told the Global Times.

In Li's spare time, he watches TV programs from China, as he is unable to understand English-language shows.

Ren Jing (pseudonym), in her 50s, has worked as an assistant in a Sydney-based private traditional Chinese medicine clinic for about one year. However, she sees a large gap between her life in Australia and in China.

Before she came to Sydney, she worked at a State-owned hospital in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province, where she had many friends.

In Sydney, because of her poor English, she has been unable to make friends due to communication problems and cultural differences. She mostly stays home when she is off work.


China is the biggest country from which immigrants come to Australia. As such, Chinese immigrants have won increasing attention from Australian authorities.

For example, traditional Chinese festivals are highlighted. During the Spring Festival, which marked the beginning of the Year of the Dragon, the Sydney government hung dragon flags across downtown areas.

"China now provides more immigrants than any other country. Chinese immigration to Australia has made an enormous contribution to our economy and society for many years," Chris Bowen, minister for immigration and citizenship in Australia, told the Global Times. "Chinese immigrants continuously are welcomed to Australia."

Some immigrants have set up special schools where the education system is built to resemble that in China, with results more focused on exams. Chinese parents also choose to send their children to special training classes outside school, whether their children want to or not, much like in China, said Li, a Chinese journalist working in Canberra.

On the contrary, Australian education stresses developing children's own interests and talents.

To limit the number of immigrants for various reasons, the Australian government has tightened its policies year by year.

"Every year, it becomes tougher and tougher for immigrants to get citizenship. More and more people wanting to come here make it difficult," Lana Fateev, a 41-year-old local resident who works as an accountant in Sydney, told the Global Times.

Last year, the immigration figure set by Australian government was at 195,000, a figure Bowen believes is at the right level for Australia.

"It is a high figure historically, compared to other years, but it recognizes the demographic challenges for Australia. There's still a shortage, and it's an appropriate one. This ensures a balanced population growth, making sure we are investing in infrastructure and the environment, and all the services necessary for our population levels are appropriate," Bowen said.

Posted in: Asia-Pacific

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