Australia still a ‘lucky country’ for migrants and refugees – survey
Australia still appears as ‘the lucky country’ for newcomers with more than half of newly arrived migrant and refugees attracted by our lifestyle and a quarter by our democratic traditions and freedoms, according to a new survey.
But new arrivals to Australia are having different settlement experiences once they get here and not all improve their circumstances over time, the survey found.
It found that migrants and refugees move to Australia for different reasons and often their experiences depend on factors such as when they arrive, English competency, and age.
As part of an effort to understand how these multiple factors interact and influence the immigrant journey, settlement agency AMES Australia surveyed 131 refugees and migrants living in Victoria in late 2017.
The respondents came from over 30 countries, most prominently China (24 per cent), Syria (11 per cent) and Iran (7 per cent), followed by Vietnam, Thailand and India, and represented a wide range of ages from eighteen to over fifty years old.
When asked for their reasons for coming to Australia, over half of the respondents (52 per cent) said for a better standard of living and lifestyle, whilst a quarter (24 per cent) said they came for Australian democratic traditions and freedoms.
Once they had arrived, learning English was found as the most important need for respondents, yet an overwhelming 64 per cent identified this as the biggest hurdle impacting on their settlement in Australia.
When asked what their favourite thing is about Australia, democracy (freedom), lifestyle and living environment ranked highest at 34 per cent, 19 per cent and 18 per cent respectively.
Age demographics appeared to play a role in perceptions with 38 per cent of respondents over fifty years old saying democracy/freedom was their favourite thing about Australia while younger respondents (aged 18-29) thought lifestyle was equally important as democracy.
However, responses were mixed about what they like least, and included things like difficulty in finding work, missing their family and still having family living overseas, weather, and expensive living costs in Australia.
Comparing the respondents’ length of time living in Australia with difficulties in settling in Australia, feelings of isolation were shown not to dissipate over time as may be expected.
Eleven per cent of respondents who had been in Australia for less than two years reported feelings of isolation and missing family and friends, compared to 21 per cent for the two-to-five year group, and 13 per cent for the five years and over group.
Survey respondent and recently arrived Chinese migrant Yuzhen Chen said she chose to migrate to Australia because it has a good environment and education opportunities, and because it is a good place to bring up her children.
“My children can have good future here. Australia has a clean environment and a good education system with many opportunities,” Yuzhen said.
“My favourite thing about Australia is the lovely blue sky every day,” Yuzhen said, “I love to do outside activities under the blue sky,” she said.
AMES Australia CEO Cath Scarth said the survey showed that migrants and refugees new to Australia valued the nation’s life, traditions and opportunities; and were committed to becoming part of the wider society.
“What the survey tells us is that migrants who come to this country have a commitment to it and want to become part of its social fabric,” Ms Scarth said.
“But it also shows some have barriers to successful settlement and we as a nation, as communities, and as individuals, can support people to overcome them,” Ms Scarth said.
Research Officer at AMES Australia