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Australia really is the lucky country – viewed through migrants’ eyes

15 June 20140 comments

AUSTRALIA DAY SYDNEYNew migrants to Australia are actively engaged in forging a new life in their adopted country and show high levels of optimism, satisfaction and resilience, according to a new study of migrant attitudes.

The study’s findings also paint a picture – through a migrant perspective – of Australia as a prosperous, fair, friendly, caring and inclusive society.

Commissioned by migrant and refugee settlement agency AMES and titled Perceptions of Australia – past, present and future’, the study surveyed more than 500 newly arrived Melbourne-based migrants examining their perceptions of Australia before and after migration.

Around sixty per cent of respondents said they felt happy since arriving and less than ten per cent said they were unhappy.

Seven in ten said they hoped to become Australian citizens and another 16 per cent said they would consider citizenship.

“Migrants who come to Australia usually aspire to gain employment that uses their skills and knowledge, to feel safe and secure, have the opportunity to live with relatives or friends, and imagine a better future,” the study’s author said.

Just under half (49 per cent) of respondent thought their life in Australia would be “much improved”, and 31 per cent said that it would be “a little improved” in the next three to four years, the study found.

Three quarters felt that compared with their life, the lives of children living in Australia would be “much improved”, and 14 per cent felt it would be “a little improved”.

Finding a well-paid job was the most difficult challenge facing new migrants, the study found.

“There was a high level of uncertainty before arrival about finding a good job in Australia that pays well, with one third (33 per cent) of respondents not knowing or being unsure about finding a job,” the report said.

“Before arrival, almost 40 per cent agreed that finding a job would be difficult. After living in Australia there was a significant change in perception with 60 per cent of respondents agreeing with the statement “that finding a good job in Australia that pays well is difficult,” it said.

Accepting the notion that Australia considers itself a sporting nation, the researchers surveyed new arrivals on sport, including on Australian Rules Football.

They found that a quarter of respondents now followed AFL  teams with Melbourne, Collingwood and Hawthorne the most popular.

The top three favourite sports identified by respondents were tennis, soccer and basketball.

Almost two thirds said they felt multiculturalism has been good for Australia and 30 per cent were unsure.

One focus group respondent was positive about the way in which Australian society embrace multiculturalism:

“Before I came to Australia I thought Australia was a very westernised modern country. After I arrived I saw many migrants. That wasn’t what I expected – multicultural. I thought when you come here you might change yourself [to fit] into the country. The government is giving freedom to people to keep their tradition and culture,” the respondent said.

Other key findings were:

  • Almost 60 per cent of respondents said they felt welcome in Australia and another 30 per cent said they felt welcome some of the time.
  • Almost eight in ten believed Australia was safe and secure both before and after arrival.
  • Three quarters of people found Australians to be warm and friendly after arriving here.
  • Two-thirds felt that their standard of living would be better in Australia.
  • Seventy per cent believed their families would have a better life in Australia.
  • Three quarters thought Australia was a strong democracy before arriving and that figure rose to 84 per cent after arrival.
  • Seventy three per cent agreed that Australia had a good health care system after arrival.
  • Almost two-thirds agreed that people in Australia treat each other equally and fairly before arrival – this rose to almost seventy per cent after arrival.
  • Eighty per cent of respondents felt their decision to come to Australia was the right one and sixty-three per cent said they would encourage other people from their country to come here.

“The findings from this study indicate that new migrants are not passive bystanders but actively use their agency to forge a new life demonstrating a high level of ingenuity and resilience to create a new life in their adopted country,” the researchers said.

“Generally speaking, most of those surveyed were positive about being in Australia and hoped for a better future for themselves and their children. Almost two out of three respondents surveyed had been in the country for less than two years.

“There was a high level of optimism demonstrated in the survey, with most people affirming that their decision to come to Australia was the right one and that the majority of respondents felt that their life in Australia would either be much improved or a little improved.