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New migrants similar but different

12 August 20141 comment

Migrants and refugees from India and the Middle East feel most welcome in Australia while people from China are the most eager to start a business.

Chinese migrants cited their children’s future as the most important reason for coming to Australia while people from India said it was for a better lifestyle and those from the Middle East cited personal safety.

These are among the findings of a survey of 400 newly arrived migrants and refugees in Melbourne and Sydney which asked about their hopes, fears and expectations of settling in Australia.

It found differing motivations, expectations and experiences between the three largest migrant groups among the surveyed respondents – those from China, India and the Middle East.

Respondents from India were most likely to have been the victims of racism with almost all saying they had been targeted. Eighty-nine per cent of Chinese respondents and 82 per cent of people from the Middle East said they had experienced racism.

Respondents from India were also the most eager to work with 59 per cent saying their main goal over the next two to five years was to get a job. Forty-eight per cent of people from the Middle East and 43 per cent of Chinese said getting a job was their priority. A quarter of Middle Easterners said learning English was their immediate priority.

Most people in all of the groups said learning English was the most important thing in settling into Australia and all were most likely to cite finding work as their biggest worry.

Security and safety was cited as the best aspect of living in Australia by 45 per cent of Middle Easterners while 40 per cent of Chinese and 38 per cent of Indians said it was lifestyle and leisure.

People from the Middle East were most likely to feel disconnect with 58 per cent saying missing family and friends was the worst aspect of life in Australia and 17 per cent citing isolation.

Unemployment was the biggest fear for all three groups with violence and crime the second most common fear with 33 per cent, 28 per cent and 23 per cent Middle Easterners, Chinese and Indians respectively saying so. Nineteen per cent of Indians said loss of cultural identity was their biggest fear.

More than 80 per cent of each group said they intended to stay in Australia and Middle Easterners were the most likely to find Australia as they expected it to be before they left home.

Asked which group of people they admired most in Australia, the three groups gave distinctly different answers. Fifty-three per cent of Middle Easterners said they admired sports people most, 37 per cent of Chinese said they admired teachers and 35 per of Indians said police and emergency service workers.

Around 30 per cent of Chinese and Middle Eastern respondents chose Prime Minister Tony Abbott as their most famous Australian but 36 per cent of Indians said it was Ricky Ponting.

Overall, newly arrived migrants and refugees overwhelmingly find Australia a welcoming place that is relatively free from racism, the survey found.

Getting stable work and seeing their children educated and prosper are the priorities for new arrivals; and lifestyle and leisure as well as safety and security are the things they most appreciate about Australia.

The survey found unemployment and crime or violence were the biggest immediate fears among newcomers while three quarters of respondents said life in Australia met their expectations.

Commissioned by settlement agency AMES, the study surveyed people from 51 different nations over six weeks in September and October 2013.