Australians want migrants to embrace their way of life

by Ray Clancy on January 11, 2011

in Australia Immigration

Opening up to the Oz way of life

The majority of Australians believe in Australia being a multicultural society but newcomers should embrace the Australian way of life, research shows.

According to the study commissioned by the Australian SBS Television Network some 62% of Australians favour diversity and feel that migrants enrich the Australian way of life. But only 48% believe that migrants should be able to maintain their culture without prejudice or disadvantage.

It also found that six out of ten first generation migrants felt a sense of belonging to Australian society and for the second generation, the sense of belonging was much greater.

The SBS Immigration Nation report is a complex and often paradoxical snapshot of how the immigrant experience is regarded, not only by the descendants of the Anglo Saxons who settled the country but also by first and second-generation immigrants.

And the survey of 1,400 Australians conducted by the Ipsos-Eureka Social Research Institute reveals that although the nationalities of those arriving have changed over the years many concerns remain the same.

Some 23% of those from non-English speaking backgrounds say they have experienced racial discrimination in the past year. And sympathy for asylum seekers has declined over the past decade.

‘There were a lot of patterns around people thinking that people should embrace the Australian way of life and very much associated that with speaking the language,’ said researcher Caroline Tomiczek.

She found that a comparison of surveys going back 25 years revealed a pattern of fear and anxiety about new arrivals although eight out of 10 believe that Australia has been generous to immigrants throughout its history. ‘The things people used to say about Italians were quite similar to the things people said about Muslims now,’ she added.

The research reveals that prejudice does exist including hostilities towards early Asian and European immigrants, according to Alex West, the producer of a programme based on the research.

He believes that Australia has forged a multicultural society against the odds. ‘The kind of fears that people had over 100 years ago is similar to what they have today. These kind of dark paranoias about invasion from the north, that Asian hordes are going to overrun this country,’ he said.

The survey though shows that within one generation, those with a migrant background show as strong a sense of belonging as the general Australian population.

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