Immigrants embrace Australia Day

by Ray Clancy on January 25, 2018

in Australia Immigration

A large majority of people who have moved to Australia and refugees want to become citizens and feel it is important to mark Australia Day, according to a new survey.

Most newcomers say they plan to mark the day in some way and that Australia Day events make them feel more welcome in their new country, the poll by migrant settlement agency AMES found.


It comes as some groups are calling for the date of Australia Day to be moved because it marks the arrival of ‘colonial’ British ships on Australian land on at Port Jackson in New South Wales.

But they survey found that most don’t know the significance of the date and most are unaware of controversy over calls for date to be changed is response to concerns by some indigenous Australians and politicians.

Some 29% of those surveyed said they were aware of the controversy over Australia Day and of those 38% were in favour of change and 35% want no change while 28% were unsure.

The survey also found that 79% said they feel that Australia Day is important for the nation while 65% plan to celebrate the day in some way.

The survey also found that an overwhelming 89% plan to become Australian citizens while just 11% said they had no plans to become citizens or were not sure. Indeed, 54% said that Australia Day would mean more to them it they were citizens while 40% said it would make no difference.

But immigrants are curious about Australia’s history. Some 81% said they knew, or planned to learn more, about Australia’s history and the reasons Australia Day is celebrated while 11% said they did not.

The survey found Australia day events and the tone of publicity around the day helped new arrivals feel welcome with 74% believing that the day helped them to feel more welcome while 26% said it made no difference and 11% said it made them feel less welcome.

Iraqi refugee Osama Butti said he was looking forward to celebrating Australia Day and for the first time understanding its significance. ‘I think Australia day is important for the nation, it shows that Australia is a united and peaceful country,’ he explained.

He thinks the national day will mean more to him once he becomes a citizen. ‘When I become a citizen, Australia Day will be part of the history of my new country, my new home. But even now, even though I am not yet a citizen, I feel welcome here beyond my expectations,’ said Butti, who arrived in Australia with his wife and two children early last year.

Canadian migrant Mabel Estrella, who becomes an Australian citizen on Australia Day, said becoming a citizen was important to her as a way of showing a commitment to the country.
‘I think it is only right that my family make a commitment to becoming Australians and accepting the rights and responsibilities that come with that given that we are enjoying the benefits that come with living in this amazing country,’ she explained.

AMES Australia chief executive officer Cath Scarth said the survey showed that migrants and refugees new to Australia 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. It shows that most migrants want to contribute to Australia, want to learn its history and customs and want to embrace and become part of broader society,’ she added.

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