Australia: Only 8% of candidates in the federal election come from diverse backgrounds

Sharp contrast with Canada where 18.2 percent of candidates in the 2021 election were visible minorities:

Of the more than 1,200 candidates in the federal election running for the House of Representatives, just 100 (8%) come from backgrounds other than Anglo-Australian, according to lists compiled by the Asian Australian Alliance and the Centre of Multicultural Political Engagement, Literacy and Leadership (Compell). There are a further 38 diverse candidates running for the Senate.

According to a report from the Australian Human Rights Commission, 21% of Australians have a non-European background and 3% an Indigenous background. Over 300 ancestries were identified in the 2016 census.

Less than 40% (458) of House candidates are women, with the majority of both diverse and female candidates running as challengers in safe or fairly safe seats.

The most commonly self-identified occupations of House candidates – aside from existing members of parliament – are managers, retirees and businesspeople. Some unique occupations listed by only a single candidate include a showman, firearms dealer, humanitarian and a carbon farmer.

Although the lists are largely crowdsourced via public statements and may not be comprehensive, as the Australian Electoral Commission does not release extensive data on candidates’ backgrounds, they nevertheless highlight a troubling lack of diversity in the electionwhich “is not representative of multicultural Australia”.

Most diverse candidates are challenging safe seats

Of the 100 House candidates identified as having backgrounds other than Anglo-Australian, just three are incumbents in safe seats: the Coalition’s Ian Goodenough and Labor’s Linda Burney and Peter Khalil. Labor’s Cassandra Fernando is contesting in Wills, where the incumbent Labor MP Anthony Byrne is retiring.

The majority of diverse candidates identified (57%) are challengers in safe or fairly safe seats. There are five diverse candidates in marginal seats currently held by their parties, including Dave Sharma, Marion Scrymgour, Gladys Liu, Anne Aly and Ken Wyatt.

Tharini Apolline Rouwette, the CEO of Compell, says the makeup of parliament and the candidates isn’t reflective of Australian society. “Our parliament is not representative of multicultural Australia, hence why we need diversity in parliament and also to normalise people of colour in leadership roles,” she says.

“There’s about 4% of people of colour in parliament today which is hardly reflective of the Australian population that is increasingly becoming multicultural. The information collected, together with my follow-up surveys/interviews will hopefully be the beginning of a long journey towards collecting information that will inform us as to what we need to do to get more people of colour elected in government.”

More candidates in marginal seats are women

Men make up over 60% of the 1,204 candidates in the AEC list, according to data compiled by Ben Raue at the Tallyroom. There are four non-binary candidates and two whose gender is unknown.

Both major parties have more male than female candidates, but a slightly higher percentage of Labor candidates are women.

Women make up a disproportionate share of candidates in marginal seats – they represent 38% of all candidates, but 41.6% of candidates in marginal seats. Some 263 women (56%) are running as challengers in safe or fairly safe seats.


Guardian Australia compiled a list of occupations from the AEC candidate list, identifying around 254 unique occupations – an approximation, since there can be a number of names for the same occupation, and some candidates wrote expansive job titles such as “finance” or “business”.

Aside from member of parliament, lawyers, directors, consultants, managers, retirees and the unemployed are among the biggest occupations for candidates in the major parties. Some candidates who quit their jobs to contest the election are listed as unemployed.

The most common occupations for Coalition members are lawyers and directors (nine each), followed closely by consultants and managers. Union officials and unemployed are the top occupations for Labor candidates.

Students and retirees make up the top occupations for the Greens. Managers and businesspeople top the list for the United Australia Party, and retirees is the most common occupation listed for One Nation.

Source: Only 8% of candidates in the federal election come from diverse backgrounds

Australia: ‘Beyond the pale’: PM rocked by new claims

Difference of interpretation or dog whistle?

Scott Morrison has been hit with fresh claims he sought to exploit anti-Muslim sentiment, with two witnesses to a shadow cabinet meeting in 2010 insisting there was a “blow up” with Malcolm Turnbull over the issue.

The Prime Minister has previously confirmed the discussion in an interview with The Project’s Waleed Aly, but insisted he sought to cool voter concerns over Muslim migration, not exploit it.

However, two people who attended the meeting on December 1, 2010 have told they did not believe he raised the issue purely to address voter sentiment.

“Malcolm Turnbull genuinely ripped into him. Said it was ‘beyond the pale’,” a Liberal source said.

Another Liberal shadow cabinet member at the time told “He absolutely did talk about the Muslim migration.”

“He flagged it and I remember Phillip Ruddock was very scathing about it,” they said.

Reports of the meeting first emerged in 2011, with claims Mr Morrison urged the shadow cabinet to capitalise on the electorate’s growing concerns about “Muslim immigration”, “Muslims in Australia” and the “inability” of Muslim migrants to integrate.

Then-opposition leader Tony Abbott was not at the meeting, but deputy leader, Julie Bishop, and the former immigration minister, Philip Ruddock, strongly disagreed with the suggestion, pointing out the Coalition had long supported a non-discriminatory immigration policy.

Liberal sources said at the time Mr Morrison told the shadow cabinet meeting on December 1 at the Ryde Civic Centre that the Coalition should ramp up its questioning of “multiculturalism” amid deep voter concerns.

Three years ago, when the claims surfaced again, Prime Minister Scott Morrison described them as “a disgusting lie”.

Mr Morrison abruptly shut down a press conference when he was asked, “Those that did attend the meeting told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2011, quote, that Scott said, ‘What are we going to do about multiculturalism?’”

“I’m going to stop you there. I’ve already addressed this issue today. It is an ugly and repugnant lie,” Mr Morrison said.

“I reject it absolutely 100 per cent and my record of working with the Muslim community in Sydney in particular speaks volumes for my track record. Any suggestion to the contrary, I find utterly offensive. Thank you.”

But just 24 hours later, he confirmed he had raised concerns over the “anti-Muslim” sentiment of voters during a 2010 shadow cabinet meeting, but insisted it was only to “address them, not exploit them”.

Mr Morrison confirmed the discussions with The Project’s Waleed Aly in March 2019.

It was the first time the PM has admitted the discussions on “anti-Muslim” sentiments occurred, after describing claims he had sought to capitalise on the fears as “an ugly and disgusting lie” just 24 hours earlier.

In the interview, Aly asked: “Who is lying? You say that this never happened. You’ve called it a smear and a lie. Who is lying?”

Mr Morrison then blamed two “unnamed sources” in shadow cabinet – Liberal MPs – for twisting the truth of the meeting into “a lie”.

“What is suggested is that I said that we should exploit – exploit – concerns about Islam in the community to our political advantage,” Mr Morrison said.

“Well, I was the shadow immigration minister at the time. And I was very concerned about these issues and the way people were feeling in the community.”

In 2011, Liberal finance spokesman Andrew Robb confirmed that “Scott did talk about the strong feelings in the general community about Muslim immigration and he said that we as a party had to engage with that sentiment”.

“But I’m sure he meant we should engage in a constructive way,” Mr Robb said.

The story first emerged after Mr Morrison questioned the cost of asylum-seeker funerals in 2011. Mr Morrison later apologised for the “timing” of his comments, saying it was “inappropriate” and “insensitive”.

When Aly asked the Prime Minister about Mr Robb’s on-the-record confirmation that he had discussed anti-Muslim sentiment, Mr Morrison confirmed he had discussed it in the meeting.

“I was concerned that we needed to address them. Which is what I have been doing inside and outside of the Parliament for the last 10 years of my life,’’ he said.

“Yes – to lower them. I was acknowledging that there were these fears in the community and we had to address them, not exploit them.”

“I want to rule a line under this issue. It never happened. I have always been deeply concerned about attitudes towards people of Muslim faith in our community.”

Mr Morrison ended the interview with a plea for voters to respect his sincerity on fostering good relationships with the Muslim community.

“Don’t pre-judge me. I know what my values are,” he said.

Source: ‘Beyond the pale’: PM rocked by new claims

Australia: Multicultural media is a strong engagement lever, not a gimmick

While from a multicultural marketing perspective, still valid:

In the land of public relations, everybody aims for tremendous reach. Most of the time, that means mainstream media. However, communicators often forget that the type of audiences you reach matter – the old “quality versus quantity” debate.

As a communicator, it confuses me when others in my field palm off multicultural media as insignificant. This outdated contention does a great disservice to the Australian landscape and means that crucial audience segments are not being met with messages.

Multicultural media can achieve something that mainstream media cannot. It provides and caters to a range of diverse voices and communities, and those with different backgrounds – such as migrants who now mistrust mainstream news – are more likely to engage with media appropriately tailored to the unique aspects of their lives.

The global pandemic reminded us that culturally, linguistically, and religiously diverse communities don’t engage with – or trust – media in the same way as other audiences. Australia’s history of mis-representation, racist and dangerous reporting has created widespread scepticism toward conventional news channels. Examples are never far away: consider the racialising of Melbourne’s “African gang problem”, where the media have consistently targeted and vilified the South Sudanese community, eliciting an “Apology of the Year” recognition by ABC TV’s Media Watch. Such media efforts create a dangerous potential to tarnish communities, encourage further discrimination and violence, and disastrously impact social cohesion.

Multicultural media has often been labelled a small initiative, lacking the style of mainstream reporting – it is underfunded, and usually run on a volunteer basis. It’s seen as a “cute” service for nostalgic migrants, as a means of segregating people into cultural ghettos of communication, or simply tacked on as a “nice to have” on communications plans.

However, this is a gross misrepresentation of the powerful force that is multicultural and community-focused media.

Media that is community-focused and community-centric is developed in an appropriate, respectful, and impactful fashion. Through mediums like print, radio, videos and online news, community initiatives are translated to the right audiences.

Community initiatives employing these mediums are used to discuss problems, and offer solutions faced by diverse communities, with adequate consideration for their cultural, linguistic and religious backgrounds and values. Through an array of opportunities, multicultural media allows you to connect meaningfully and effectively with different groups in a way that mainstream media cannot, or will not.

So, the next time you are planning a communications campaign, consider the following.

1. Australia is a country rich with diversity and culture, it is an oversight to not cater towards the many communities within our country.

Australia has a long history of multiculturalism and is now home to Australians who identify with over 270 ancestries. Over 7 million people identify as coming from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Over one quarter of Australia’s population was born overseas. This rich, culturally diverse population is one of our greatest strengths in illustrating successful and harmonious multiculturalism. Australia has one of the highest numbers of migrants in the world and the highest immigration rates – accounting for 30 per cent of the world’s population, the greatest proportion among western countries.

Multicultural media dates back to the 1800s in Australia: the first non-English language newspaper published in Australia was a bi-lingual German newspaper. Subsequently, there were radio commercials in the 1900s that led to the foundation of the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS). Their contemporary tagline, Six Billion Stories and Counting, reflects the value of SBS’s extraordinary efforts to the Australian multicultural media landscape for its cultural and creative diversity.

Today, the multicultural media landscape has expanded to over 100 community radio stations, in over 100 languages and media organisations from different cultural and religious groups, that broadcast news in print and online, in English and other languages.

2. Multicultural media is a tremendous opportunity for mindful and appropriate messaging.

Multicultural media channels have developed historically to become more mindful, influential, dynamic and pervasive in the Australian media landscape. It ensures that there is more authenticity in stories and media reporting.

Community-focused outlets and channels can facilitate a sense of belonging and social cohesion among first and subsequent generation-migrants, and drive further connection between migrants of CALD backgrounds and other social groups, especially in their local communities.

Over time, multicultural media outlets have taken matters and public affairs into their own hands, finding ways to tell their stories in their own words, empowering their community by speaking up for themselves.

Years ago, the narrative was only one viewpoint. Today, multiple viewpoints, perspectives and opinions are now shared across print, radio, video, and online, underscoring the importance of freedom of speech, and our privilege to have it in Australia.

By providing diverse and unique communities with trusted media, we can ensure that they don’t miss crucial information, while highlighting to the general Australian public that different cultures and communities face various issues – from systemic racism and discrimination – to limited access to vital resources.

3. Multicultural media fills in the gaps that mainstream media overlooks.

Through multicultural media, we are provided the opportunity to access untapped networks comprising organisations, initiatives and – most importantly – people. There are entire audiences rich in cultural diversity, background and history that aren’t consuming or appearing in mainstream news. Incredible stories are getting missed, important audiences are being ignored, and your campaign efforts are lacking a more well-rounded, inclusive and holistic approach to communications.

Off the back of the pandemic, it is unsurprising that Australians are gradually becoming more selective in their news, turning away from mainstream sources. Globally,only one in two people trust the media, with this metric in Australia experiencing one of the biggest drops over the last year.

It’s thus undeniable that community-specific media wields a unique power. Its unbiased, sincere, nuanced and grassroots reporting means that more Australians will opt for such channels. It offers a significant and meaningful contribution to the Australian media landscape.

As multicultural media continues to expand rapidly, the quality and content of these outlets has been noticed nationally in the last decade. The Australian government, in each state, has Multicultural Media Awards to showcase excellence in sharing stories and news in multicultural media outlets operating on limited budgets. The awards recognise the valuable contributions from multicultural media platforms that promote a united, harmonious and inclusive society.

Source: Multicultural media is a strong engagement lever, not a gimmick

The immigration numbers bidding war is pointless – there are limits to how many migrants Australia can accept

Similar questions can be asked regarding current Canadian immigration levels:

Since late last year, various business lobby groups, the NSW government, management consultant KPMG, the Business Council and now a number of economists have been throwing numbers around, talking up the need for higher levels of immigration.

I have written previously on the facile nature of the immigration debate in Australia, on the part of both the groups calling for “immigration to be cut wherever possible” and the groups calling for a bigger Australia.

The problem is the debate focuses on targets and numbers for permanent migration, often confusing this permanent migration program with what matters for population which is net migration. At the same time, too little attention is paid to how migration targets would be delivered, the risks involved, and how the risks would be managed.

So let’s start with basics.

What matters is net migration

The official migration program reflects the number of permanent resident visas issued in any one year, irrespective of whether the person is already in Australia (perhaps for a long time on a different sort of visa) or has been living overseas.

Over the past 15 years, more than half of these permanent resident visas have been issued to people who have already been living long-term in Australia.

Net migration as calculated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics is a measure of long-term and permanent arrivals, including new people issued these visas, less departures of people who have been living long-term in Australia and intend to remain overseas for 12 out of the next 16 months.

It is blind to visa status or citizenship.

Net migration can fall sharply even when the migration program is large, as happened in 2014-15 when we had one of the largest permanent migration programs in Australia’s history, yet net migration fell to 180,000.

A sharp fall in net migration is usually associated with a weak labour market leading to large outflows of Australians, or Australians deciding not to return, as happened in 1975-76, 1982-83, 1991-92 and 2008-09.

On the other hand, even when the migration program is being cut, net migration can be forecast to rise. This is what happened in the 2019 budget, when Treasury forecast the highest sustained level of net migration in our history, after a year in which the migration program was cut from 190,000 to 160,000 per year.

How many migrants, and which ones?

Before discussing the various immigration targets that have recently been proposed, it’s useful to understand the government’s current forecasts and how it intends to deliver them – something surprisingly few do.

The 2021-22 program has been set at 160,000 per year. But Treasury’s 2021 Population Statement assumed to increase to 190,000 per year from 2023-24.

There is no official government commitment to this increase to 190,000 – and there probably won’t be ahead of the election. There has also been no indication of the composition of this larger program, or what might be needed to deliver it.

Planning documents say the 2021-22 migration program will be split evenly between the family stream and the skill stream. This is because the government is at last clearing the very large backlog of partner applications it (unlawfully in my view) allowed to build up.

If the planned 72,000 partner visas in 2021-22 are delivered, the government might only need to allocate around 50,000 places for partners in future years because it will have cleared much of the backlog it has allowed to build up, which will result in a future overall family stream of around 60,000.

This means that to deliver its total program of 160,000 from 2022-23, the government will need an extra 22,000 skilled migrants, and from 2023-24 when the total program increases to 190,000, an extra 52,000 skilled migrants.

The current skill stream planning level of 79,600 has four main components.

There is scope to boost the number of these visas by processing them faster. However, even with a very strong labour market, it is highly unlikely that demand would rise much above 35,000 per year, especially if a more robust minimum salary requirement and strong monitoring of compliance with employer obligations are re-introduced to minimise the risk of wage theft.

The passive investment subset of these visas, which provides visas to people who make a financial investment for a set period of time, is essentially a “buy a visa” scheme. It should be either abolished or modified to ensure active investment.

I resisted establishment of the passive investment component until I left the department of immigration in 2007. Long-term, removing it would cut the number of business innovation and investment visas to around 5,000 per year.

This visa is highly susceptible to cronyism and corruption and attracts few migrants who wouldn’t otherwise qualify for other more robust visa categories. It should either be abolished or pared back to a few hundred per year for highly exceptional candidates.

While the labour market is strong, there would be merit in increasing the allocation of places for these visas, as state governments are well placed to understand the needs of their jurisdictions. But it is unlikely they would be able to fill more than an additional 10,000 places per year, given the occupational targeting and employment criteria they have in place.

Once again, while the labour market is strong, there is scope to increase the size of this category, but there are also risks that would need to be managed.

As these migrants have no confirmed job and face a four year wait for access to social security, diluting criteria for this visa to increase the numbers would mean a rising portion would struggle to secure a skilled job.

Those with options may leave to another country where job prospects are stronger. Others would be forced to take whatever job they can, including at exploitative wages.

In my experience, increasing the size of this visa category to more than around 25,000 would involve substantial risks, especially if the labour market weakens once current stimulus measures are removed.

190,000 won’t be easy to deliver

In total, what I foresee gives us a skill stream of around 100,000. Together with a family stream of 60,000, that provides only enough to fill the existing program of 160,000 per year – not enough to increase it to the 190,000 proposed by Treasury or the 220,000 proposed by the Business Council of Australia.

Those proposing much higher levels of immigration need to demonstrate how they would be delivered and how the risks of what might be a weaker labour market would be managed.

And they need to acknowledge that the size of the migration program doesn’t determine net migration. That’s in large measure determined by the economy and how many Australians and migrants decide to leave, decide to stay overseas, or decide to return.

Source: The immigration numbers bidding war is pointless – there are limits to how many migrants Australia can accept

Australia: gov plans could discourage int’l cohorts [students]

Indian and Chinese students also form about 50 percent of international students in Canada, although the share has shifted considerably: from 29.7 percent Indian and 2.3 percent Chinese in 2018 to 37.6 percent and 12.7 percent respectively in 2021:

The Australian government’s department of Education, Skills and Employment has proposed the establishment and publication of a diversification index which it describes as “an easy-to-understand measure… to improve transparency of diversity of international students at public universities”.

This would include a breakdown of domestic and international student enrolment data by country of origin. 

In 2020, 57% of Australian international students were from China and India, up from 46% in 2010. 

In a discussion paper released at the beginning of February, the Australian government warned of the need to manage “potential overexposure to particular markets”.

But the Group of Eight, which represents Australia’s leading research-intensive universities, said that while it welcomes the diversification of the sector, a different approach needs to be taken. 

“The risk is that Indian and Chinese students interpret an index as a sign that they are not welcome in Australia”

Vicki Thomson, chief executive of Go8, said, “Diversification should be a medium to long term strategy, and the risk is that Indian and Chinese students interpret an index as a sign that they are not welcome in Australia. The loss of these two large student cohorts would not only impact higher education and research, but also the broader bilateral relationships with these countries.”

Group of Eight universities, which include the University of Melbourne, the Australian National University, and the University of Sydney, enrol 38% of all international students across Australia. 

Thomson added that “international education is highly competitive and has become more so during the pandemic. Our closed borders have impacted our attractiveness as a higher education destination and this has been to the advantage of our competitors – UK, US and Canada.”

Go8 also called on the government to instead “support universities to rebuild and reshape the international education industry… through policy measures designed to promote the quality of Australia’s offerings to existing and new markets” including changes to scholarships and visas.  

The Australian government announced this week an investment of $10 million towards an International Education Fund.

Source: Australia: gov plans could discourage int’l cohorts

Australia: ‘We’re being used as tools’: Multicultural groups reject support for religious discrimination bill

Of note:

Some multicultural groups have vehemently rejected any support for the religious discrimination bill as debate continues in parliament in the first sitting week of the year.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison used multiculturalism in an argument to sway MPs to vote in favour of the bill during Question Time on Tuesday.

“If those in this chamber want to speak about multiculturalism and how great a multicultural society it is, then they must acknowledge the role of faith and culture in this country,” Mr Morrison said.

But Nyadol Nyuon, director of Sir Zelman Cowen Centre and chair of Harmony Alliance, said it was “insulting” to use multicultural communities to aid the bill’s progress.

“Multicultural communities did not ask for this bill,” she told SBS News.

She said those who did campaign for the bill were people from “mainstream religions and mainstream politicians, insisting that this is a big problem that needs to be resolved through the institution of the law”.

“Let’s put the blame where it belongs, instead of shifting it and making multicultural communities look like we are would rather see other Australians suffer to protect our sensibilities.”

The religious discrimination bill has stoked great divisions within parliament, including within the Coalition as Liberal MP Bridget Archer refused to vote in favour of the proposed law.

The bill seeks to enshrine stronger protections to make statements of belief made on religious grounds, as well as giving employers of religious-based institutions the right to preference hiring people of their own faith.

But while Mr Morrison has ultimately won the backing of his party, his comments in parliament have angered those who represent multicultural communities, such as Ms Nyadol.

“[Mr Morrison] is trying to create this false choice by conflating multiculturalism with almost, to some degree, religious bigotry, and I think that’s incorrect. You can support multiculturalism and support equal rights for all citizens,” she said.

“We’re being used as tools in these political debates.”

Mohammad Al-Khafaji, who is the president of Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA), described Mr Morrison’s parallels as “simplistic”.

“The view that all cultural communities have religion or faith, that’s a simple way of looking at multiculturalism and we’re a very complex nation,” he told SBS News.

Mr Al-Khafaji explained the priority for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (CALD) is that “they want to make sure everybody is protected”.

He agreed with Ms Nyadol, saying the religious discrimination bill disenfranchises those from CALD backgrounds rather than empowers them.

“[The bill] allows … more dominant, religious groups, who are more established here in Australia to vilify others who are new and emerging in Australia,” he said.

Mr Al-Khafaji has questioned the bill’s practical benefits, as he witnesses the divisions the debate has stoked between people of faith and multicultural communities.

“What we have at the moment is a bit of a class warfare between and it’s driving a wedge between communities. I guess my question is: what is the problem that we’re trying to resolve?”

The Australian GBLTIQ Multicultural Association (AGMC) said it’s “disappointed” the bill will likely be passed.

The organisation stands firm in its view the bill is divisive, particularly for people from CALD backgrounds who are LGBTIQ+.

“Every day LGBTIQ+ people of faith need to make difficult choices between their LGBTIQ+ identities and their religious and cultural communities,” AGMC president Giancarlo de Vera said.

“We have a right to live as full human beings, who are proud of our faith traditions as well as being queer.

“This bill forces [us] to make a choice we shouldn’t have to make.”

Ms Nyuon and Mr Al-Khafaji both agreed that Australia’s multicultural societies are diverse, and must include those from faith backgrounds who do support the bill.

Some include the Australian Muslim Advocacy Network (AMAN), the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council and the Australian Bahá’í Community.

In their submissions supporting the bill, they cited the necessity to practice their religious values freely without fear of religious discrimination after facing vilification for their beliefs in the past.

The Australian Bahá’í Community said its support for the bill “draws on our practical experience helping to defend the members of the Bahá’í Faith in Iran and elsewhere whose rights to freedom of religion or belief and practise of their beliefs have been violated”.
Meanwhile, Islamic-based organisations such as AMAN want the bill amended to include a vilification clause – not adequately covered under anti-discrimination laws – to counter high rates of Islamophobic abuse targeted towards Muslims in Australia.
“People of faith must not vilify others … and this protection must extend both ways … federal vilification protection will protect all Australians based on religious belief and activity nationwide,” it says.

Source: ‘We’re being used as tools’: Multicultural groups reject support for religious discrimination bill

Australia: Early signs of international student numbers rebounding

Of note:

Australia’s position in the international higher education market weakened significantly while our border was closed over the past two years. But recent demand and application data suggest our position may be strengthening since the border re-opening was announced in November. 

More than 43,000 international students have arrived in Australia since 1 December.

The Australian share of demand from international students has recovered from a low of 16.22% in October 2021 to 19.68% in January 2022, despite rising COVID-19 case numbers driven by the Omicron variant. The real-time aggregated search data come from students researching their international study options on IDP’s digital platform. It’s a dataset of more than 100 million site visits a year.

This improving trend is also seen in student applications data. The largest intake for Australia is usually in semester one. There were concerns that northern hemisphere countries would gain from pandemic uncertainties this summer. 

These early signs of recovery are encouraging. However, we cannot confidently predict at this point the impact of this summer’s Omicron wave on enrolments. IDP survey data were showing Australia had a relatively strong reputation as a COVID-safe destination. 

What will it take to sustain the recovery?

Sustained market recovery is a longer-term project. To be globally competitive, universities should focus on creating a world-class student experience. Some changes may take time to build and communicate to the market. 

Strengthening skilled migration pathways for international students will also improve Australia’s market position.

The recently released Australian Strategy for International Education identifies the creation of a world-class student experience as a priority. It recommends universities work to create social connections between international students, domestic students and local communities. It also recommends they improve the classroom experience. 

There is evidence to support this approach. It would help address international students’ concerns about experiences of loneliness, racism and harassment for their political views.  

The Australian Productivity Commission’s 2020 report on its inquiry into mental health highlighted concerns for international students’ mental health. A 2021 QS survey of international studentssuggests COVID-19 added to these concerns due to increased social isolation and difficulties in accessing mental health services. 

In 2022, universities can act to improve the social integration and well-being of international students. Actions should cover COVID safety, welcoming and connecting new and returning students and re-engaging local communities on international education. This builds a platform for longer-term change.

Omicron presents challenges for the sector as semester one enrolments are finalised. Policy uncertainty and acrimonious public debate put at risk Australia’s reputation as a COVID-safe destination. 

Universities can act to ensure travel pathways and campuses are COVID-safe and meet the public health challenges of Omicron. Clear and timely communication is needed to reassure prospective students and their families.

Universities are putting in place programmes to welcome international students and support their social integration and well-being. The cohort of returning students requires specific attention as they reconnect to campus life. Some have been stranded outside Australia for up to two years, leaving them socially and educationally isolated. 

Local communities must be considered too

During the pandemic international students have been noticeably absent from local communities. Many, including tourism and hospitality operators, will welcome them back. 

But universities should not assume that welcome will be uniform. Anecdotally, some domestic students and their families are raising concerns about the impact of international education on the quality of the domestic student experience. 

Universities should act on these community concerns. This will help to rebuild the brand of international education over the longer term. 

In its road map to recovery, the Strategy for International Education recommends a stronger focus on domestic skills shortages. However, it is silent on issues relating to the policy settings that underpinned skilled migration for international graduates.

Students take into account opportunities for post-study work rights when deciding their destination of study. Research published in 2019 reported international graduates were ambivalent about the rights granted by temporary graduate visas. However, many still saw this visa class as a pathway to skilled migration. 

As Australia emerges into the post-COVID economy, key sectors face significant skill shortages. There is a strong case for the Australian government to revisit post-study work rights. Any policy changes would need to consider local political and community concerns. 

The aim should be stronger outcomes for the economy from a more competitive international higher education sector and great outcomes for local economies and communities through targeted post-study migration rights. 

The latest international higher education data are encouraging. But universities and government have more work to do to ensure recovery is sustained.

The author acknowledges the contribution of Andrew Wharton of IDP Connect to this article.

Ian Anderson. Palawa is deputy vice-chancellor (student and university experience) at the Australian National University


Should new Australians have to pass an English test to become citizens?

Canada moved towards more formal language assessment in 2015, with exceptions for those with difficulties. Surprising no mention made of Canada’s experience (basic level), as more relevant than the more restrictive European policies and practices. And last time I checked, acceptance rates were above 90 percent although they did dip to the low 80s when this change was introduced :

On Australia Day each year, thousands of people become Australian citizens at ceremonies around the country.

Prospective citizens have to meet a number of eligibility criteria, including passing a citizenship test to show they have a reasonable knowledge of Australia and basic English.

But there are persistent suggestions those applying to be citizens should also pass a separate formal English test to prove their language skills.

In a newly published article, we explain why this poses a range of problems and why it would not boost English proficiency among new Australians.

What do other countries do?

Language tests for citizenship have become increasingly common overseas: for example, 33 of 40 Council of Europe member states surveyed in 2018 had one.

In 2017, the Australian government also proposed adding a language test to the citizenship requirements. It backed away from the idea following a public backlash, although it continues to put a strong emphasis on the importance of English ability across the visa system.

Proponents of language tests for citizenship see them as promoting migrant integration and social inclusion. Requiring prospective citizens to pass an English test seems like an easy way to ensure they can be educated, employed and participate in society more generally.

But there are some real issues with this approach.

Why language tests don’t work

Language-testing scholars have repeatedly criticised the tests, saying there is no evidence they help people integrate.

Furthermore, it is not clear what kind of language skills a citizenship language test should include.

As our article notes, language tests for jobs or entry to higher education have been developed by experts to reflect the linguistic demands of the relevant discipline or profession.

For example, doctors are tested on medical language and their ability to communicate respectfully and empathetically with patients, prospective university students on their academic reading and writing abilities, and so on.

But what are the language skills required to be a good citizen? We might think skills like being able to follow a political debate are a good starting point, but this is a very high bar that would exclude many people – including, potentially, some native English speakers.

What about testing basic skills?

And even if – like many European countries – we set the bar lower and asked for more basic, conversational language skills, this would still raise a number of problems. We know many factors beyond people’s control influence their ability to learn a second language after migration.

Among those who find it particularly difficult are older people, those with limited education or who are illiterate in their first language, and those who have experienced significant trauma (such as refugees and asylum seekers). Language tests risk putting citizenship out of reach for these vulnerable groups, an outcome that seems inequitable at best, discriminatory at worst.

This is complicated by the huge variation in the way people around the globe speak English, and how we avoid situations where those who speak English with particular accents (including, sometimes, well-educated native speakers), fail English tests because their accents are deemed too different from what the test thinks is “normal” or “standard”.

Tests as an incentive to learn English

What of the idea that tests motivate prospective citizens to learn the language of their new society?

Migrants’ motivation to learn the language of their new country cannot be assessed independently of contextual factors, especially incentives and rewards. Furthermore, migrants often face barriers around eligibility, scheduling, transport, work and childcare commitments, or lack of good quality classes.

Moreover, there is no guarantee tests actually work as an incentive. The Netherlands, for example, introduced a tough system that fines new migrants if they do not pass a Dutch test within three years of their arrival. Despite this, around one in four migrants still fails to pass the test within the required time.

Older migrants, especially those from countries where schooling is commonly interrupted (such as Afghanistan and Somalia), are particularly likely to fail the test. This reinforces the view that social and cognitive factors are more reliable predictors of language learning than lack of motivation.

What to do instead

Forcing people to pass an English test in order to become Australian citizens creates a range of practical and ethical problems, while producing little benefit for migrants and their host society.

Instead, the federal government should use other measures – such as extending eligibility for its adult migrant English program – to support English learning.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 has reinforced the importance of migrant language media and migrant associations. To better support and include this part of our population, we also need to ensure people with lower English skills are able to get the information they need and fulfil the expectations and duties of citizenship.

Source: Should new Australians have to pass an English test to become citizens?

How Australia’s handling of Djokovic exposed its flawed immigration system to the world

Not sure most of the world will note this aspect but of note.

However, in case of Djokovic, hope Australian govt holds firm and doesn’t issue him a visa. He has been irresponsible in his behaviour and damaging to public health overall in his behaviour:

Novak Djokovic has claimed victory in one court, and is back on one more familiar.

But as he prepares for the Australian Open at Melbourne Park, he does so with a Damoclean sword hanging above his head.

Australia’s immigration minister, Alex Hawke, a close ally of the prime minister, is uniquely vested with extraordinary powers: at any time, with the stroke of the ministerial pen, he can end Djokovic’s right to stay in the country, and ban him for three years.

Within government, these are known as the “God powers”, and their use – and misuse – has been controversial for decades.

“I have formed the view that I have too much power,” a former holder of the immigration portfolio, Senator Chris Evans, said more than a decade ago.

“I am uncomfortable with that, not just because of concern about playing God, but also because of the lack of transparency and accountability for those decisions and the lack in some cases of any appeal rights against those decisions.”

Since Evans aired those concerns to the parliament, successive governments have falsely conflated migration with terrorism, or criminality, to justify more and more extreme powers.

Source: How Australia’s handling of Djokovic exposed its flawed immigration system to the world

I settled in Australia as a skilled migrant and know the difference between policy and reality

Interesting account, with parallels in Canada:

An immigration program might not be the economic silver bullet the government expects if it isn’t tailored to what’s happening on the ground. I have the lived experience of settling in Australia as an international student and skilled migrant, so I know all too well the challenges for people in that world between policy and reality.

There are some assumptions that have been built into previous immigration policies that are just plain wrong.

The biggest barrier for migrants looking for work when arriving in Australia is in getting their expertise recognised and their experience acknowledged. And then there is the additional barrier of inherent bias from employers who often have the choice of employing a migrant with foreign credentials and education or a domestic professional who has a shared understanding of Australia’s education and training systems.

This difference between policy and reality is a wide gap for skilled migrants arriving in Australia looking for opportunities.

Many skilled migrants arrive in Australia to enhance their skills. They have ripped up their lives at home to move to another country for a better life. It’s absurd to argue that these migrants gather only in populous areas, placing a social burden on services. They go where the work is, and because of unintentional biases they go where other workers won’t for opportunities.

On a recent trip to Alice Springs we took with the multicultural adviser to the Northern Territory’s minister of multicultural affairs, it became clear that members of the South Sudanese community moved there to be engaged in work relevant to their training and expertise, despite their deep connections with their community members in Melbourne.

This is not an isolated case, with thousands of people on migrant visas filling roles in regional communities where there are opportunities. Hence, the discourse should not be about total immigration numbers, it should be about meaningful employment opportunities.

But if there is not the work available in regional areas for skilled migrants, then they do gravitate towards those communities where they have deep connections. This puts a burden on services in city centres.

Source: I settled in Australia as a skilled migrant and know the difference between policy and reality