One in three Chinese immigrants fail to acquire Australian citizenship amid ‘unwarranted delays’

Some interesting data. Have not looked at recent Canadian citizenship pass rates to know if there is a similar pattern here.

But we do know that Chinese immigrants have a relatively lower naturalization rate than many other groups: 77.2 percent compared to the overall naturalization rate of for those who immigrated to Canada 2006-10 (Census 2016):

One in three migrants from mainland China has failed to acquire Australian citizenship since 2012 amid the growing political debate over Chinese influence.

The figure, the highest of any nation in the top 10 sources of new Australian citizens, follows a collapse in the number of Chinese residents approved last financial year, when only 11 per cent of these applicants were granted citizenship as Home Affairs struggled to keep up with demand.

The department pulled that figure back up this year, with 42 per cent of Chinese applications between 2017 and 2019 approved overall.

But figures, given in response to questions on notice in Parliament show that, since 2012, just 64 per cent of applicants from China were approved, compared with 69 per cent from the Philippines, 77 per cent from Britain and India, and 90 per cent from South Africa. The figures exclude migrants from Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Up to 390 Chinese migrants have had their citizenship put on hold for three years, while 9600 have been waiting for two years despite already being permanent residents for several years. At the same time, 2350 Afghani migrants have been waiting since 2015 to have their citizenship applications processed.

A Home Affairs spokesperson said the department did not treat citizenship applications from people from certain backgrounds more favourably than others.

The spokesperson said processing times could vary due to individual circumstances, including the time it takes to receive additional character and national security information from external agencies and the time it takes for the applicant to attend a citizenship ceremony or receive a citizenship certificate.

The Morrison government has blamed the delays on an increase in the complexity of applications. An Auditor-General’s report dismissed this in February, finding that “overall, the relative complexity of the applications lodged has decreased” and the backlog was due to tighter security screenings.

The Home Affairs spokesperson said the department had implemented a number of strategies to improve processing times and reduce the on-hand caseload of applications, without “compromising on national security” or “program integrity”.

The figures come amid a decline in Chinese applications overall. The absolute number of applications for Australian citizenship by residents of Chinese heritage has halved since 2017, when there were 14,707 applicants, compared with 7999 last year.

Political tension between the Chinese and Australian governments has grown since 2017, when former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull angered the Chinese government by introducing foreign interference laws. Mr Turnbull last year banned Chinese telco giant Huawei from building Australia’s 5G network due to national security concerns.

Scott Morrison, who is yet to visit Beijing since becoming prime minister in August last year, has become more aggressive in his differences with China on global trade policy since visiting US President Donald Trump in September. Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne has also sharpened her criticism of the deteriorating situation in Hong Kong.

The chair of the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia, Mary Patetsos, said the federation hoped people from all backgrounds and nationalities would receive equal treatment in relation to the processing of their citizenship applications.

“I think this is what an overwhelming majority of Australians would expect as citizens of a country that strives to be fair, equitable and democratic,” she said.

“We must also remember that unwarranted delays in the processing of citizenship applications cause significant hardship for families.”

Labor MP Julian Hill, who asked for the figures from Home Affairs and has launched a parliamentary inquiry into the citizenship audit, said the delays had caused widespread anxiety among migrants in his Melbourne electorate of Bruce.

He said some applicants were unable to travel where they needed to without an Australian passport, or apply for jobs in the public service or defence force.

“Then of course there is the big issue of family reunions. People are in my office weekly because they are desperate,” he said.

“Until they are citizens, their family reunion applications will get no priority. That means they have not been able to see their wife, husband or kids for years. The sheer inhumanity of that is astounding.”

Source: One in three Chinese immigrants fail to acquire Australian citizenship amid ‘unwarranted delays’

Australia to settle more immigrants outside major cities

Different approach than Canada, which relies more on provincial nomination programs and regional ones like the Atlantic Immigration Pilot (to be made permanent) and the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot to encourage and facilitate immigration:

The Australian government said on Saturday it is increasing the number of visas for skilled workers willing to migrate to the country’s regions in a bid to ease pressure on major cities, where populations are growing twice as fast as elsewhere.

The government will increase the intake under its regional migration programme to 25,000 from 23,000, according to a statement issued by the Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s office.

That does not mean, however, that Australia will be taking more immigrants.

Morrison’s conservative government cut the annual immigration intake to 160,000 people as of July 1, versus 190,000 before. The 25,000 visas for those willing to live in smaller cities and regions are part of the annual migration cap.

Nearly a third of Australia’s resident population were born overseas, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD.

Australia, a highly urbanized country with one of the highest population growth rates in the OECD, has about two-thirds of its population living in the capitals of states and territories, according to the 2016 government census data.

Between 2017 and 2018 the number of people living in those cities increased at twice the rate the number of people living outside them, recent government data show. Capital city growth accounted for 79% of Australia’s total population growth.

“We’re using our migration programme to back our regions to grow to take the population pressure off our major capital cities and by supporting strong regions we’re creating an even stronger economy for Australia,” Morrison said.

Migrants willing to live in locations outside of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane will have access to priority processing and international university graduates who live in these locations will be eligible to apply for more time in Australia on a post-study work visa.

Source: Australia to settle more immigrants outside major cities

Dutton pushing for citizenship loss powers

Appears to be over-reach given lack of due process:

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has introduced legislative changes making it easier to cancel the citizenship of dual nationals convicted of terror offences.

“This bill is designed to protect the integrity of Australian citizenship, to ensure that we have the necessary powers to keep Australians safe,” he told the lower house on Thursday.

The proposal gives the minister discretionary powers to sever a dual national’s Australian ties if they have rejected their “allegiance” to the nation.

This includes taking part in terrorism, being part of an overseas terrorist group, or being sentenced to at least three years in prison for terror offences.

But as the government attempts to make the citizenship loss laws even harsher, the public servant responsible for monitoring Australia’s national security laws has poked holes in existing legislation.

James Renwick has identified “uncontrolled and uncertain” aspects of citizenship cancellation laws already in operation.

Dr Renwick has no qualm with revoking the citizenship of dual nationals convicted of serious terror offences.

But he has taken issue with “less conventional” powers, allowing citizenship to be stripped from anyone aged over 14 engaged in terrorist conduct, without a conviction or decision by a public official.

Dr Renwick warned the provisions did not sufficiently protect human rights, and were likely to breach international law.

“I have concluded that these provisions do not pass muster under the (relevant) act and should, with some urgency, be repealed with retrospective effect,” he said in a report tabled in parliament.

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus said the report shone an embarrassing light on the minister.

“It shows why national security law can’t be left to Peter Dutton, and why we need proper time to consider crucial legislation,” he told AAP.

Current laws apply to those sentenced to at least six years in prison since 2015 or at least 10 years after 2005.

The changes could affect anyone convicted of terror offences and sentenced to at least three years’ jail since 2003.

A dual citizen might not even be notified their Australian citizenship has been cancelled, if the minister thinks telling them will cause a national security risk.

If so, the minister has to review such a decision every 90 days for five years.

Anyone who has their citizenship torn up can appeal the decision.

Opposition home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally said Labor would consider the proposed laws.

“When it comes to keeping Australia safe from violent extremism and terrorism we should expect and demand a home affairs minister and government that are listening to our national security agencies,” she said.

Source: Dutton pushing for citizenship loss powers

80 per cent increase in Australian citizenship applications approved

Catching up on their backlog:

The number of migrants becoming Australian citizens is continuing to rise.

In 2018-19, there was an 80 per cent increase in citizenship applications approved compared to the previous financial year.

More than 145,000 migrants had their citizenship by conferral applications approved, up from 81,000 in 2017-18.

Meanwhile the Government has also halved the waiting time between an applicant attending a citizenship interview and the finalisation of their application.

According to Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs David Coleman the increase has been attributed to encouraging online lodgements and increasing the efficiency of citizenship processing.

“We have invested $9 million into our systems and staff, established a task force to focus on complex cases, and increased the number of citizenship appointments available for
applicants to attend interviews and sit the citizenship test,” said Mr Coleman.

“This investment is having a significant impact and I am confident we will see further improvements over the next 12 months.”

Source: 80 per cent increase in Australian citizenship applications approved

Yes, you can hold an Australian passport but not be a citizen. Here’s how – Analysis & Opinion

For citizenship policy nerds and people falling between the cracks:

Being born in Australia does not make you an Australian citizen.

The Tamil family with two Australian-born daughters on Christmas Island awaiting a decision on their future knows this only too well.

In some countries, such as the United States, children born there automatically become citizens of that country.

But in Australia, this isn’t the case.

In Australia, the automatic birthright to citizenship ended on August 19, 1986, under section 12 of the Australian Citizenship Act 2007.

Children born in Australia from August 20, 1986 are only Australian citizens by birth if, at the time of their birth, at least one of their parents was an Australian citizen or permanent resident.

If they meet this criterion, they can obtain a passport.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), which issues Australian passports, says: “Only Australian citizens can be issued with Australian passports”, but the Department of Home Affairs sometimes has other ideas.

This has had a negative impact on children who might fall into the gap between the passport and citizenship requirements of these two government departments.

Most of the time, acquiring an Australian passport at birth, based on providing standard evidence of identity, like birth certificates, means citizenship for life.

In some instances, though, Home Affairs has the power to request, arbitrarily and with no explanation, that further evidence be provided to justify a child’s citizenship, even DNA testing.

DNA testing to prove citizenship

In one recent case our firm dealt with, the foreign mother of an Australian child who had an Australian passport was told she needed to produce evidence of citizenship for her son, even though he was born in Australia and his father had always held Australian citizenship.

The family birth certificates and passports she had provided when successfully obtaining her child’s passport were “not deemed sufficient evidence” of citizenship.

She was required to obtain a “certificate of citizenship” from Home Affairs. And to get this, DNA testing was requested to prove the Australian citizen was indeed the biological father of the child in question.

But the mother’s relationship with the child’s father had broken down irreparably at the time of the child’s birth, and the father refused the DNA test.

DNA testing was not compulsory, Home Affairs advised. Other methods could be used to prove the relationship between the father and son was biological.

But the alternative social evidence recommended by Home Affairs, and supplied by the mother, included exhaustive personal, hospital, social work and government records.

They detailed the mother and child’s contact with the father and grandparents before and after the birth. This was still deemed “not sufficient”.

In effect, this shows DNA has become the only acceptable evidence, despite Home Affairs’ claims.

The outcome, Home Affairs advised, is that the child’s passport will be cancelled and the child will lose his status as an Australian citizen.

In another example, the father of a child in care, an Australian passport holder, was asked to do a DNA test as part of the process of obtaining a certificate of citizenship for the child.

He was estranged from the child and the mother, and so he refused. Home Affairs made its assessment of paternity based on that refusal, and the child’s passport and citizenship were cancelled.

Losing citizenship from ‘insufficient’ evidence

Citizenship can be revoked and a passport consequently cancelled in limited circumstances — mostly relating to criminal or security issues.

There is no provision in the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 for the cancellation of citizenship held by a child under 16 who became a citizen at birth.

Yet it is happening.

Our firm has recently seen an increase in cases where the citizenship status of a child passport holder has been challenged if the child’s mother is a temporary resident.

While investigating a mother’s circumstances, Home Affairs delegates have required children — Australian passport holders with citizenship acquired through their father — to verify their citizenship by obtaining “certificates of citizenship”.

In these recent cases, the evidence usually required to obtain such a certificate — relevant birth certificates linking the child to the father, and evidence of citizenship or permanent residence of the father at the time of birth — has been rejected as insufficient.

The common thread is the absence of the father, where family relationships have broken down.

The child is consequently caught in a bureaucratic tangle: their birth certificate identifying their father remains valid, but Home Affairs refuses to accept this.

Evidence of paternity can’t always be provided when families break down

For Home Affairs, sometimes the standard evidence of identity isn’t enough to justify a child’s citizenship.

And where a relationship has broken down, or if a father has moved on physically or emotionally from the child, there may be no way of providing biological proof of that paternity.

The onus of proof in this case is on the child or its mother, with Home Affairs providing no explanation why such evidence may be necessary or relevant.

A child’s birth certificate signed at the time of birth by an Australian citizen father, or social evidence of a paternal relationship, can count for nothing here.

What’s disconcerting is the apparently unfettered right of Home Affairs to request additional evidence of citizenship from children who already hold Australian passports, granted following the normal protocols, without any need for Home Affairs to explain on what basis such information is sought.

This is at odds with the practice under the Migration Act 1958, which acknowledges principles of “natural justice”.

Cancelling children’s passports and withholding citizenship — effectively a consequence of their absent father and their parents’ inability to maintain a harmonious relationship — seems clearly unjust.

Refusing to accept certificates issued by state Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages, and overturning the capacity of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to issue passports based on its own sets of rules, is yet another indicator of the enormous and — despite its denials — unchecked power of Home Affairs.

If birth certificates no longer suffice as evidence of paternity, perhaps we’ll all be looking at DNA testing in the future.

Source: Yes, you can hold an Australian passport but not be a citizen. Here’s how – Analysis & Opinion

Australian citizenship law change affecting New Zealanders, high commissioner says

Tens of thousands of long-term residents could fail the new test, triggering the deportation process, a parliamentary inquiry heard on Monday.

The new migration rules will give the minister or his or her delegate a new discretionary power to cancel a visa if a person is convicted of certain offences, punishable by a maximum of two years in jail.

Offences include assault, using or possessing weapons, sex crimes or breaching an apprehended violence order.

A person will fail the character test if convicted of one of these offences, regardless of the actual length of the sentence imposed.

The test will also apply retrospectively, meaning the offence to trigger the reconsideration could have occurred decades ago.

New Zealand high commissioner Dame Annette King told the Senate’s legal affairs committee 2014 changes to visa rules which lowered the threshold for cancellations on character grounds had incurred a “disproportionate” impact on Kiwis living in Australia.

New Zealanders made up 10 per cent of the foreign born population but 50 per cent of deportations.

By comparison, only 1 per cent of New Zealand’s deportations were Australians.

“We don’t believe our community is less safe than Australia’s,” Dame Annette said.

She said Australia’s tightening migration rules had “become a rub and corrosive to our relationship”.

She urged the government to revert to the pre-2014 rules.

“If that is not possible we would like special consideration of New Zealanders living in Australia, because of the relationship, it is not like any other relationship,” Dame Annette said.

The Law Council of Australia also raised concerns that previous expansions of the power had not only led to more deportations, but greater ministerial intervention.

The number of via cancellations on character grounds rose by 1400 per cent between 2013 and 2017, the council said,

“The character test expansions have led not only to more cancellations but also a greater use of the minister’s personal powers, not only through section 501 but also through section 195A, which enables the minister to grant visas to detainees even where a section 501 cancellation has taken place,” its submission said.

“This is an inefficient use of ministerial time. Detainees must remain in prolonged detention while the department and the minister consider such matters.”

But Department of Home Affairs officials said the new rules were required to set an “objective, transparent” threshold for visas to be cancelled.

“I’d like to be clear that the consequences of not meeting this subjective threshold is that there would be further consideration of a discretionary power to refuse or cancel a visa where a non-citizen is convicted of a designated offence,” acting first assistant secretary of the immigration policy division, Michael Willard said.

“It’s important to note the conviction itself does not result in the automatic cancellation of the visa or a refusal of the visa and there’s a separate process for consideration of using this discretion that delegates or the minister would undertake.”

Head of the community protection division, Sachi Wimmer, said while it was impossible to say how many of Australia’s 1.9 million permanent visaholders would be captured by the changes, the department was bracing for an increase in referrals.

Source: Australian citizenship law change affecting New Zealanders, high commissioner says

Australia’s new suicide prevention advisor says culturally specific support ‘critical’

Of note (as is the case of mental health and other areas):

Christine Morgan has what some might think is an impossible task ahead of her.

She has been appointed as the country’s first national suicide prevention advisor as the government embarks on its ambitious “towards zero” target for suicide rates in Australia.

According to the latest data available, 3,128 people died by suicide in Australia in 2017, a figure Ms Morgan said is “far too high”.

“It is something that is sad beyond belief,” she told SBS News on Wednesday, following Health Minister Greg Hunt’s unveiling of a plan to fix Australia’s mental health system. The plan includes $114 million for eight adult mental health centres.

Ms Morgan, chief executive of the National Mental Health Commission, was appointed by Scott Morrison in July and is currently on a three-month tour of the country, listening to Australians from all walks of life about their experiences with self-harm and suicide.

It’s about what is driving people to a point where they feel they have lost hope,” she said. “And I’ve got to say, it’s not an easy answer.”

Cultural differences

When it comes to multicultural Australia, with more than a quarter of people in the country born overseas, Ms Morgan said the task can be “extraordinarily complex”.

“It’s not just about having a translator, in terms of specific words and language, it’s actually about translating concepts,” she said.

It’s not just about having a translator in terms of words, it’s actually about translating concepts.

“It’s understanding what may be culturally familiar to somebody, and when they are trying to communicate a thought, a feeling, a behaviour, and what that means through their cultural framework.

“The challenges with the current system are that it’s an expectation that they [culturally and linguistically diverse people] connect with the system – we have to turn that on its head.”

Rather, she said, support services need to actively reach out to minority communities, if they are going to be effective.

While no specific funding has yet been allocated for multicultural Australia, Ms Morgan confirmed she does see a need for targeted programs within culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

Indigenous Australians 

While the government spends nearly $5 billion a year on mental health services – including more than $500 million towards youth mental health and a suicide prevention plan – support specifically for Indigenous Australians is also a top priority for Ms Morgan in her new role, she said.

Rates of suicide among Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander people is more than double the national average, with rates among children even higher.

Indigenous children make up five per cent of Australia’s youth but account for 25 per cent of child suicides.

While travelling around the country, Ms Morgan said she visited a community where a teenager had recently died by suicide.

“It was raw, really raw, and the sense of helplessness that you have, I mean what do you say?” she said.

“The pain, the pain of those who are left behind, the pain of the family … It’s a palpable feeling and realising that when we lose someone to suicide it doesn’t just affect the person who has gone, but so many others.”

Personal drive

After a career in corporate law, Ms Morgan wanted to try something different. She became general manager of Wesley Mission, a charity supporting vulnerable Australians, including those who are homeless and experiencing mental health issues.

It was a turning point in her life.

She went on to spend a decade at eating disorder support organisation The Butterfly Foundation, a time she describes as “incredibly formative”.

“It taught me so much about listening to the voices of those going through it, and capturing that to translate not just the pain, but to inform what was needed to bring that issue to the table and come up with initiatives to address it,” she said.

“That now drives me.”

While she is still in the preliminary stages of her role, Ms Morgan said the way forward is to stop seeing suicide as just a mental health problem.

“This is about a whole of life experience.”

Homelessness, unemployment, chronic pain, and experiences of trauma, all contribute to suicide rates, she said, and those things need to be addressed.

“Let’s really take a good hard look at what are those societal factors, those social determinants –housing, education, experience of veterans, trauma – how can we start to bring those to the table and wrap them into our initiatives?”

“Maybe by doing that we can be more effective with driving towards fewer people dying by suicide.”

Challenge ahead

While she believes Australia has come a long way in the last decade when it comes to mental health, Ms Morgan says the nation has to do better.

“I think we still have very high levels of stigma around reaching out for health [support].”

“A lot is self-stigma, people saying ‘I can understand when it affects someone else, I can be empathetic when it affects someone else, but do I want to admit when it affects me?’”

Ms Morgan says Australia has “incredibly deep and rich” resources when it comes to support services, but “we need to harness that and continue to leverage that”.

She is expected to deliver an interim report by July 2020, with a final report and recommendations due the following December.

With a huge task at hand, she says the keyword in the government’s “towards zero” slogan, for now, is “towards”.

Source: Australia’s new suicide prevention advisor says culturally specific support ‘critical’

When Tony Abbott and Peta Credlin share billing with radical far-right figures, we should be concerned

May be some lessons here as well for CPC and PPC:

The Australian version of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) kicks off on Friday, continuing the long tradition here of conservative groups importing ideas, rather than generating them.

This weekend’s event is a branch-office version of the reliably wacky, but troublingly influential annual US conference. Among other things, CPAC is generally credited with launching Donald Trump’s career as a Republican political contender, after he was invited to speak there in 2011.

In the US, the conference offers a forum for hardline rightwing Republicans. Trump headlined again this year, but he was joined by YouTubers Diamond and Silk; former VP candidate Sarah Palin; anti-immigration Fox News host Laura Ingraham; high-profile evangelist Franklin Graham; and Turning Point USA honcho, Charlie Kirk.

But CPAC has sometimes had trouble in deciding which speakers and which ideas cross the line, as conservatives become more open to radical right ideas on race, multiculturalism and immigration. In recent years it has invited, then disinvited, groups like the conspiracist John Birch Society, and individuals like Milo Yiannopoulos.

The Australian version should make us wonder whether conservatives here, too, have trouble drawing a line around mainstream conservatism, and keeping more malevolent political currents at bay.

The problem is not that all of the speakers at CPAC are beyond the pale. Clearly, whatever leftwing people may think of him, former prime minister Tony Abbott could legitimately be expected to be on the platform at a conservative event. Same for former deputy prime minster, and current podcaster, John Anderson. Abbott’s closest adviser, Peta Credlin, now a conservative media star, is someone we would ordinarily expect also.

Australian conservatives are having trouble drawing a line between the mainstream and more malevolent politics?

Source: When Tony Abbott and Peta Credlin share billing with radical far-right figures, we should be concerned

Australian advertising body targets ‘white people’ to highlight ad codes

Good ad:

Australia’s advertising industry watchdog, Ad Standards, has launched a “provocative” campaign to draw attention to sexism, racism and other issues in advertising.

The campaign, which is running across TV, newspapers, radio and outdoor aims to generate awareness of the advertising codes while showcasing how the majority of marketing messages portray sexist gender stereotypes and fail to reflect the multicultural population.

The ‘Kinder Conditions’ ads feature lines such as “This ad is for white people only”, “If you’re a woman don’t bother reading this ad” and “This ad is brainwashing your children”.

Fiona Jolly, CEO of Ad Standards, said the campaign aims to remind Australians that discriminatory and offensive advertising is prohibited while advocating for positive social messaging in advertising.

“The advertising Codes are in place to achieve a greater good for everyone, protecting the nation with standards that reflect society’s values across wide-ranging social issues”.

“Australians may not be aware that certain codes exist which is why we have set about bringing them to the forefront – it’s not because we get a lot of complaints about them. If the public has concerns about these issues, they can raise them and Ad Standards will act on behalf of their concerns.

“The fact is, while the advertising Codes set high standards, we can encourage brands to exceed these to create positive change in the world. The public should be aware of the standards in place and be encouraged to value socially progressive advertising,” said Jolly.

As part of the campaign, Ad Standards is encouraging the public to nominate ads which promote social good by breaking gender stereotypes, increasing diversity and social inclusion, promoting healthy food, safe driving, responsible marketing to children and transparency in advertising.

The campaign was created by Loud Communications.

Source: Australian advertising body targets ‘white people’ to highlight ad codes

Migrants who adapt to Australian culture say they’re happier than those who don’t

Funny article that is sloppy with definitions, particularly around Australian culture (which continues to plague Australian immigration and multiculturalism related debates) and exactly what are the key elements of acculturation.

The authors appear confused on whether or not acculturation is distinct from assimilation, and if so, how.

And not particularly surprising that those with higher education, skills and salaries are happier than those with lower education, skills and salaries:

In a multicultural country like Australia, it’s easy for migrants to keep their heritage culture alive. But our recent research that surveyed more than 300 migrants found those who adapt to Australian society, called “Australian acculturation”, have greater personal well-being than those who don’t.

Personal well-being refers to a person’s quality of life, measured at two levels. The first: how satisfied they are with their life overall. And the second: how satisfied they are with specific life domains, such as achievements, relationships, health, safety, community connectedness and security.

We looked at the relationships between time in the host country, acculturation and personal well-being among non-Western skilled migrants in Australia. We found that migrants who reported having a higher personal well-being also had:

  • acculturated more to the Australian culture than to their heritage culture
  • higher English language competency and
  • an Australian identity

And we found that more time spent in Australia doesn’t necessarily lead to more personal well-being if skilled migrants don’t adapt to Australian culture.

Social connectedness

We measured personal well-being using the Australian Unity Personal Well-being Index (PWI), which measures the level of a person’s satisfaction using a points system from 0 to 100.

A chart from our study comparing the well-being of our sample of skilled migrants with the general population of Australia.

The average PWI of the Australian general population ranges from 74.2 to 76.8 out of 100, whereas the average PWI of our skilled migrant sample is higher, at 77.27.

Given the present study involved skilled migrants, it’s possible that their higher education, skills and salaries may have contributed to higher levels of personal well-being, compared to the Australian population as a whole.

Skilled migrants recorded the lowest score for the “community connectedness” domain, along with the rest of the Australian population. Community connectedness refers to the number and strength of connections a person has with others in their community.

Community connectedness may be lower because:

  • skilled migrants maintain close contact with ethnic and extended families
  • there are few opportunities for them to be involved in the wider Australian community or
  • they feel excluded from the wider community.

Biculturalism

Rather than acculturation, some skilled migrants will maintain their own culture, and add layers of cultural practices from their host country. For them, “biculturalism” – or being able to switch between host and heritage cultures – is more realistic.

For example, an Indian family who moved to Melbourne will keep their culture alive through food, language and friendship circles, but might also go to the footy and support an AFL team.

Full acculturation, on the other hand, is when migrants abandon their heritage cultural practices and values when they adapt to the host culture.

For a first generation non-Western migrant, adapting to the Australian culture is even harder. Research has shown that acculturation into a Western country is unlikely for these people.

This is for a number of reasons, such as pride in their heritage culture, maintaining strong connections with relatives and friends, and the societies they move to allow them to maintain heritage cultural practices through multicultural policies.

Poor Australian acculturation can lead to social isolation

Most people migrate when they’re young, so they’re able to contribute to the socioeconomic well-being of the host country by bringing in much needed skills, knowledge, technology and investment to Australia.

But in any case, migrants grow old in a culture that’s not heritage to them, so Australian acculturation is important to help combat social isolation in their old age.

In fact, a 2015 study found older people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are at a greater risk of depression than Anglo-Australians.

So if our skilled migrant sample, with the average age of 38, are low-scoring in the “community connectedness” domain, they could fall into a social isolation trap as they age.

Australia should make ageing in a new culture a more comfortable experience, and organisations – such as Australian Multicultural Community Services and Australian Multicultural Foundation – and the government should take more responsibility for their Australian acculturation, and encourage social participation.

Source: Migrants who adapt to Australian culture say they’re happier than those who don’t