2016 census: Australia the best multicultural society

Australians are the most tolerant and welcoming people on earth when it comes to migrants, according to renowned Melbourne demographer and futurist, Bernard Salt.

And our successfully integrated, multicultural cities are underpinned by economic opportunity and the tolerance that is embodied by the Australian concept of a fair go.

Salt believes that our fusion culture begins with settlement in and around our capital cities but migrants disperse to the suburbs in the course of a generation.

In Melbourne, where 864,000 of today’s long-settled migrants (who arrived before 2006) are now well dispersed across the metropolitan area.

Immigrants arrive via our biggest cities and often settle in the city centre or in university suburbs, such as Carlton or Clayton, or in aspirational suburbs near migrant hostels, such as Tarneit.

But over time, more-established migrants eschew the city centre and the launching pad places that provided initial support and pursue quality of life in the suburbs.

More than seven million of Australia’s residents were born overseas — 33 per cent of the population — and in Melbourne it tops 40.2 per cent. Add in the proportion of people with one parent born overseas and Melbourne’s immigrant community is at 57.2 per cent.1

Salt points to the great melting pot of New York for comparison and finds that barely 29 per cent of residents there are now born outside the US. That figure sits at 15 per cent for Berlin, 20 per cent for Paris and two per cent for Tokyo.

The 2016 census shows that there are fewer than 13,000 Australian residents who remain here who migrated before the end of World War II. Of Australia’s six million migrants, 3.2 million arrived before 2006.

The biggest inflows occurred in the late 1960s and in the past decade. In the 60s it was the British who arrived in big numbers with 36,000 still here.

The Italian inflow peaked at the 10,000-mark in 1956, while the Greek diaspora topped out at 7000 in 1964.

The biggest influx of Kiwis occurred in 2011 when their number reached 24,000 ­ although two years later this fell to 7000.

Australia’s Indian arrivals peaked at 43,000 in 2008 before dropping to 17,000 following the global financial crisis. Chinese arrivals topped the 46,000 mark in 2015, making them the largest immigrant community to arrive from any country in any year in Australian history.

To Salt, the mix of economic opportunity and community tolerance has made it easier for non-English-speaking migrants and those of different faiths, to integrate and make a home within our nation.

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016 Country of birth