Who are rural Australian immigrants?

place of birthAirplanes and immigration policies have brought a rich mix of people from all over the globe to live in Australia.

Melbourne and Sydney are global cities, but outside of the capitals the population does not look or sound so diverse.  As I explained in an earlier post, the proportion of the population born outside of Australia and its territories is two or more times higher than in the major cities than in the country.  This difference, I argued, cannot be explained by international students at city institutions.

The smaller proportion of non-metropolitan immigrants is matched by far less diversity in the places of origin.  I looked first at the regions in Western Australia where I live and work.  In the WA Outback—the Australian Bureau of Statistics name for the vast northern part of the state from just south of Geraldton, through the Pilbara and up to the Kimberley—I expected that the mining industries would have brought skilled men and women from all over the world.

Wrong. People born in New Zealand and the United Kingdom made up 51% of all usual Outback residents born outside of Australia, compared to only 18% in Greater Sydney and 42% in Perth.  Immigrants in the agricultural Wheatbelt of WA came from an even narrower range of backgrounds: 60% were from New Zealand or the United Kingdom.

This pattern is repeated throughout Australia. The graph at the top of this post shows the birth places of all usual residents who stated they were born in a country other than Australia.  The countries or regions of origins on the graph account for about 080% of all foreign born in each remoteness category.  (If you would like to know where your favourite community falls on the remoteness scale check out the lovely maps in this great ABS publication.)

Persons born in the UK and NZ comprised 27% of all foreign born living in major cities and between 46 and 51% everywhere outside of the metropolises. Immigrants from southern Europe (mostly Italy, Greece and the former Yugoslav republics) were 14% of the foreign born in major cities and their proportion declined steadily the further you get from urban life.  Asians (a wide category drawing from southeast Asia, China and the Indian sub-continent) made up 36% of the foreign born in major cities but less than 10% outside.

The relatively high proportion of Asian born in very remote Australia is a telling exception. Ten per cent of the foreign born usual residents in very remote Australia in 2011 were people Sri Lanka and Afghanistan housed in immigration detention centres in Queensland and Western Australia.

My next post will look at what roles immigrants have in the major cities and rural areas of Australia.  I’ll show that the regions are missing out on the dynamic contributions immigrants are making in the cities.

Data come from the Australian Bureau of Statistic’s 2011 Census that I generated using  the excellent TableBuilders Pro program on the ABS website.

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