As a former student in Australia, fellow Asian Correspondent, Randeep Hooda recently posted some advice for Indian students in Australia:
“At that time most Indians tended to stick together with their own little groups, cooking their Indian curries and playing their bollywood music and movies. Now, how would anyone feel about a bunch of foreigners doing that, time and again in your neighbourhood. Antagonising? But obviously! I failed to understand why one would travel so far and not want to experience the culture there, try to make it an exchange of values and consequently a richer life.”
Sounds like good advice for any expatriate, but it should be said that Australians overseas tend to hang around together like flies around a discarded sausage sandwich – in fact, I think every national group does.
Indians have a long history of migration to Australia. In fact, if you believe this – and who’s going to argue with a geneticist – it may go back a very, very, very long way.
More recently, Indian immigration picked up in the 1950s when Australia was a much more homogeneous society. One of the more interesting experiments during this time was the settlement of a large group of Punjabis at Woolgoolga on the north coast of New South Wales.
The Sikhs managed to choose one of the most conservative rural areas in Australia to settle during an era where turbans and temples were completely foreign to the locals. I guess it would have to be said that these immigrants largely stuck together in their own little groups. No doubt they experienced their share of racism in various shades during this time.
However, like the rest of the world, the local community quickly found that Indians are one of India’s finest exports. Their obvious differences were ultimately less important than their hard work and net contributions to the community.
Today, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there are 125,000 Indian-born people in Australia, making them the sixth largest group of people born in another country.
The latest figures show that a further 25,000 Indians have migrated in the past year, meaning that Australia’s Indian-born population is probably set to double over the next five years. Indian born Australians will soon rank fourth, overtaking migrants born in Vietnam and Italy – two countries that have had a very significant role in the culture and development of Australia over the last 40 years.
But before this happens, perhaps we Australians need to stand back and take a look at what we are in for. Here are a few of the terrifying statistics:
· One-third of the engineers in Silicon Valley are of Indian descent, while 7% of valley hi-tech firms are led by Indian CEOs.
· Almost 67% of all Indians have a bachelor’s or high degree (compared to 28% nationally and 44% average for all Asian American groups). Almost 40% of all Indians in the United States have a master’s, doctorate or other professional degree, which is five times the national average and the highest educational qualifications of all national groups.
· In Britain, Asians (as they like to call them there) are said to contribute 6% to the UK GDP, whilst making up only fewer than 4% of the population
In Australia, there are signs of this trend continuing, with reports that kids of Indian immigrants are already over-achieving at school big-time. It’s also only a matter of time before we see an antipodean Tendulkar wearing the baggy green.
So why are some Indians reportedly being picked on in Australia?
For most Australians, it’s a puzzling phenomenon – there is definitely nothing novel about Indian immigration. While Indian culture is still exotic, it is not new to us, and Indians have gained our respect on the sporting field for decades. Indian migrants are already numerous and well accepted.
My theory is the isolated incidents involving racist violence against Indians are most likely to have involved other immigrants lacking the same shared history. Personally, it would suit me fine if we could round them up, drop them off in Mumbai, and bring ourselves back another plane-load from the sub-continent.