By. Andrew Richard
“Notice all the people pushing prams are Indians or Chinese” observed my wife as we were going to a café last weekend. I had noticed a similar thing in our middle class suburban shopping strip, but I started to wonder if it was just a perception, or reality.
As human beings we are very susceptible to noticing change. Frankly speaking, most of us don’t like change. Our politicians like to reflect this back to us as a way of gaining electoral popularity.
Twenty years ago a new populist politician arose in Northern Australia. Her catch cry was “we are being overrun by Asians”. Her appeal was to the racist heart of Australia. Yes, such a thing exists, and its measurable in our election results. As one of the few countries in the world with compulsory voting, we can know numbers with certainty. Her vote never exceeded 11% nationally. Now her catch cry is “Muslims are taking over”.
So with all that in mind, I looked up our excellent national census data. First I checked how many Chinese and Indians live in our suburb of Carnegie. I was surprised to learn Chinese made up 10% and Indians 9.5% of our 18,000 citizens. In the next suburb of Glenhuntly, Indians made up 20% of the population.
Memory can play tricks on us, so I looked up the data from the 1996 census to compare with 2016. The Chinese population has increased 4 fold in the period and the Indian population 8 fold. I should point out that these increases are largely the result of proximity of Monash University to the two suburbs. Many graduates do not return to their home countries; they simply gain permanent residency. This area is familiar to them, so they try to settle where they are comfortable.
So perception or reality? It’s a bit of both. Yes, the numbers of Chinese and Indians are rising, but it’s hardly the invasion right wing politicians would have us believe. Australia is experiencing change, but its controlled; and certainly in Melbourne; entirely accepted by the previous waves of migrants.