Australia is one of the world most diverse countries in the world. It has a rich multicultural history and as a population numerous cultures and ethnic heritages. Australia is continuing to evolve and develop as a multicultural nation now drawing immigrants from across the world. This article seeks to give a snapshot of some of the key developments Australia’s multicultural history and their significance to Australia.
Australia has a large portion of its population born overseas. In 2015, 6.7 million (28%) of Australia’s population of 23.8 million, were born overseas, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This growth rising share of the population born outside Australia means that many Australians may see their identity coming from different cultures and traditions with roots in a diverse range of countries. The notable feature is not just the rising share of offshore born citizens but also the breadth of countries they have arrived from.
The percentage of overseas born living in Australia has risen sharply for well over a decade. In the 15 years since 2000, this portion of the population has grown from 23% to 28%, a remarkable change to the cultural heritage of the country.
The country of origin of Australian immigrants has changed also with the Chinese born, a significant and rapidly growing group. The number of Chinese born residing in Australia has grown over three-fold in the past 15 years and as of 2015, 482,000 Australians were Chinese born. Indeed Chinese migration is noticeable, growing at a rapid pace, rising from 0.7% of the Australian population in 2000 to just over 2% in 2015.
Such rapid increases in migration have been accompanied by an increase in international students studying in Australia one of the largest exporters of education services in the world. International student intake has been increasing across all educational levels with Australia having 713,000 international students in 2016. These numbers are significant as the student composition of schools and educational institutions have changed significantly in the past 20 years as the number of international students has risen sharply. Classrooms are becoming more diverse and schools are having to find ways to integrate students and break down barriers such as language and cultural interaction within the education system.
Within the educational sector, higher education institutions have also had to adapt to an influx of international students, changing the face and cultures of campuses Australia wide. Indeed the higher education sector has seen international student numbers increase from 125,000 in 2002 to 307,000 in 2016. It is clear that Australia is continuing to see cultural change and become ever more multicultural. Such changes have spilled onto the educational context and in fact been an important driver in change as educational institutions seek offshore students to their campuses. Culture Bridge believes that the rise in international students, especially within the higher education context can lead to significant benefits if there is better cultural interaction and exchange. We believe that Universities must adapt to new levels of international students and that students have the chance to learn new cultures and integrate like never before. This is beneficial to both local and international students as both groups engage in better cultural interaction, building long term relationships and improving personal skills in areas such as cultural understanding, interpersonal engagement and cross-cultural leadership.