Despite setbacks, Indians keep Australian dream alive (Special to IANS)

The Indian community in Australia is growing rapidly. The increase in numbers is complemented by an increase in the average income of the Indian diaspora settled down under.

The presence of Indian migrants in Australia is most noticeable in the annual tax figures. According to an Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) report released recently, Indian taxpayers generated a whopping $7.9 billion (US$6.06 billion) in the financial year 2011-12.

According to the ABS report, Indian migrant taxpayers were number two on the tax generators’ list, only marginally behind taxpayers from the United Kingdom.

What these figures are telling us is that the Indian community seems to be in a rush to realise its Australian dream. Undoubtedly, there are a number of impediments which slow down this chase, but the diaspora members are well on their way to be counted as first among equals in this reasonably prosperous country.

Racism and lack of opportunities are often cited as two primary reasons that make many Indo-Australians wonder whether the Australian ethos of the “Fair go” is meant only for the majority Anglo-Saxon community.

A rude reminder came recently, as a Brisbane bus driver Manmeet Alisher was burnt alive by an Australian of European descent for apparently no reason. Some of the community members have blamed racism for the unprovoked attack. There is no sign whatsoever to suggest that such tragedies would discourage skilled Indians from boarding the flights to Australian destinations.

While there has been a spike in the Indian arrivals after 2005, a large component of the diaspora living in Australia consists of international students. The Indian taxpayers are overwhelmingly male and 40 per cent of them are reported to be in the prime employment age — 25-34 years.

According to a 2013 ABS report, Indian migration increased “dramatically from 2006 to 2011. Around 53 per cent of the Indian skilled migrants have arrived in Australia after 2005”.

According to the 2011 census, about 300,000 Australians were born in India and there were nearly 400,000 responses for Indian ancestry (largest group consisting of Indo-Fijians).

In 2011-12 Indians were the largest source of permanent migration (15.7 per cent of the total migration programme) to Australia.

The social scene in Australia, which promotes multiculturalism as an official policy, is also changing gradually. A visible change can be noticed in the outer suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne.

Hindu and Sikh temples in suburbs Parklea, Revesby, Rosehill, Turramurra and Mays Hill in Sydney, and Craigieburn, Carrum Downs, Deer Park, etc., in Melbourne, are a few of the religious shrines which cater to the increasing number of the diaspora.

While Australian policymakers may be paying tribute to taxpayers from India for making significant contributions to the Australian exchequer, it would be relevant to mention here that the Indian link with Australia goes back thousands of years.

According to a research by Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, the Indian DNA reached the Aboriginal population in Australia 141 generations ago. It is believed that Indian migrants settled in Australia roughly 4,000 years back, i.e., much before Captain Cook located the east coast (New South Wales – Sydney) in 1770.

The first group of Indians to arrive in Australia governed by the British roughly three decades after Captain Cook’s well-celebrated discovery of Australia was that of convict labourers sent by the British colonial masters in the years 1800-1816.

The last four decades of the 19th century witnessed a large number of Punjabis settling on the eastern coast of Australia. Most of these migrants were recruited as labourers. The services of the hardworking migrants were also used to run camel trains.

From running camel trains to driving luxury cars, Indians have definitely come a long way in their chase of the Australian dream.

(Rekha Bhattacharjee is a long-time Sydney resident and a veteran journalist and editor. She can be contacted at vijay@hotkey.net.au)

–IANS

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