New Life for Millions in Australia
By “Awake!” correspondent in Australia
AN INCREASINGLY large stream of new settlers is arriving in Australia each year. In the year ending June 1970, some 185,000 newcomers began life afresh here, the largest number ever. Since World War II more than 2.5 million people have moved to Australia from other countries.
In 1946 Australia had a population of less than 7.5 million. Today, twenty-five years later, its population is more than 12.5 million. That is nearly a 70-percent increase for the postwar period!
More than half of the newcomers are of British nationality. The rest come from more than thirty different countries, including Greece, Italy, Yugoslavia, Germany, the Netherlands, Turkey and Lebanon. An increasing number are also arriving from the United States. During the 1960’s some 20,000 Americans settled permanently in Australia, with the yearly total now being close to 5,000.
Why They Came
The move from the United States has paralleled the rise of violence and unrest in American life. Margaret Valance, a former Chicagoan who operates an advisory service in Sydney for Americans intending to migrate, said: “Almost all of the writers spoke of social unrest and violence among the reasons for wanting to move their families to another environment in Australia.”
It would be wrong, however, to expect Australia to be a perfect haven from crime and immorality. For the worldwide moral breakdown is also felt here. As in other lands, news reports tell about wife swapping, homosexuality and rapidly increasing crime rates. The Minister of Customs recently predicted that every Australian between twelve and fourteen would be offered marijuana before the age of twenty-one.
The chief motivation for coming to Australia seems to be economic. Newcomers often say that they came in search of better employment opportunities for themselves and their children.
The carefree Australian way of life and casual social attitudes appeal to many. The climate is also an attraction. And some are drawn by the sense of adventure offered by a largely unpopulated, undeveloped land. Not all come with the intention of staying permanently, but most do.
The Religious Situation
Newcomers to Australia are not fleeing religious persecution, which was a motive for many migrants to come to America years ago. But those who do come to Australia find religious freedom here.
At the time of the 1966 census almost 4 million Australians indicated that they were Anglicans or adherents to the Church of England. Some 3 million described themselves as Catholic or Roman Catholic. And many others are of other religious faiths. But, interestingly, 1.3 million persons either said that they had no religion, gave an indefinite answer, or did not reply at all to that census question. Why is this?
A nationwide Gallup poll gives a clue. Referring to this poll, the Melbourne Herald, April 5, 1969, said: “Some of the basic beliefs of the Roman Catholic church are rejected by about a third of those who claim to be Roman Catholic.” It added: “Of the people who claim membership of the chief Protestant groups, fewer than half believe in an after life, while only about 1-in-4 believes in hell and the Devil.” So instead of professing to belong to a religion to whose beliefs they cannot subscribe, many Australians disclaim any religious connections.
It is significant, on the other hand, that 87 percent of Australians believe in the existence of God. And many of these have a love for God’s Word. Among such persons Jehovah’s witnesses are enjoying many fine Bible discussions regarding God’s grand purpose to usher in a righteous government for the blessing of his obedient servants. More than 22,000 ministers of Jehovah’s witnesses are now active in Australia.
Where the People Live
With approximately 3 million square miles, Australia is nearly the size of the United States, excluding Alaska and Hawaii. So newcomers are understandably surprised when they find that the country has only six states, and that most Australians live in big cities.
Melbourne, in Victoria, has 2.4 million people; Sydney, in New South Wales, 2.8 million; Perth, in Western Australia, 650,000; and Adelaide, in South Australia, 770,000. Thus in the four largest cities of these four states over half the entire country’s population lives!
With all this space and so few people, distances between cities are staggering. Almost six hundred miles separate Melbourne and Sydney. A trans-Australian flight from Perth to Sydney goes as far as from London to Cyprus. Yet there are no customs barriers at state borders in Australia.
Because the country lies partly in the tropics and partly in the temperate zone, it is always summer somewhere in Australia. Even during the winter months in the southern states, when it is possible to enjoy skiing on the snows of Mount Kosciusko or Mount Buller, people in Queensland in the north spend their leisure hours on sandy beaches and in the water.
Are the tens of thousands who arrive each year able to find employment? Most are. Jobs are plentiful. This is reflected by the virtual absence of unemployment. Currently less than 1 percent of the work force is unemployed, and hardly ever does it reach above 2 percent. A reason for this is that immigration, while encouraged, is carefully governed to admit those with skills, capital to invest and young persons looking for opportunities.
There is encouragement in Australia to open one’s own business. And many have done this successfully. In fact, about one seventh of the work force are either employers or self-employed.
One Greek migrant found that he could start his own business even with little capital. His choice? An ice-cream van. His comment: “I like this life. Working for myself, I get the chance to meet many people and have long talks with them.” Gardening is a common form of self-employment. It can be extremely satisfying, since plants grow so well in the mild climate of the southeastern states.
Some newcomers think that they can start a kangaroo farm, But they cannot. There are no kangaroo farms here. In fact, in some states it is illegal to keep a kangaroo as a pet. The only places kangaroos are seen are at zoos, wildlife sanctuaries, or in the country well away from cities.
Although Australia’s economy was once largely dependent on sheep, no longer is this so. Industrialization has occurred, resulting in many of the job opportunities.
Spearheading the country’s industrial drive is automobile manufacturing. One plant in Adelaide employs 6,500 persons, most of whom, says a plant public relations officer, are postwar migrants. Australian passenger cars are exported to more than thirty countries, including New Zealand, South Africa, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Fiji, Thailand, Kuwait and Zambia.
Australia is one of the most motorized nations in the world, with one motor vehicle for every 2.7 persons. Thus, there are job opportunities for trained auto mechanics.
Western Australia is fantastically rich in minerals, and mining boomtowns are blossoming. There are mountains of iron ore. One discovered in 1967, about a mile across and three miles long, is believed to contain more than a billion tons, worth billions of dollars. Giant power shovels, scooping tons of ore at a bite, are digging into what is considered one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in the world! Rich stores of nickel, manganese, bauxite, tin, copper, oil and other resources are also being tapped.
Many are moving to Western Australia to take advantage of the resulting job opportunities. One Irishman explained: “I never expected to be driving a bulldozer in Western Australia when I came to Australia. But conditions were so good that I could not pass up the opportunity.”
In order for you to compare, here are some average Melbourne retail prices in June 1970: butter, 53 cents a pound; fresh bottled and delivered cow’s milk, 19 cents a quart; T-bone beefsteak, 89 cents a pound; potatoes, 36 cents for seven pounds; lamb chops, 50 cents a pound. There are no food shortages.
On the other hand, average earnings for adult males are in excess of $70 a week. Senior female shop assistants earn about $40 a week. Inflation has been modest. Retail prices have increased just 3 to 3.5 percent a year for the past ten years. This relative economic stability has been attractive to prospective migrants.
So any number of factors have influenced persons to move to Australia. There are indeed many attractions and opportunities here. And each year more and more thousands from many lands are coming to take advantage of them. Already in the postwar period millions of settlers have started a new life in Australia, and more are expected to do so in the years ahead.
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