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  • Writer's pictureAayushi Sharma

Indian diaspora: An asset to Australia

Why the Indian community is a model minority in Australia.

Indians in Australia have turned out to be one of the most successful communities in the country.

The rapidly strengthening India-Australia partnership has occupied a central place in the Indo-Pacific stability. The relationship between India and Australia has many dimensions including diplomatic, economic and strategic cooperation but the main tenet in all these is the increasing confidence building between the two countries. This is where the importance of diaspora comes in.

Diaspora communities provide strong grounds for improving people-to-people relations amongst two countries while also enhancing cultural exchange on both sides. In this context, Indians can be considered to be one of the most dynamic and heterogeneous of all diasporic communities and hence contribute to building better cultural relations with the world. The same is true for the Indian communities in Australia. Over the years, Indians have formed an important part of the Australian population demographics contributing significantly in the economic and cultural growth of the country which has resulted in the strengthening of bilateral ties between the two countries in recent times.

Migration Trends

According to the latest census conducted on the total population in Australia, around 2.8 per cent of the population claimed to be of Indian origin. This makes up about 675,658 people belonging to the Indian diaspora in Australia. The Indian origin diaspora in Australia, even though increasing rapidly in numbers, has not always been the most significant of the diaspora communities in Australia. It is very interesting to note that the first noteworthy advent of Indian origin people in Australia happened in the 1960s and primarily comprised of Indian doctors and academicians. The volume of immigrants to Australia increased significantly in the 80s and 90s. The credit for this increase goes to Australia’s skilled migration programme which attracted highly skilled individuals to work into the emerging industries of technology and medicine. This also paved the way for the Indians to create a strong foundation and reputation in the highly skilled employment opportunities that was made available to them. Apart from the opportunities provided by the Australian economic and education programmes, the Indian government overtime also made it a priority to make migration to Australia easier. The Indian government policies that accounted for simplifying the overseas citizenship rules are a major example of this. The relaxed rules grant life-long multiple entry visas to individuals residing in Australia which remains valid for up to three generations of migrants. This allows for people to settle in Australia easily while still maintaining their strong emotional ties to India.

Estimated population of Indian born residents and those claiming Indian ancestry (1996-2020)[1]

The migration conducive policies of both the countries allowed for increased Indian immigration to Australia from 2000 onwards and it was in 2016 that the figure rose to a maximum as per the study conducted by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Australian Government. It is interesting to note that India remained the highest contributor to new citizens in Australia from 2015 to 2021.

A National Asset

Today, the Indian community in Australia is accepted as a major asset to the Australian economy due of the highly educated nature of the community. As per the latest report by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Australian Government, amongst the total Indian diaspora community within Australia, 80 per cent have had higher education qualifications and 70 per cent contribute actively to the labour force. These trends are understood better when put against the national average rate of 65 per cent among the native Australian communities. As per the statistics, the Indian workforce in Australia is primarily employed in highly skilled jobs such as Information and Communications Technology (ICT), medical profession, human resources, marketing as well as engineering. This suggests that the Indian community also contributes immensely in the overall economic and social growth of the country. Additionally, the Indian technology majors such as Infosys, HCL or Wipro have vast established operations within Australia which has been made possible through the focussed development of economic and business cooperation between the two countries over the years. These companies have also become a major source of employment for not just the Indian diaspora in Australia but also for the native Australian workforce. Not limited to the contribution to enterprise, the Indian community is a prominent stakeholder in the education sector in Australia. As found by the national study, there has been a booming rise in university lecturers and academicians from to the Indian diaspora. It is important to understand the significance of these highly skilled academics and researchers as they add to the academic linkages and bilateral cooperation between the two countries. Partnerships in these areas are very important in strengthening relations and building confidence.

Another major chunk of the Indian population in Australia comprises of the International students from India, a segment of whom choose to become a part of the Australian workforce. As per the national report mapping the trends of the Indian diaspora in Australia, Indians form the second largest international student community in Australia and the numbers continue to rapidly grow. Many of these students go to Australia for higher education purposes finally adding to the high skilled workforce in the country.

Beyond Cricket and Curry

It is because of the central position occupied by the Indian community in Australia that organisations like the Australia India Institute and the Australia India Youth Dialogue, Australia aims to strengthen people-to-people links through culture. The agenda of their cultural diplomacy initiative is to develop a cross-cultural understanding amongst both the communities based on bilateral links through art, music and culture, suggesting that the India-Australia partnership has much more unexplored depth that goes beyond the world of cricket. Therefore Australia’s close strategic and diplomatic ties with India cannot be viewed in isolation to the emerging importance of the diasporic links amongst the two communities. The Indian diaspora carries the power of its diplomatic soft power with it, merging itself into the famous spirit of the Australian friendly life of 'mateship' resulting in strong foundations for a long lasting partnership.

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