Chinese settlement in Australia has a long history, beginning soon after the discovery of gold in Australia in 1851. Large numbers of men from China came to work in the goldfields in Victoria, hoping to return to their homeland when they had made enough money (Wang 1988). Some eventually stayed and had children with Australian women. Over time, the presence of a sizeable number of Chinese gold-diggers led to tension and hostility against them. In 1901 the Immigration Restriction Act was passed in the newly set up Federal Parliament, effectively closing Australia's doors to immigrants from non-European backgrounds (Yuan 1988). It was not until the formal adoption of a non-discriminatory immigration policy in 1973 by the Whitlam Labour Government that significant numbers of Chinese, from various parts of Asia, migrated to Australia (Chan, H.M.H. 1988).
Chinese settlement since the 1970s
Most of the Chinese settlers in Australia arrived post-1973; they are concentrated in the urban areas of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. Malaysia, with its sizeable proportion of ethnic Chinese, became one of the ten top source countries for immigration to Australia in the 1970s. Vietnam, again with a substantial proportion of ethnic Chinese, joined the top ten in the early 1980s. During the 1980s the most dramatic rate of growth in immigration to Australia came from those born in Taiwan (Khoo et al. 1993). From the mid-1980s to 1993 Hong Kong and China were among the top ten source countries; In the four year period from 1989 to 1993 Hong Kong was second only to the United Kingdom as a source of immigrants (see also BIR 1992b).
The significant increase in ethnic Chinese immigrants in Australia was reflected in 1991 census figures (BIPR 1993b; Ho 1994), which ranked China as the ninth most common place of birth for Australians (0.5 per cent of the population) and Hong Kong the fifteenth place (0.3 per cent of the population). Cantonese-the dialect spoken by Hong Kong Chinese and those from the Guandong Province in China-was the third most commonly spoken community language in Australia, while Mandarin, the official Chinese language, was the twelfth most commonly spoken (BIPR 1993b).
As the census did not include a question on ancestral or ethnic identification, it is not possible to accurately determine the number of people of Chinese ancestry in Australia. Nevertheless, Kee (1992) estimated that it would probably be around 300 000 in 1992, a significant 50 per cent increase from the 1986 census estimate of just over 200000 Australians claiming primary or secondary Chinese ancestry.
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