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History of migration to Australia

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History of migration to Australia

Australia’s immigration history began with the initial human migration to the continent around 80,000 years ago when the indigenous Aboriginal Australians’ ancestors arrived on the continent via the islands of Maritime Southeast Asia and New Guinea. The first inhabitants in Australia were the ancestors of the present indigenous people. Whether these early migrations involved one or several successive waves and distinct peoples is still subject to academic debate, as is its timing. The minimum widely accepted time frame places humans in Australia at 40,000 to 43,000 years Before Present (BP), while the upper range supported by others is 60,000 to 70,000 years BP.

From the early 17th century onwards, experienced the first coastal landings and exploration by European explorers. Permanent European settlement began in 1788 with the establishment of a British penal colony in New South Wales on January 26, a date known till today as ‘Australia Day. After the Second World War, the White Australia Policy was abolished, ushering in Australia’s modern multiculturalism era.

In 1851, Gold’s first discovery was made near Bathurst in New South Wales and then in Victoria’s newly formed colony. This transformed Australia economically, politically, and demographically. The impact of the gold rush occurred hard-on-the-heels of a major worldwide economic depression. As a result, about two percent of the British Isles population migrated to New South Wales and Victoria during the 1850s. There were also a significant number of migrations from continental Europe, North America, and China.

During the latter half of the 19th century, several colonies funded the immigration of skilled immigrants from Europe, starting with German vintners’ assistance to South Australia. The government found that if it wanted immigrants, it had to subsidize migration; the great distance from Europe made Australia a more expensive and less attractive destination than Canada, the United States, Brazil, or Argentina.

After World War II, Australia believed that it must increase its population to avoid the threat of another invasion and launched an immigration program whose goal was to increase Australia’s population. Hundreds of thousands of displaced Europeans immigrated to Australia, with more than three million people immigrating from Europe during the late 1940s until the 1960s. Immigration from Asian and other non-European countries started during the 1970s and 1980s. It was during this period that Australia first began to adopt a policy of ‘multiculturalism.

Australia is now one of the most multicultural and diverse nations globally – with over 200+ languages spoken across the country (primarily English). It is also a modern-day global powerhouse with a fast-growing economy and with significant soft power potential. All of this is largely down to its vibrant history of migration and the ever-growing International diaspora communities. Australia is considered a migrant multicultural country because nearly a quarter of the population was born in another country, compared to over 10 percent in the US and over 17 percent in Canada.

Diverse employment and business opportunities in the sectors of farming, mining, IT solutions, engineering, trade, healthcare, infrastructure, dairy, fresh produces etc., combined with a scarcity of people populating a vast landmass, has made Australia what we call today “A land of opportunity.”

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