has always been a migration destination for people
from other continents. During the later part of the
Pleistocene epoch (about 42,000 years ago), the
Aborigines from the Malay Peninsula (Southeast Asia)
started migrating to the then very lush continent.
Theories have it that those first migrants used
footbridges, which connected Australia to the Asian
peninsula. It was also believed that during those
times, the continental coastline was further out
into the nearby Timor Sea. In history, transported
criminals from Great Britain were considered the
basis of initial migration to Europe. For several years beginning 1788, it was
estimated that there were about 160,000 convicts who
were shipped to New South Wales, which then was made
into a British penal colony.
In the 1790s, free immigration
also started. In the 1820s, the rise of the wool
industry established very high demand for labor,
prompting an increase in migration of free laborers
and people, also from Britain.
social upheavals in Britain also pushed many British
migrants to settle to Australia and escape massive
unemployment and poverty in their homeland. During
1851 to 1860, the Gold Rush era came, bolstering
migration rates to about 50,000 people annually.
was during this period that Chinese immigrants
started dominating the volume, aside from the
British migrants. Through the years, Australia has
been an open destination to various migrants, from
all walks of life and all status. The most
significant growth in migration came post the World
War era. It is estimated that since 1945, there have
been about 6.8 million migrants who came to
Australia to settle down.
The large-scale migration
program after World War II was the most significant, as it
was able to transport millions of people from Europe, where
jobs at the time were slashed and many people displaced from
their homes. Incidentally, Australia then was in desperation
due to labor shortage. The country also believed that a
substantial growth in population was important in shaping
and paving the country’s industrial future.
In 1947, Australia entered into agreements with Great
Britain, the International Refuge Organization and several
other European nations to further encourage migrants to
transfer to and live in Australia for good. By 1950, about
200,000 migrants from Europe arrived in the country. The
four decades that followed saw migration volumes reaching
millions. It is not surprising that currently, about one in
every four of 21 million Australian migrants is not born in
the country. New Zealand, the UK and Asia remain the top
source countries of migrants.
Australians also acknowledge the significant contribution of
migrants to the Australian society, prosperity and culture.
Today, the country is still luring more skilled workers and
migrants from all over the world to come in and contribute
to the nation’s further development and growth.