Australia: The Immigration Nation
Australia’s long history can categorize its status as the ‘immigration nation’ (aside from Canada, the United States and New Zealand). With more than 6 million of the population born overseas, the growth globalization of Australia can be attributed to the immigration programs that has been initiated and continues to be one of the most desired destination of migrants with strong economic and social background as the primary reason. It is imperative to understand the rise of Australia and the development through the course of history.
Australian Migration History
Australia is known to have a rich migration history. Before the European settlement, the population was around 400,000 where Aborigines were the original occupants. Now, the population has ballooned to over 20 million and the migration has been the main driver for the increase. History of migration began when the British and Irish sent voluntarily for convicts between 1788 and 1840 . By 1851, the discovery of gold has transformed the landscape of Australia. More people arrived from Continental Europe, China, the United States, New Zealand and South Pacific and settled and have not looked back. The federation was formed and the population has already surmounted to four million.
However, when the federation has imposed new systems, it included control of the immigration system. With more non-British or non-Irish flock the land down under, the new parliament passed the Immigration Restriction Act or also known as ‘White Australia Policy.’ (More information on White Australia policy can be viewed from the previous blog) The policy banned Asian migration for the following years. The end of the world wars caused the emergence of a new approach to migration. The Department of Immigration was created and proposed for Australia to have annual population growth of 2 percent . Refugees from the wars and displaced person arrived by 1947. It was second to Israel in the number of migrants accepted. In order to address the accommodation of migrants, the project of the employer, Snowy Mountain Scheme, converted some of the rivers into irrigation and generate hydro-electricity. Most of the workers were migrants and though the job presented dangerous and hazardous work, the migrants were vibrant and would contribute in the Australian development .
By 1956, the White Australia Policy were relaxed and most of the non-European residents were allowed to apply for citizenship. In 1973, the structure of immigration transitioned from ‘White Australia’ to ‘multiculturalism.’ The Australian Citizenship Act was passed where all migrants should be treated equally and racial or ethnic discrimination are prohibited. More migrants arrived after the declaration of the policy, with the majority coming from Asia. Finally, between 1981 to 1988, further changes adapted to have more refugees be given ample support. The following decade (1990-2000) have shown the various arrival of migrants from China, India, South Africa, Europe (Italians and Greeks). The refugees coming from overseas conflict from Sudan, Afghanistan and also Iraq are also migrating to Australia .
Facts and Numbers of Migration in Australia
The estimated resident population born overseas was at 6.7 millions persons. See the graph below for the increase from 1894 to 2015.
The immigrant countries of birth are mostly from the U.K., but it has decreased over the years, followed by New Zealand, China, India and the Philippines and Vietnam .
Australian Migration Programs
For Australia, the main objective of migration is to “build the economy, shape society, support the labour market and reunite family’ . In the 2015 migration program, the migrants are composed of 68 percent skilled migrants and 32 percent are from family visa streams. The Australia government has planned the changes according to the needs of the social and economic aspects. The growth of migration has been dynamic with the development of temporary migration where most of the migrants were granted either student or temporary work (skilled) visas. This visa allowed the skilled workers and their dependents to apply for permanent resident visas. The program can be best explained through the following video.
Another migration program is the Humanitarian and Refugee program. It was designed to protect and support refugees in the global humanitarian agenda. The most recent conflict in Syria and Iraq has raised Australia’s efforts to offer their services in terms of the program. The following report presents the contribution of the Australian Humanitarian and Refugee program:
On 9 September 2015, the Australian Government announced that it will make an extra 12,000 humanitarian places available in response to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. The 12,000 people resettled in Australia as part of this intake will be granted a permanent visa.
These 12,000 places are in addition to Australia’s Humanitarian Programme, which totalled 13,750 places for the 2015-16 financial year, and which will increase to 18,750 places in the 2018-19 financial year. Australia’s Humanitarian Programme includes places for people in priority resettlement situations around the world, including people displaced by conflicts in Syria and Iraq.
The additional 12,000 humanitarian places are just one element of Australia’s overall response to the humanitarian crisis. Australia has contributed more than $213 million in humanitarian assistance in response to the Syria crisis since 2011, and an additional $220 million will be provided over three years, commencing in the 2016-17 financial year. Australia’s humanitarian assistance in response to the Iraq crisis is $45 million since June 2014. 
Australia and the Challenges of the Immigration Nation
Issues formed from multiculturalism can also be a major concern for immigration. Most of the issues are cultural and social and the policies that face heated debates among the parliament and the perception of the Australians. Issues of discrimination and national identity are mainly reasonable subjects of the controversies separating some of the Australians and their response to the migrant policies. Linking multiculturalism with citizenship rights is what the policymakers and the people are unclear and determining whether it is cosmopolitanism as the attitude towards migrants. It is, therefore, important for the rationale of the policies to be carefully studied for the stake is the state of the nation and its future. 
The history of Australia has taught the current policies cannot run from its traditional ‘White Australia’ way. The strength of Australia was how it used the migration programs to manage the economic and social benefits and it can be shown in the growth as a developed nation. With more specific migration programs organized by the government, the challenges of immigration need to be addressed as there are more issues globally where Australia can tackle and help resolved, such as the crises in Syria and Iraq.
Note: Al Jazeera (TV station) has released special series of the “Immigration Nation” in 2014. It covers how Australia has met the challenges and how it tries to overcome a legacy of social exclusion. Click here.