Chinese Australian

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Chinese Australians
華裔澳洲人 or 华裔澳洲人
Victor Chang.jpg
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Total population
866,205 by ancestry
319,000 born in Mainland China (excludes Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan)
4.0% of the Australian population (by ancestry, 2011)[1][2]
Regions with significant populations
Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Wollongong
Australian English
Mandarin, Cantonese
various other Chinese dialects
Buddhism, Taoism, Chinese Folk Religions, Christianity, Atheism
Related ethnic groups
Chinese New Zealanders
Hong Kong Australians, Taiwanese Australians
Overseas Chinese

Chinese Australians (traditional Chinese: 華裔澳洲人; simplified Chinese: 华裔澳洲人; pinyin: Huáyì àozhōu rén; Jyutping: wa4 yeui6 ou3 jau1 jan4) are Australian citizens of Chinese ancestry. Chinese Australians are one of the largest groups of Overseas Chinese people, and is the largest Overseas Chinese community in Oceania. Many Chinese Australians are immigrants along with their descendants from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, as well other countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore who have immigrated from Southeast Asia that include large populations of the Chinese diaspora. Chinese Australians are also a subgroup of East Asian Australians and represent the single largest minority in the country constituting approximately forty-percent of the Asian Australian population.[3][4][5] As a whole, Australian residents identified themselves as having Chinese ancestry make up around four percent of Australia's population or approximately 865,000 people as of 2011.[1] The early history of Chinese Australians had involved significant immigration from villages of the Pearl River Delta in Southern China. Less well known are the kind of society Chinese Australians came from, the families they left behind and what their intentions were in coming. Many Chinese were lured to Australia by the gold rush. (Since the mid-19th century, Australia was dubbed the New Gold Mountain after the Gold Mountain of California in North America.) They sent money to their families in the villages, and regularly visited their families and retired to the village after many years, working as a market gardener, shopkeeper or cabinet maker. As with many overseas Chinese groups the world over, early Chinese immigrants to Australia established Chinatowns in several major cities, such as Sydney (Chinatown, Sydney), Brisbane (Chinatown, Brisbane) and Melbourne (Chinatown, Melbourne).

In spite of cultural transition difficulties, language barriers, and a strong fortitude from racial discrimination, Chinese Australians have evolved dramatically from working as indentured labourers to being one of the most well-established immigrant ethnic groups in Australia compared with the earlier immigrant arrivals.[citation needed] They record high levels of educational attainment that match and occasionally surpass the national average. With a high degree of upward academic and socioeconomic advancement and achievement, Chinese Australians are among the most well educated groups in Australia and comprise a large percentage of Australia's educated class, and hold higher educational records achievement among most demographic groups in the country.[6][7]


Chinese peoples have a long and continuing role in Australian history. There were early links between China and Australia when Macau and Canton were used as an important trading ports with the fledgling colony. Mak Sai Ying (also known as John Shying) was the first officially recorded Chinese migrant in 1818. After his arrival he spent some time farming before, in 1829, he became prominent as the publican of The Lion in Parramatta. Early 19th Century migration was in limited numbers and sporadic, primarily those who came in this period were free merchants or adventurers and, the more common, indentured labourers.

The Australian Gold Rushes are what first lured thousands of Chinese to the country. In 1855 in Melbourne there were 11,493 Chinese arrivals.[8] This was startling considering that barely five years previous, Melbourne's entire population had only been around 25,000 people. Due to the widespread racists sentiments in parliament and on the goldfields, the first of many immigration restrictions and Chinese targeting laws was passed in late 1855. However, due to the long, poorly regulated borders between the colonies of Australia the numbers of Chinese on the goldfields continued to swell. Upon the goldfields Chinese peoples faced many hardships. There were violent anti-Chinese riots; the Buckland Riot, the Lambing Flats Riots, as well as general discrimination and prejudice. However, there were many establishments in this period that would have a lasting effect on the history of Australia and the history of Chinese in Australia. One of these establishments were the Chinese camps, which often, later, became Chinatowns in Australia. There was also the establishment and the consolidation of power for Chinese societies, many of these are still active in Australia today. These societies provided support and community for the Chinese in the colonies.

After the gold rushes the numbers of Chinese living in the cities swelled and their businesses and industries contributed much to growth of Melbourne and Sydney in the late 19th century. Mei Quong Tart was a prominent business figure in Sydney. However there were very few Chinese women migrating to Australia. At one point in the 1860s the numbers of Chinese in Australia was around 40,000. Of these, it is believed only 12, were women.[9] This gender imbalance meant that some Chinese men married women of European descent but many had it in their hearts to return to China.

In the late 19th century Japanese girls and women were sold into prostitution and trafficked from Nagasaki and Kumamoto to cities like Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore and then sent to other places in the Pacific, Southeast Asia and Western Australia, they were called Karayuki-san.[10] In Wetsern Australia these Japanese prostitutes plied their trade and also entered into other activities, alot of them wed Chinese men and Japanese men as husbands and others some took Malay, Filipino and European partners.[11][12]

Chinese miners in 19th century Australia used white European prostitutes to satisfy their sexual needs since there were only a few Chinese women around, there were 2 Chinese women to 800 Chinese men on the Riverina camps in 1883 while there were 37 prostitutes and 36 of the Chinese men were married to European women.[13][14]

Legislators complained about the 'right to marry' between Chinese men and white women such as in 1888 with Henry Parkes and statements were said by others in the legislature such as 'The question is whether we would desire that our sisters or our brothers should be married into any of these races to which we object' by Prime Minister J. C. Watson of the Labor party in 1901 and 'We don't want them to marry our white women' by Free Trader Mr Lonsdale and 'No we want them to go back to China and marry there' by Protectionist Alfred Deakin during a debate in the House of Representatives.[15]

Australia only saw a little amount of Chinese women arrive and men of all races were allowed to use the local Australia prostitutes so there was no need for Chinese to bring Chinese prostitutes unlike California. Australia never banned interracial marriage so the Chinese men were able to marry people of any race, which in half a decade of the gold rush resulted in fifty white women and Chinese men marrying each other in Victoria while there were only five white women and Chinese male marriages in California in San Francisco who were married out of state.[16]

Chinese men were found living with 73 opium addicted Australian white women when Quong Tart surveyed the goldfields for opium addicts, and alot of homeless women abused by husbands and prostitutes ran away and married Chinese men in Sydney after taking refuge in Chinese opium dens in gambling houses, Reverend Francis Hopkins said that 'A Chinaman's Anglo-Saxon wife is almost his God, a European's is his slave. This is the reason why so many girls transfer their affections to the almond-eyed Celestials.' when giving the reason why these women married Chinese men.[17]

White men in Australia were afraid of the sexual and racial threats they thought came from Pacific islander and Asian men and it was written that the Chinaman "marries, or cohabits with the mean white woman, jostles and competes with the white man, and when it comes to labouring in the tropics, supplants him." in the Sydney Morning Herald, with interracial sex and prostitution booming in Northern Australia because of the racial sexual imbalance due to the fact that Australia hardly ever permitted the immigration of non-white women.[18]

In Australia Chinese wives were only present with under 1% of Chinese men in the early 20th century, white women was seen as being threatened by asian men with the newspaper The Bulletin "wondering how the Chows do it!" when pondering why white women were being taken by Chinese men and one of their reporters saw "and found, out of 15 girls present, six half-caste Chows and a half-caste Maori." when he went to interior Queensland to Longreach to participate in a dance, Australians were dismayed that the law permitted the marriage of white women to Chinese men, white women who married Chinese or engaged in sexual relations with them were seen as degenerate and the Vagrancy Acts were used to prosecute white prostitutes who had Chinese men as their clients.[19]

The police arrested on charges of vagrancy 22 white women for engaging in unions with Chinese in 1910 in Western Australia and sentenced both the Chinese men and white women to hard labour for 3 to 6 months, Chinese men were sought out by some white women because while 'Aussie' men were "hard drinking" and "rough" Chinese were seen as sober, hard working and having "values of respect", it was through contacts such as social and business where Chinese men met and married white women from 'respectable' backgrounds, unlike what some people suggested like C.F. Yong who claimed that the women were former prison inmates or 'all drunks'.[20]

Among the immigrants coming to northern Australia were Melanesian, South-East Asian, and Chinese who were almost all men, along with the Japanese, who were the only anomaly in that they included women, racist Australians who subscribed to white supremacy were grateful for and condoned the immigration of Japanese prostitutes since these non-white labourers satisfied their sexual needs with the Japanese instead of white since they didn't want white women having sex with the non-white males, and in Australia the definition of white was even narrowed down to people of Anglo Saxon British origin.[21] Italian and French women were also considered "foreign" prostitutes alongside Japanese women and were supported by the police and governments in Western Australia to ply their trade since these women would service "coloured" men and act as a safeguard for British white Anglo Saxon women with the Honourable R.H. Underwood, a politician in western Australia, celebrating the fact that there were many Italian, Japanese, and French prostitutes in western Australia in an address to the Legislative Assembly in 1915.[22]

In Western and Eastern Australia, gold mining Chinese men were serviced by Japanese Karayuki-san prostitutes and in Northern Australia around the sugarcane, pearling and mining industries the Japanese prostitutes serviced Kanakas, Malays, and Chinese, these women arrived in Australia or America via Kuala Lumpur and Singapore where they were instructed in prostitution, they originated from Japan's poor farming areas and the Australian colonial officials approved of allowing in Japanese prostitutes in order to sexual service "coloured' men, otherwise they thought that white women would be raped if the Japanese weren't availible.[23]

Port towns experienced benefits to their economies by the presence of Japanese brothels.[24]

In eastern Australia Chinese men married European women, and Japanese prostitutes were embraced by the officials in Queensland since they were assumed to help stop white women having sex with nonwhite men, Italian, French, and Japanese prostitutes plied their trade in Western Australia.[25]

During the 1870s the New Zealand West Coast and Otago gold mining fields experienced migration of Irish prostitutes from Victoria in Australia.[26]

On the goldfields Japanese prostitutes were attacked by anti-asian white Australians who wanted them to leave, with Raymond Radclyffe in 1896 and Rae Frances reporting on men who demanded that the Japanese prostitutes be expelled from gold fields.[27]

Japanese women prostitutes in Australia were smuggled there and it was the 3rd most widespread profession, it was said that they were "a service essential to the economic growth of the north", "made life more palatable for European and Asian men who worked in pearling, mining and pastoral industries" and it was written that "The supply of Japanese women for the Kanaka demand is less revolting and degrading than would be the case were it met by white women" by the Queensland Police Commissioner.[28]

Around Melbourne's Little Bourke Street precinct and Sydney's Lower George Street grew majority Chinese male enclaves and in total in Australia there were 50,000 Chinese labourers and ministers by 1870, with opium dens being a standard thing found around the Chinese ghettos, the Chinese men were married by poor white women or serviced by poor white women prostitutes, who filled the missing female niche in the Chinese community and this led to condemnation of the white women as opium users and inflammed anti-Chinese sentiment.[29]

The sexual imbalance in the Chinese community with the preponderance of men and scarcity of women led to fears among white Australians over white women engaging in sexual unions with Chinese men since Chinese opium dens in towns and cities were visited by white women prostitues and some Chinese men married white women and this led to the Victoria Buckland River and New South Wales Back Creek riots.[30]

Between 1890-1894 Singapore received 3,222 Japanese women who were trafficked from Japan by the Japanese man Muraoka Iheiji, before being trafficked to Singapore or further destinations, for a few months, the Japanese women would be held in Hong Kong, even though the Japanese government tried banning Japanese prostitutes from leaving Japan in 1896 the measure failed to stop the trafficking of Japanese women and a ban in Singapore against importing the women failed too, and in the 1890s Australia received immigration in the form of Japanese women working as prostitutes, in 1896, there were 200 Japanese prostitutes there, in Darwin, 19 Japanese women wre found by the Japanese official H. Sato in 1889, from Nagasaki the Japanese man Takada Tokujiro had trafficked 5 of the women via Hong Kong, he "had sold one to a Malay barber for £50, two to a Chinese at £40 each, one he had kept as his concubine; the fifth he was working as a prostitute".[31][32] Sato said that the women were living "a shameful life to the disgrace of their countrymen'.[33]

Around areas of work such as ports, mines, and the pastoral industry, numerous European and Chinese men patronized Japanese prostitutes such as Matsuwe Otana.[34]

During the late 1880s to the 20th century Australian brothels were filled with hundreds of Japanese women, those Japanese overseas women and girl prostitutes were called karayuki-san which meant 'gone to China'.[35]

Japanese prostitutes initially showed up in 1887 in Australia and were a major component of the prostitution industry on the colonial frontiers in Australia such as parts of Queensland, northern and western Australia and the British Empire and Japanese Empire's growth were tied in with the karayuki-san, in the late 19th century Japan's impoverished farming islands provided the girls who became karayuki-san and were shipped to the Pacific and South-East Asia, the volcanic and mountainous terrain of Kyushu was bad for agriculture so parents sold their daughters, some of them seven years old to "flesh traders" (zegen) in th prefectures of Nagasaki and Kumamoto, four-fifths of the girls were involuntarily trafficked while only one-fifth left of their own will.[36]

The voyages the traffickers transported these women on had terrible conditions with some girls suffocating as they were hidden on parts of the ship or almost starving to death, the girls who lived were then taught how to perform as prostitutes in Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, or Singapore where they then were sent of to other places including Australia.[37]

A Queensland Legislative Assembly member in 1907 reported that Japanese prostitutes in the small town of Charters Towers lived in bad conditions while in 1896 in the larger town of Marble Bar in Western Australia Albert Calvert reported that the conditions in Japanese brothels were good and comfortable.[38]

After the First Sino-Japanese War a celebration was held at an open-air concert by Japanese prostitutes who performed a dance in Broome in 1895.[39][40][41]

A parliamentary commission was held regarding Sydney's Chinese gambling which brought white European women to testify on 14 December 1891, such as 27 year old Minnie, who had long term relationships with two Chinese men whom treated her kindly after she engaged in "casual" sexual relations with multiple Chinese men.[42]

Minnie ended up having sex with Chinese men after meeting them with friends who were also doing it, after she ran away from an abusive alcoholic husband when she was 16, seven other women were interviewed besides Minnie, girls and women escaped a dangerous street life by taking sanctuary in the inner city and The Rocks with the Chinese, another woman interviewed was Hannah who escaped her jailed brutal European husband to go live with a Chinese man, explaining that 'I thought it was better to have one man than be knocking about the streets with everybody', since the busband's 'people would not look after me', and Minnie said, 'I think fully half of them come to the Chinese when they have nowhere else to go', and she was asked 'Is it because the Chinese are kind to them?' she said 'That is the main thing, and for the sake of a home.'[43]

Some of the European husbands and partners of the women tried forcing them to work as prostitutes to 'knock about the streets' and take the money they earned or were physically violent towards the women, which led the women to go to the Chinese who provided them with houses, Pauline explained "I would sooner live with a Chinaman than a white man. The Chinamen know how to treat a woman.' after her European husband tried to make her be a prostitute, a woman named Maud said 'he tries to please me, and I try to please him' and a woman named Adelaide loved and wanted to marry a young Chinese man but his father forced him to break off the relationship, another two women interviewed were Ellen A and Ellen B.[44]

Some of these women still engaged in prostitution with multiple other Chinese men even after they formed a relationship with a single Chinese man, these women were proud of being wives of the Chinese and their well maintained houses, saying they were 'clean and tidy' and the commissioners even said they were 'clean and even tastefully furnished', and Ellen B said 'You always see all the Chinese women's houses clean and comfortable', 'always plenty to eat and drink' and Minnie said she was 'living respectably with a Chinaman', the women also viewed non-white men of different races in a different light, saying that the 'dark' men like Lascars were different from the Chinese and Ellen B said 'there is not a girl with the Chinese that cares about a dark fellow.'[45]

The commission admitted that 'they have some reason to be satisfied, as they say they are, with their surroundings. The probability is that they would be on the streets of Sydney if they were not the mistresses of industrious Chinamen.' and admitted that without the opium problem that 'it would be impossible to say that these, among the most unfortunate class of women in our midst, had not improved their surroundings by crossing the racial line' and 'there is not ground for suspicion that our alien population is now a danger to youthful virtue.' so the commission only ended up advocating tougher anti-opium measures, the women also rejected the claim by Inspector Richard Seymour in 1875 that opium rendered girls unconscious and vulnerable to sexual activity, making it clear that opium smokers were conscious during the smoking.[46] During an Inquiry in 1875 it was reported by the police that the Chinese were being serviced by young girls.[47]

A European man originally impregnated Ellen B in Melbourne and she then moved to Beechworth, Albury, and finally Sydney after she gave birth, arriving at an Anglican Church run "Church Home" which was for "fallen women" where a woman there introduced her to the Chinese.[48]

Chinese men in The Rocks were sexually serviced by 40-50 European women, these women were not 'mistresses' who lived with a single Chinese man like the women interviewed by the commission but they were full time prostitutes.[49] The commission admitted that 'The European women who lived as prostitutes amongst the Chinese appear, in nearly every case, to have fled to their present haunts as to refuges from the brutality of men of their own race. They had lost caste; they had taken to drink; they were the drudges of larrikins who ill-treated them; some had been in gaol; none were enjoying the protection of decent homes. So, far the lack of better prospects, they sought the Chinamen, who at least pay them well and treat them kindly.' and these prostitutes were found in Queensland, Victoria, and New South Wales in the countryside amongst the Chinese settlements.[50] Alot of the prostitutes were Irish Catholic girls and women in colonial Australia.[51]

Published in 1888 this cartoon depicts the anti-Chinese sentiment that was one of the driving forces behind the push for federation.

Anti-Chinese sentiment also strongly contributed to the establishment of the Federation of Australia. Some of the first Acts of the new federation would establish the White Australia Policy. This policy made it almost impossible for anyone new to migrate from China to Australia. After federation the population of Chinese in Australia steadily declined. Despite the declining numbers people with Chinese heritage still played their part in Australian history. There were over 200 people with Chinese heritage who fought for Australia in World War One, including the decorated sniper Billy Sing. A similar number fought for Australia in The Second World War.

The final end of the White Australia Policy saw new arrivals from the Chinese diaspora and for the first time significant numbers from non-Cantonese speaking parts of China. The first wave of arrivals were ethnic Chinese refugees from Vietnam and Cambodia during the 1970s; this was followed by economic migrants from Hong Kong in the 1980s and 1990s, whose families often settled in Sydney while the breadwinner returned to Hong Kong to continue earning an income – a significant reversal of the traditional migration pattern.

After the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, the then Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, allowed students from mainland China to settle in Australia permanently. Since then, immigrants from mainland China and Taiwan have arrived in increasing numbers. New institutions were established for these arrivals and old ones such as the Chinese Chamber of Commerce revived; Chinese language newspapers were once again published. The equality of citizenship laws and family reunion immigration after 1972 meant that an imbalance of the sexes, once a dominant feature of the Chinese communities in Australia, was not an issue in these later migrations.

Chinese immigration has increased continuously from the 1990s and today the Chinese are the third largest group among immigrants. Since the mid-1990s, migration has become less permanent than it used to be, and goes in more than direction, a trend that pertains also to the Chinese. Students and academics are examples of this pattern. In 1990, Chinese settlers rarely returned permanently, but by 2002, the number of Hong Kong settlers leaving Australia for good equalled those arriving during that year.[52]

In 2005-6 China (not including Hong Kong or Macau) was the third major source of permanent migrants to Australia behind the United Kingdom and New Zealand but with more migrants than from India. Between 2000–01 and 2005–06, the number of skilled migrants coming to Australia from China more than tripled, from 3,800 to 12,500 people.[53]

Chinese Immigration[edit]

Chinese Australians taking part in the Australia Day parade in Melbourne (2014)

Mainland China continues to remain the biggest country from which immigrants come to Australia as it has overtaken the United Kingdom to become its largest source immigrants since 2011.[54] Some Chinese immigrants in Australia have established special schools where the education system is built to resemble that in China, with results more focused on exams. Some Chinese parents also choose to send their children to special training classes outside school, particularly Chinese schools.[55]

China is Australia's biggest two-way trading partner due to its proximity as migrants from China increased to nearly 30,000 out of Australia's total annual intake of 168,685 as skilled immigrants deliver significant benefits as the Chinese immigrants contribute to economic growth and their relative youth offsets some of the impacts of an ageing labour force in Australia.[56][57]


one dot denotes 100 Sydney residents born in China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau)[58]
one dot denotes 100 Melbourne residents born in China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau)[58]

The White Australia Policy of the early 20th century severely curtailed the development of the Chinese communities in Australia. However, since the advent of multiculturalism as a government policy in the 1970s, many ethnic Chinese from Hong Kong, Mainland China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia) have immigrated to Australia.

According to the 2011 Australian Census, 318,969 Australians declared they were born in China (excludes SARs and Republic of China (Taiwan)).[59] A further 74,995 declared they were born in the Hong Kong SAR, 2,013 in the Macau SAR and 24,368 in Taiwan:[58] a total of 304,775 or 1.5% of those counted by the Census.[60] Chinese ancestry was claimed by 866,205, either alone or with another ancestry, and Taiwanese ancestry was claimed by 5,837 persons.[1] The 2011 Australian Census reported that Chinese was the seventh most common self-reported ancestry.[1] In the 2001 Census, just under 40% of those claiming Chinese ancestry were born in mainland China, Hong Kong or Taiwan; 26% were born in Australia with other notable birth places being Malaysia (10%) and Vietnam (8%).[61]

Chinese Australians have historically been of predominately Cantonese descent from Hong Kong and Guangdong province. Due to recent immigration from other regions of mainland China and Taiwan, Mandarin has surpassed Cantonese in number of speakers. Based on the 2011 census, the Australian Bureau of Statistics lists 336,410 speakers of Mandarin followed by Cantonese at 263,673, make them two of the languages with the most speakers in Australia.[62] A further 51,243 persons reported speaking at home another variety of Chinese ("Hakka", "Wu" and "Min Nan" were three specific options presented to respondents), or "Chinese" without specifying a variety. The total number of people speaking Chinese or a variety of Chinese at home was 651 328, which is 16.6% of people who speak a language other than English at home, and 3.0% of total respondents.[63] Second or higher generation Chinese Australians are often either monolingual in English or bilingual to varying degrees with Chinese.

According to the 2011 Census, Sydney was home to almost half (46.6%) of the Chinese population by birth. Melbourne had just over one-quarter of the Chinese born population (28.5%). The rest of Australia also had about one-quarter of the Chinese born population.[64] Of Australia's states, only New South Wales has Chinese as one of its five most-nominated ancestries.[65]

In Sydney there were 358,063 persons, or approximately 8.2% of the population, who identified themselves as having Chinese ancestry (either exclusively or with another ancestry).[66] Other Australian cities with large Chinese populations include Melbourne (244,649 or 6.1%),[67] Perth (72,273 or 4.2%)[68] and Brisbane (69,343 or 3.4%).[69] 53% of mainland China-born and 51% of Hong Kong born residents were enumerated in Sydney, while the largest portion of Taiwanese-born residents are in Brisbane (34%).

Chinese migrants are drawn from the Chinese diaspora. The 2001 Australian Census[citation needed] lists the main source countries and regions for overseas born ethnic Chinese as:

Country/Region Population Country/Region Population
Mainland China 132,020 East Timor 4,880
Hong Kong 59,810 Philippines 2,230
Malaysia 51,910 Thailand 2,210
Vietnam 41,230 Laos 1,450
Taiwan 21,520 Burma 1,030
Indonesia 19,620 Mauritius 820
Singapore 19,120 South Korea 190
Cambodia 9,500 Ghana 110

In a 2004 study on the intermarriage pattern in Australia, the proportion of second-generation Chinese Australians with spouses of Anglo-Celtic ancestry was approximately 21% and for third generation it was 68%.[70]

According to Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2012 Chinese immigrant mothers had a total fertility of 1.59 children per woman. Lower compared to the Australian average of 1.94.[71]


According to the 2011 census the religious affiliation of China-born Chinese Australians is the following:[72]

Percentage groups
63.2% non religious
16.2% Buddhist
11.4% Chinese folk religions and Taoism
3.4% Catholicism
5.9% not stated



In 2006, 55.0 percent for Chinese-born Australians aged 15 years and over had some form of higher non-school qualifications compared to 52.5 percent of the Australian population. Among Chinese-born Australians, 42.2 percent had Diploma level or higher* qualifications and 4.8 percent had Certificate level qualifications. For Chinese-born Australians, 88,440 had no higher non-school qualification, of which 35.3 percent were still attending an educational institution.[73] In 2006, 57.3 per cent of the Hong Kong-born Australians aged 15 years and over had some form of higher non-school qualifications compared to 52.5 percent of the Australian population. Among the Hong Kong-born Australians, 45.7 per cent had Diploma level or higher* qualifications and 6.1 percent had Certificate level qualifications. From the Hong Kong-born Australians, 28,720 had no higher non-school qualification, of which 44.7 per cent were still attending an educational institution.[74]

In 2006, 31.9% of Chinese Australians attained a bachelor's degree compared to just 14.8% for the general Australian population. 36.1% of Hong Kong Australians attained a bachelor's degree or higher. Chinese Australians born overseas reported high educational attainment with over 50% of them holding at least bachelor's degree.[75] When all these rates are melded, approximately 42 percent of (first and second generation) Chinese Australians have achieved a bachelor's degree, making it roughly three times the national average of 14 percent.[76]

The pathways Chinese-Australian families choose to motivate their children is partly based on their cultural values which emphasise scholastic excellence, and partly on their own experiences in their native as well as in the host country. Customarily, activities taking place in Chinese-Australian homes were related to the education of their children. Regular family discussions on educational matters and career paths had a modelling effect. The key feature of these families was that parental involvement in their children's school-related activities remained high throughout the high school time of their children. Chinese-Australian families indicated that diligence, a deep cultural respect for education and motivation to become educated was quite strong among first generation immigrants. Chinese-Australians have a significant influence and place considerable pressure on their children to academically.[76][77][78] In addition, mathematics achievement and participation of high school students have a strong correlation towards the success or achievement goals and sense of competence.[79] In addition, Chinese students from migrant backgrounds, in comparison to those from refugee backgrounds, are more academically successful.[80]

Chinese Employment[edit]

Among Hong Kong-born Australians aged 15 years and over, the participation rate in the labour force was 63.3 percent and the unemployment rate was 6.6 percent. The corresponding rates in the total Australian population were 64.6 and 5.2 percent respectively. Of the 39,870 Hong Kong-born Australians who were employed, 42.2 percent were employed in a Skill Level 1 occupation, 12.3 percent in Skill Level 2 and 8.5 percent in Skill Level 3. The corresponding rates in the total Australian population were 28.7, 10.7 and 15.1 percent respectively.[74]

Many Chinese Australians work in white collar middle class jobs. A striking feature of the Chinese Australians is that they tend to enroll in courses which require technical skills rather than linguistic and social skills. That is, they aim to be scientists, mathematicians, statisticians, accountants, doctors, dentists, financial analysts, pharmacists, computer scientists, computer programmers, engineers, post-secondary educators, and investment bankers or high powered white collar occupations that typically require a lot of mathematical and scientific aptitude. But Chinese Australians are under-represented in occupations such as journalism, law and other professions that require language skills and face to face contact. First-generation Chinese Australians also experience problems in getting white collar jobs commensurate with their qualifications and work experience instead they go into business and operate convenience stores, car dealerships, grocery stores, coffee shops, news agencies and restaurants while sacrificing to pay for their children education as perceiving education as the only available channel of social mobility, substantial investment in their children's education at a disproportionate sacrifice to family finance and social well-being is an indication of parental concerns and expectations.[81][82]

33.8% of Chinese Australians and 46.6% Hong Kong Australians work as white collar professionals compared to 32% for the total Australian population. 63.3% of Hong Kong Australians and 56.3% of Chinese Australians participate in the Australian workforce which was below the national average of 67.1%. Chinese Australians and Hong Kong Australians also have an unemployment rate of 11.2% and 6.6% respectively. Both figures were higher than the national average of 4.9%.[83]


In 2006, the median individual weekly income for Chinese-born Australians aged 15 years and over was $242, compared with $431 for all overseas-born and $488 for all Australia-born. The total Australian population had a median individual weekly income of $466.[73] In 2006, the median individual weekly income for Hong Kong-born Australians aged 15 years and over was $425, compared with $431 for all overseas-born and $488 for all Australia-born. The total Australian population had a median individual weekly income of $466. Therefore, median weekly earnings for Chinese Australians are relatively lower than the population average.[74]

Notable individuals[edit]

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

  • Brawley, Sean, The White Peril – Foreign Relations and Asian Immigration to Australasia and North America 1919–1978, UNSW Press, Sydney, 1995. 9780868402789
  • Cushman, J.W., "A 'Colonial Casualty': The Chinese community in Australian Historiography", Asian Studies Association of Australia, vol.7, no 3, April 1984.
  • Fitzgerald, Shirley, Red Tape, Gold Scissors, State Library of NSW Press, Sydney, 1997.
  • Macgregor, Paul (ed.), Histories of the Chinese in Australasia and the South Pacific, Museum of Chinese Australian History, Melbourne,1995.
  • May, Cathie, Topsawyers: the Chinese in Cairns 1870 to 1920, James Cook University, Townsville, 1984.
  • Taylor, Antony. "Chinese Emigration to Australia around 1900: A Re-examination of Australia’s ‘Great White Walls’" History Compass (Feb. 2013) 11#2 pp 104–116, DOI:10.1111/hic3.12032
  • Williams, Michael, Chinese Settlement in NSW – A thematic history (Sydney: Heritage Office of NSW, 1999)

External links[edit]