Aims and Scope of the Study
This study traced the settlement and examined the integration of the Chinese in Brisbane, Queensland. In the course of the study a number of basic questions were addressed. What does the term 'integration', inasmuch as it refers to the incorporation of migrants into their new homeland, mean? What does the Australian government consider the process of migrant integration to entail? What particular characteristics of migrants are likely to affect their integration? Following a review of the literature which suggested most of the answers to these questions, a model was constructed for the purpose of investigating the integration of the Chinese presently resident in Brisbane. The model consisted of 4 primary elements: cultural beliefs and habits; social relations; political participation and awareness; and economic well-being.
Through structured interviews, data was collected from 196 respondents. In addition, a number of in-depth interviews were carried out with some of the initial respondents as well as with other members of the Chinese community in Brisbane. The vast majority of the respondents were drawn from a sample of Chinese-sounding names listed in 11 of the 21 electoral wards that constituted the Brisbane metropolitan region.
Conclusions from the Study
The most striking observation about the Chinese in Brisbane, is that coming from different countries in the Asian region and from a variety of backgrounds, as most of them do, they are very much a heterogeneous group. From the major findings of the study it appears that, in contrast to the early Chinese settlers, the vast majority of the members of this community are well integrated into the wider community. For instance, even excluding the Australian-born Chinese from the results, the data show that most of the other respondents were aware of their duties and responsibilities as Australian citizens, evidenced by their knowledge of personalities and matters in the political sphere. The majority of the respondents could speak English fluently, and reflecting the high standard of education that a good proportion of them had attained, most were employed in a professional or clerical capacity. In terms of becoming possible welfare recipients, these respondents give every appearance of being a low risk.
Unlike the ethnic Chinese from Indo-China, who, since their arrival in Brisbane over the past decade, have been heavily concentrated in the older inner city suburbs where comparatively cheap rental accommodation is to be found, most of the Chinese in Brisbane are residentially dispersed according to their wealth and occupational status. Home ownership among the respondents in the survey was slightly higher than for the general population, while the incidence of unemployment among the respondents was substantially lower than for the population.
The vast majority of the respondents have non-Chinese friends with whom they mix socially, and most hold neutral views on the subject of mixed marriages. They sense that they are accepted by the majority of the non-Chinese population; and, although isolated instances of discrimination were reported, the general feeling is that the days of the 'White Australia' policy are gone forever. At the risk of repeating the point, then, the ready conclusion to these findings is that the vast majority of the respondents are indeed socially, politically and economically well-integrated into the community.
Those respondents who did not appear to be as well integrated into the community as the others were usually persons who were unable to speak English or spoke only a little English. Most were elderly, had not been resident in Australia for longer than 15 years, and had a limited education, usually in a country where, in the past, the opportunities to learn English were limited or non-existent. A good proportion of these respondents were females who were born and raised in China. Even among these people, however, there is a feeling of being satisfied with their life, dreary though it may appear to be to outsiders. Their satisfaction comes from being re-united with their relatives and loved ones, or simply from the quiet life they enjoy compared with the hustle and bustle of living in places like Canton or Hong Kong. As their English language skills improve, most of these respondents, except perhaps for the very elderly, will become better integrated. Moreover, as time goes by one can expect to find that most of the Chinese migrants who come to Australia will be able to speak English as more and more of them are learning to speak English as a second language in their native country.