Australian fears of 'yellow peril' melting in glow of new Asian immigrants' contributions

Australia is drawing on its new Asian immigrants. More and more immigrants to this large but sparsely populated country are Asian, and Australians are finding these newcomers are hardworking and intelligent and are making significant contributions to the nation.

A positive view toward Asians is a turnaround for Australians. Fear of the "yellow peril" was long a prime factor in maintaining a "white Australia" policy. Only in the last decade has the nation changed into a more tolerant, multicultural society.

And Asians are making their mark. When the high school exam results for the state of New South Wales were announced late last year, eight of the top 25 students were Asians, including the highest-scoring students. Fifth-placed Minh Hung Nygen fled on a leaky boat with his family a mere two years ago.

He had no explanation for Asians' success in their new country but attributed his own high score to "just working harder."

Immigration Minister Ian Macphee says Asia will supply more settlers needed for development of the country in coming years.

Asia's industrializing nations are able to provide many people with education and skills needed in Australia. Chinese come from Hong Kong and Singapore, joining Filipinos, Thais, Indonesians, Indians, and other Asians who are adding to Australia's cultural mix.

Since 1975, Australia has admitted 45,000 Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians as refugees; another 14,500 will now be admitted each year.

Two hundred Indochinese families have shunned the cities and have settled in small Australian outback towns, where rural community groups have sponsored them.

Meanwhile in the cities, "Chinatowns" have been spruced up and are growing. Wealthy Asians are investing heavily in prime downtown real state in Sydney and Melbourne.

Inevitably the change is first apparent at street level: Chinese restaurants that dot suburban shopping streets now have Indonesian, Indian, Thai, Malaysian, and other rivals.

Interracial marriages between Australians and "new Australians," as immigrants are called, are becoming commonplace.

Professions, particularly medicine and accounting, are popular with the Chinese, Law, scientific research, dentistry, and journalism have attracted other Asian newcomers.

A Chinese daily newspaper is scheduled to be launched in Sydney within the next six months. A Vietnamese weekly newspaper is already thriving. Chinese and Indian movies are shown on TV stations in Sydney and Melbourne that screen non-English programs. New all-Chinese movie theaters are regularly springing up , and radio stations specializing in ethnic material have Asian broadcasts.

Asians totaled only 6,893 of 130,066 immigrants arriving in Australia in 1960 . Ten years later there were about 16,500 Asians out of 232,571 newcomers.

But last year Asians totaled 22,468 of 77,482 immigrants.

Europe is now providing fewer immigrants than in past years because of falling birthrates and greater prosperity at home -- particularly in the Mediterranean countries. An exception is Britain, where poor economic conditions have raised applications to come to Australia to record levels.

Immigration generally has dropped in recent years because of a stricter policy. Under the new policy, immigrants who either fill employment needs or else join family members here will be considered.

In the days of almost unrestricted immigration from Europe, few Asians were allowed in. But Australia adopted a nondiscriminatory police in 1973, and since then immigrants have been subject to a "points system" taking into account education, job qualifications, and resident relatives.

The idea is to allow in only people whose skills are in demand and who, therefore, are unlikely to lengthen dole lines. People with relatives already in the country are viewed as likely to settle more successfully.

The number of Asians in the country cannot be accurately calculated because many have become Australian citizens and, therefore, do not show up separately on census figures. But the Chinese community is estimated by a leading community association to number about 150,000. The total number of Asians in Australia is probably around 300,000, one source says.

Asians say they experience occasional discrimination but that it is a diminishing problem. Some suggest the Asians experience less prejudice than did Italians, Greeks, and Yugoslavs during the era of massive European immigration.

It is usually small organizations that promote racism, pasting "white Australia" stickers on walls and writing letters to newspapers.

A government report shows the greatest resentment toward Vietnamese was not by Australian-born residents but by British immigrants.

A common complaint was that Vietnamese received assistance from the government to establish themselves in Australia. Others note that many British immigrants had themselves been recipients of considerable government aid.

The government, testing public reaction to the likelihood that Asians will continue to come to Australia, has found adverse reaction is minimal. Its policy is to maintain good relations with nearby Asian nations.

Australia needs skilled workers as it embarks on an era of resources development, a nd Asia can provide them.

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