Saturday, 27 June 2015

Is Queanbeyan a hotbed of multi-culturalism?

On a recent visit to Aldi in Queanbeyan I was struck by the visible multiculturalism on display.  This led me to wonder whether Queanbeyan was more "diverse' than the rest of NSW or the ACT.  As always the first port of call when visiting such questions is the 2011 Census results, (Although they are getting a bit long in the tooth they are really all that is available.)

I am going to ignore a comment made recently by an American - possibly P J O'Rourke - that diversity means "few Anglos".  He was commenting on places like Washington Heights in Manhattan, where a sign in a shop window saying "bilingual" means they can speak English as well as Spanish.

There are many ways of looking at cultural diversity including country of birth, birthplace of parents, language spoken at home, religion and ancestry (or any combination of them).  Despite my negative issues with ancestry (primarily because it isn't 'fixed' but for many people depends on their thinking at the time they answer the question) I have decided to use that.

The Census allowed people to provide 2 answers to the ancestry question and 6.45 million people (almost exactly 30% of respondents) did so. Of these 77% had a primary ancestry of British or Irish and the dominant 'second ancestries' were other parts of British (eg English and Scots) Irish or Australian.  It didn't seem to me that including the second responses was going to add sufficiently to information to be worth the added complexity, so I have only used the first answer.

The Census classification is hierarchic and results are available at 1,2 or 4 digit level of the classification.  The 2 digit level seemed to be too broad to show what I was looking for, so what follows is at the 4 digit level.

A first point of interest (OK, of interest to me) was that none of the three areas I was looking at had any respondents classifying themselves to 16 of the 319 available ancestries. (Of course, the appearance of a zero in the cells should be interpreted as "none or very few" as the ABS confidentiality provisions quite reasonable perturb the value of very small cells.)  6 of the groups had no representatives anywhere in Australia!  Following on down the path to nothing, Queanbeyan had no members of 188 ancestral groups and the ACT 63 groups.

Let us move on to the big groups.  The 10 biggest cells for each of the areas are shown in the table below which shows the percentage of the population reporting each ancestry..
ANC1P - 4 Digit Level Queanbeyan (C) New South Wales Australian Capital Territory
English 33.20% 31.05% 32.59%
Australian 26.99% 22.50% 24.33%
Irish 5.98% 5.28% 6.84%
Not stated 6.37% 6.92% 5.41%
Scottish 3.50% 3.18% 3.89%
Chinese 1.19% 5.20% 3.87%
Italian 4.01% 2.93% 2.51%
German 2.28% 1.69% 2.44%
Indian 1.27% 1.84% 2.03%
Macedonian 2.77% 0.48% 0.20%
Lebanese 0.12% 1.84% 0.22%
Vietnamese 0.18% 1.06% 1.00%

A first point is that 'Not stated" gets a fair run, being 3rd highest in Queanbeyan and NSW and 4th highest in the ACT.  Secondly the ancestries English, Australian and Irish are the 3 most reported in all areas.  

Queanbeyan has a relatively large Macedonian community - approximately 5 times the percentage of the population in NSW and 10 times that in Canberra.  The Italian ancestry is also relatively large.

Relative to the proportion in Queanbeyan and the ACT NSW has a high percentage of people of Lebanese ancestry and Chinese ancestry (the latter especially when compared with Queanbeyan).  From personal observation, and noting the over-representation of people aged 20-29 in the ACT census data for this ancestry, I suspect that the proportion of people of Chinese ancestry in the ACT is heavily influenced by those studying at ANU and UC.

Focussing on the ancestries in which NSW has a higher proportion than Queanbeyan shows two groups of ancestries.
  • Asian ancestries - Chinese (see above), Vietnamese, Korean, Indian and Filipino; and
  • Eastern Mediterranean ancestries: Lebanese (see above), Greek, Turkish and Assyrian.
I could suggest that with the Asian ancestries (except Chinese) the major migration streams have occurred in the more recent past when the large city of Sydney has been a magnet for migrants with both more economic opportunity and a pre-existing community of that ancestry,

With regard to the Eastern Mediterranean ancestries, possibly the majority of Lebanese migrants to Australia have been people displaced by the relatively recent turmoil in that country, and thus my remarks about the Asian ancestries also apply to them  With regard to Assyrian ancestry, the community in Sydney is very close knit and may thus have been more likely to provide that as their ancestry (rather than identifying as (eg) "Australian").  For the Italian and Turkish ancestries I can only assume that the migrants arrived at times of high demand for migrant labour in the manufacturing industries found in the rest of NSW but not in the Canberra-Queanbeyan region.  (To support that hypothesis I have had conversations with migrants in South Australia who talked about many migrants coming out as unskilled labour to do shift work in the car and white-goods plants of Adelaide.)

At this point I returned to the question forming the subject of this post and thought it should be answered in the negative.  The main issue seems to be the drawing power of the big city- or cities, giving Woolongong and Newcastle a go.  (The same issue applies to New York City where everyone wants to try their luck (as would this author if he had the required folding stuff). ) 

So I then decided to compare, quickly, Queanbeyan with another city of broadly similar size (~40,000) and climate.  Wagga (aka Wagga Wagga, at ~60,000 population) was nominated for this role.  A couple of quick points:
  • The two areas have very similar number of ancestry-groups at ~130; but
  • In Wagga the three big ancestries (English Australian and Irish) account for 80% of the population while in Queanbeyan they cover 66%.
I thus modify my initial conclusion to say that while Queanbeyan isn't as ethnically diverse as NSW as a total it does punch above its weight as measured by population.

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