Italians in Australia
The Italian migrant community is one of the most well-established in Australia. Indeed, Italians have been arriving since the 1800s. There have been many waves of migration from Italy, with the largest influx occurring during the post-war period of the 1950s and ’60s. Throughout this time (and also during the pre-war period), many Italians faced quite hostile attitudes from the Australian public. Some Italians today have continued to report feeling that Australians are cold, reserved and hard to get to know.
These migrants mainly arrived from small towns and villages in the non-industrialised southern regions of Italy, such as Sicily, Calabria and Campania. Many of these regions had very distinct dialects which people spoke as their first language, with Italian being their second. Most of these arrivals were economic migrants that sought a better income and living. They often viewed their migration to Australia as temporary and intended to eventually return to Italy. Thus, some did not try to acculturate (by learning the language) and socialise outside of the Italian community. Therefore, it should be noted that despite living in Australia for years, many older members of the Italian community may not speak English well (or at all) and may be more socially and culturally isolated than younger Italian-Australians.
Migration has been relatively minimal since this post-war climax of arrivals. Today, most new arrivals from Italy have been people aged 18-30 with working holiday visas. Almost 12,000 working holiday visas were granted to Italian citizens in 2015-16.1 These migrants are often single, highly mobile and extremely technologically savvy. Their stay is temporary (limited to a year).
The majority of Italians in Australia are well established and have been permanent residents for decades. According to the 2011 census, almost 80% of Australia’s Italy-born population arrived prior to 1971. Therefore, those who have been settled for years and acculturated to Australia may not closely resemble the contemporary native Italian described above. As of 2011, only 10.4% of Australian residents born in Italy were under 25 years of age, and the median age was 70.
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