The migrant experience
from there to here
Since the end of WWII, migration to the country’s shores has been a significant factor in the making of modern-day Australia. In just 75 years, Australia has gone from being a largely homogenous population – looking to Europe, and in particular Britain, for direction – to one that is unquestionably multicultural. There were numerous reasons for the government to encourage new migrants to Australia’s which has included the need for a larger population (Populate or perish!) and the requirements for additional skilled and unskilled labour to service government investments such as the Snowy Hydro and as well as for humanitarian reasons, such as to provide a safe refuge for refugees fleeing war, political persecution or economic downturns.
With a population of nearly 200,000 people, the City of Monash is a diverse and multicultural community. In fact, it is one of the most culturally diverse cities in Australia with 45% of its residents born overseas, well above the Greater Melbourne average.
Since 2006 there have been more than 10,000 new migrants to the area with the largest groups coming from Asia with 19% of residents born in China, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Korea.
Virtually every one of the migrants I met and photographed spoke of the Monash region with love and affection. They came here for a variety of reasons: good schools, to join family or friends living in the area, as a safe place to start again, for the clean and lush landscape, with many sighting the safety of the suburbs as the perfect place to raise their families.
Interestingly each individual, couple and family also spoke of their need to give back to their community. This included volunteering, running a local business or supporting a local club or charity. This keen sense of community has helped to bind the fabric of the Monash community together.
There are many reasons people leave their home countries and the decision to do so is not always simple. It isn’t just a matter of jumping queues or buying a way in because they could. What drove them to come to Australia is fascinating and complex and each have their own individual story. However, there are commonalities between their individual experiences – they motivations and the emotions they felt when landing on a foreign land. If we take the time to hear these stories, we might find we have more in common with one another than we think.
I only met with 16 of the migrants who now call Monash their home. They represent a group of people who hail from across the globe. Some are newly arrived, others whose journey began just after WW2. It would have been wonderful to photograph more people from more countries but this is just a snapshot of the diversity of the migrant experience.
One thing everyone did have in common … is that they now call Australia home.
- Lee Grant