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  • InduQin

Educated, ambitious, ever more powerful: How Indian migration is changing the nation

It’s grey, gloomy and wet on this wintry Sunday in Rowville, on the industrial eastern edge of Melbourne’s suburban sprawl. But inside a warehouse behind the Australian Indian Community Centre, things are heating up. The smell of sweat and saffron rice mixes in the air, and the stereo is so loud, none of the 170 or so dancers can hear anything but the cacophonous assault of continuous Hindi music.

We’re halfway through a six-hour dress rehearsal for an amateur Bollywood spectacular – an explosion of sequined skirts and head-wobbles and henna hands – which grows steadily more glittery and raucous, like a fireworks display approaching its crescendo. It’s then that a dozen kids in white satin saris march through the complex shouting “Vande Mataram!” , which loosely translated means “I praise my motherland!”

Another translation is “Long live India!” – and the sentiment is not misplaced. The first tranche of data from the 2021 census recently confirmed that Australia is now the first English-speaking country in the world to be a “migrant majority” nation – where 50 per cent of the population were born overseas or have an immigrant parent. And the biggest story within those numbers? India.

People of Indian ancestry in Australia number more than 780,000 – an increase of almost 165,000 since 2016. As migrant groups go, Indians have leapfrogged the Chinese and now sit second only to the British – and not for long, either. Monash University demographer Dharma Arunachalam expects his countrymen to comfortably vault into the top spot within five years, to become our undisputed dominant migrant group. And the indicators are there, he adds, to suggest this cultural bloc might more profoundly influence Australian society than any other.

First, they’re in a generational sweet spot. The median age of Indians here is 35 – the Australian median is 38 – as opposed to migrants from, say, Vietnam (47) or Italy (72), who came in earlier waves. They’re highly educated, too: 63 per cent of Indians here had a bachelor’s degree or above in 2016 (the most recent figures, and compared with an Australian-born number of 24 per cent).


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