The experience of Chinese-Australians has improved over the years, according to a recent survey conducted by the Lowy Institute. The survey showed that incidents of racism have declined in Australia over the past three years. The proportion of Australians with Chinese heritage who reported being called offensive names fell by one-third between 2020 and 2022. The survey, titled Being Chinese in Australia: Public opinion in Chinese Communities, also revealed that 35 percent of respondents had an experience of being treated differently or less favourably due to their background, compared with 37 percent in 2020.
The survey was based on the responses of 1,200 Australian residents who identify as being of Chinese heritage, including citizens, permanent residents and non-tourist visa holders, who were surveyed between September and December last year. The results showed that younger people and Chinese-Australians born in Australia were slightly more likely to report negative experiences over the period, which covers the COVID-19 pandemic and elevated tensions between Australian and Chinese governments.
Despite the negative experiences, an overwhelming majority of respondents – 92 percent – rated Australia as a “very good place to live”, up from 77 percent in 2020 when the survey first began. Three-quarters of respondents reported a “great or moderate” sense of belonging in Australia in 2022, compared with 71 percent in 2020 and 64 percent in 2021.
The survey also revealed that Chinese-Australians’ sense of attachment to China dropped to 18 percent, from 23 percent in 2020. However, the Chinese app WeChat remains an important source of news and was used by 47 percent of respondents, although about half said they doubted the fairness and accuracy of the information it provides. About two-thirds said they are confident they can recognise fake news and disinformation.
Australia is home to 1.4 million Chinese-Australians, who comprise one of the country’s largest ethnic groups. Chinese people first immigrated to Australia in the mid-19th century but were restricted for the first half of the 20th century under the “White Australia” policy. Race-based immigration restrictions were eased after World War II and formally abolished in the 1970s.
The survey results show that while incidents of racism have declined in Australia, there is still work to be done to ensure that Chinese-Australians feel fully included and valued in Australian society. The positive attitudes towards Australia as a place to live and the sense of belonging reported by respondents are encouraging, but more needs to be done to address the negative experiences reported by some Chinese-Australians.