Turks in Australia identify selves as Australian first

Professor Christine Inglis has said that Turks in Australia identify themselves more closely with being Australian than with their Turkish roots.

Turks in Australia identify selves as Australian first

A prominent sociologist who is among the few people studying the lives of Turkish immigrants in Australia has said that Turks in Australia identify themselves more closely with being Australian than with their Turkish roots.

Talking to Sunday's Zaman, Professor Christine Inglis, director of the Multicultural and Migration Research Center (MMRC) at the University of Sydney, said Turks who migrated to Australia in the late 1960s and 1970s have integrated with their host country more so than those who emigrated to European countries.

Inglis says that her first involvement with the Turkish community came in the early 1980s during an event marking the 100th year since Atatürk's birth. “There was no one who had done any research on Turkish migrants in Australia,” adds Inglis as she says that she started her research by interviewing the mothers of first-generation Australians. Inglis discovered that given the low education levels of these first-generation immigrants, their mothers had high and unrealistic aspirations for their children. According to her, the mothers who talked to her wanted their children to become doctors and lawyers. “In the 1970s the educational outcomes for Turkish young people along with some others were bad. They were dropping out of school without completing secondary school,” Inglis further explains. She adds that Turks were among the newly arrived groups in Australia along with the Vietnamese at that time.

Although girls in particular were taken out of school and Turkish students in general dropped out of school in the early years of immigration, Inglis says that unrealistically high expectations of mothers of the first-generation children “went against the idea that Turks were not interested in education.” According to her, the high dropout rates were linked to the initial idea of Turks going back to Turkey after making as much money as possible as a family. Back then, Turks, including children, worked in the factories.

In response to a question about whether there were biases against Turks when they first moved to Australia, Inglis says, “Basically, out of ignorance, people had biases as they had about other groups of people, such as they don't know how to live in a modern society, they kill sheep in their bathtub and all sorts of ideas.”

As far as the number of Turks living in Australia there is ambiguity, according to Inglis. Although the Australian Embassy in Turkey used a figure of around 150,000, Inglis disputes that, saying that it is impossible to verify that number. “Even if you take the number of people born in Turkey [added to those born in Australia] you do not get that number,” states Inglis. She says that there are around 32,000 people born in Turkey [living in Australia], but the total number of people with Turkish ancestry is around 67,000. “Of those nearly half, 40 years later, are Australian born. We are talking about a second if not a third generation, which is a major change,” Inglis points out. She also mentioned that there were people who temporarily lived in Australia but had left and returned to their home country.

The Turkish diaspora in Australia made progress “far beyond expectation," according to Inglis. Describing the difference as amazing, Inglis says that there was a high degree of upward social mobility between one generation and the second. In comparison with Turkish immigrants who went to Europe around the same time, Inglis thinks the Australian Turkish community “completely outperformed” those in Europe, especially in terms of education. “Women in particular finished tertiary education. Young men as in many [immigrant] communities have done so in smaller numbers, but they have also done vocational education, training courses,” adds Inglis.

However, compared to other immigrant groups, Turks seems worse off. Inglis says that the difference “is not major, but observable” although she cannot trace the reason for it.

Comparing the older and younger generation Turks in Australia, Inglis observes that young people identify themselves as Australian first and then Turkish and Muslim. “They don't have to choose between them,” emphasizes Inglis while saying that in Europe the case is just the opposite. Also, immigrants in Europe have not received the same amount of education as those in Australia, she said.

Inglis also discovered in her research that Turks in Australia, particularly the second generation, have found a variety of occupations and do not live in the ghettos. “Very few Australian groups live in ghettos because it is such a diverse population. Nearly half of all Australians come from many, many different backgrounds,” observes Inglis.

Although in Melbourne 40 percent of Turks live in the same area, it is less than 15 percent of the total population of Melbourne, and the types of schools they attend are very diverse, Inglis adds.

“Some of them go to Turkish schools. The one in Sydney has students from other backgrounds. In Melbourne there are three run by different groups. They tend to be Turkish only,” Inglis notes. “The Gülen group has schools in other capital cities, too, but the majority of Turks go to regular public and even private schools run by Catholic groups,” says Inglis, as she believes that Turks successfully integrated into Australian society. ““Especially the second generation, [they] speak English fluently, have good jobs and education. There are some young men who are unemployed, but that is not uncommon [among minorities],” she further comments.

Inglis observes that Turks seem to retain their contacts with Turkish culture more than any other group and are amazed to see that Turkey is changing rapidly. “The gap between the lives of young people in Turkey and Australia is closing,” Inglis points out.

Speaking of younger people, Inglis talks about the growing interest in Turkey among Australian backpackers. “Gallipoli has become a symbol of national identity,” Inglis says as she refers to thousands of Australians coming to Turkey to mark the ANZAC troops arriving in Gallipoli. “There are also numerous Australians who are interested in Turkey for the history, its archeological origins and culture,” Inglis adds. In her opinion, 20 hours of travel time to Turkey is not very long compared to the four weeks by ship that it used to take to get to Turkey.

As far as the first Australia-Turkey Dialogue Workshop organized by the Abant Platform on May 6-7, Inglis said: “The meeting is a very very positive initiative. Because obviously for us, it is a learning experience about the developments in Turkey.”

Inglis, who came to Turkey to attend the Abant Platform meeting, also participated in academic panel discussions in Mardin and Ankara over the past week.


Christine Inglis, director of the Multicultural and Migration Research Center, University of Sydney.

Expert on Turkish migration and Australian and European multicultural policy.

Her major research focus has been on migration and ethnic relations with particular reference to Australia and Southeast Asia. She has led a number of major Australian Research Council projects, including most recently on transnationalism and citizenship, which examines the experiences of transnationalism among Turkish, Chinese and Hong Kong-born residents of Sydney and Brisbane. In addition to writing on the policy implications of ethnic diversity for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), she has also focused extensively on the experiences of second generation immigrants in Australia, which has led to several publications, including “Türkiye to Australia: Turkish Settlement in Victoria” (2011). Her research projects include a study funded by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship comparing the experiences of Turkish and Lebanese second generation youth in Sydney and Melbourne. This study, which developed out of her extensive involvement with Turkish settlement in Australia, is associated with the Dutch-based The Integration of the European Second Generation (TIES) project, which compares the outcomes for second generation youths in a number of European countries. Since 2010 she has been the editor of International Sociology. 


Last Mod: 12 Mayıs 2013, 13:41
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