We have included here some background information about Australian Muslims and about Australia.
About Australian Muslims
Muslims in Australia have a long and varied history! In fact, some of Australia’s earliest visitors were Muslim, from the east Indonesian archipelago. The Macassans made contact with mainland Australia as early as the 16th and 17th centuries, before European contact, to trade ‘trepang’ (sea cucumber) with local Indigenous people. Marriages between Indigenous Australians and Macassans are believed to have taken place, and Macassan grave sites have been found along the Australian coastline.
Muslim immigrants also came to Australia as sailors and convicts in the early fleets of European settlers during the late 1700s. The first significant semi-permanent Muslim population was formed with the arrival of Afghan camel drivers in the 1800s. Coming from the Indian sub-continent, these Muslims were vital in the early exploration of inland Australia and in developing the rail link between Port Augusta and Alice Springs, which became known as the Ghan. Australia’s modern-day Muslim population increased significantly following the Second World War largely due to the post–war economic boom, which created new opportunities for work. Many European Muslims, mainly Turks, took advantage of this and sought a new life and home here.
Bosnian and Kosovar Muslim migrants who arrived in Australia in the 1960s made important contributions to modern-day Australia through their role in the construction of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electricity Scheme in New South Wales. Lebanese migrants, many of whom were Muslims, also began arriving in larger numbers after the outbreak of the civil war in Lebanon in 1975. In the last three decades, many Muslims have migrated to Australia under refugee or humanitarian programs, and from African countries such as Somalia and Sudan.
Muslim Australians are now an extremely diverse group! According to the 2006 Australian Census of Population, there were more than 340,000 Muslims in Australia, of whom 128,904 were born in Australia. Other countries Australian Muslims were born in include Lebanon, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iraq, Indonesia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, Fiji, Somalia, Sudan and India.
Muslim Australians as a community are younger than non-Muslim Australians with almost 40% of Australian Muslims younger than 20. And in education, they tend to be high achievers. Did you know that 21% of adult Muslim men have a university degree compared with 15% of non-Muslim Australian men? Yet on other indicators of socioeconomic well-being, Australian Muslims are very disadvantaged. For example, 40% of Muslim children are living in poverty, which is twice the Australian average; and their age-specific unemployment rates are two to four times higher than those of non-Muslim Australians. Since the 1970s, Muslim communities have developed many mosques, schools, gyms and charity organisations and made vibrant contributions to the multicultural fabric of Australian society.
This information is drawn from:
Muslims in Australia: www.dfat.gov.au/facts/muslims_in_australia.html
Hassan, R. (2009), ‘Australian Muslims: Implications for Social Inclusion’ NCEIS Research Papers Volume 2, No. 4. National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies.
A decade-long national study has recently found that Australians are largely tolerant people who are accepting and welcoming of other cultures. The study indicates that a large majority of Australians are positive about living in a multicultural country. Most Australians feel secure and comfortable with cultural difference. The study also indicates that most Australians recognise that racism is a problem in society.
The research, however, also found around one in ten Australians identified themselves as prejudiced against other cultures. Significant numbers of those surveyed said they had anti-Semitic or anti-Asian attitudes, while a slightly larger number were prejudiced against Aboriginal Australians. Anti-Muslim sentiment was even higher.
The good news is that the vast majority of Australians (85.6%) believe that something should be done to minimise or fight racism.
This information is drawn from:
Challenging Racism: The Anti-Racism Research Project – National Level Findings. University of Western Sydney:www.uws.edu.au/social_sciences/soss/research/challenging_racism