Is Australia really the land of new opportunity?
FALEN TUUGA STEVENSON investigates the growing trend that leads many Maori and Pacific families over the ditch each year.
One of my best friend’s has been trying to get me to move over to Australia for a few years. Although I would love to go there to be closer to her and my extended family I just don’t see myself moving there anytime soon... Or ever for that matter.
For years people have been leaving New Zealand for Australia and, in recent years, more Maori and Pacific people have jumped the ditch in search of higher wages, warmer climates and a better life.
According to The New Zealand Business Review departures accelerated to a record 53,000 this time last year. So what seems to lead many people to Australia?
With shows such as The GC, set in Queensland’s Gold Coast, the growing Maori community all seem to say that money is one of the main factors that lead them to move. As well as this, many see Perth as a gold mine, as most mining jobs offer employees with incomes triple to those they would have made in New Zealand.
Also, friends who are recent graduates have found that there are more jobs over there in their respective fields. New Zealand’s tight workforce leaves some no choice but to leave.
Blinded by opportunity?
I know that Australia has provided many Maori and Pacific families with financial stability but many Maori and Pacific across the ditch are in fact struggling.
Most who go there are not Australian citizens and find that they are not even eligible for residency because they do not meet tough skills requirements. As a result, this means that individuals and families are not entitled to benefits or student loan schemes.
With restrictions to permanent residency, Maori and Pacific are becoming guest workers paying full tax but with few rights.
After a conversation with an aunty of mine living in Australia, she says that a lot of families that go over are from lower socio economic areas in New Zealand. It is these families who end up facing citizenship woes and other financial issues.
These families see Australia only as an opportunity, without realising the potential pitfalls. Besides being blinded by the fact that there are no safety nets, they also have little chance of gaining full rights or citizenship, however long they might live there.
Education is an important factor
The New Zealand Herald recently reported on how some parents who have moved to Australia have had to tell their high-achieving children not to even consider university because there is no way they can afford to attend.
“Despite good degrees and years in the country, they remain ‘temporary’ residents under the 2001 social security rules,” states the article.
“Most focus remains on the plight of low-paid expats whose children are trapped in a poverty cycle that blocks them from the chance to gain skills needed for decent jobs and permanent visas, condemning many to low-paid work or unemployment.”
The story of Tongan student Richard Niu, who was awarded a University of Queensland scholarship, his story was one of the first of its kind that I had heard of. His family moved to Australia in 2009 after living in New Zealand.
If he hadn’t gained a scholarship, maybe he, too, would be another student to fall to the pressures of expensive tertiary fees. Luckily for Richard, scholarships are the exception.
You can view the story here.
The majority of my father’s family moved from New Zealand in the late 1980s-early 90s.
My grandparents both fell in love with the country after a holiday to visit relatives. After settling in Logan City, south of Brisbane, they were one of the first Pacific families in their neighbourhood and over the years I have seen the Maori and Pacific population grow.
Would I have furthered myself into tertiary study or would I have gone straight into the work force like many of my cousins did? If I was in Australia, I probably wouldn’t have had that choice.
Do you think Australia is the land of new opportunity? We would love to hear your feedback.
By Falen Tuuga Stevenson