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Citation Information

Type Thesis or Dissertation - Doctor of Philosophy
Title Citizens of the world: the integration of transnationally connected Bangladeshi and Pakistani immigrants into Australian society
Author(s)
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2014
URL http://researchbank.rmit.edu.au/eserv/rmit:161265/Iqbal.pdf
Abstract
The purpose of this study was to research the settlement and transnational activities of the Bangladeshi and Pakistani migrants who had arrived in Australia during the 1980-2002 and since then, permanently settled in Melbourne. As a lack of information existed relative to their settlement, integration and transnational perspectives, a detailed research study was conducted through a semi-structured questionnaire survey, involving 73 Bangladeshi and 71 Pakistani respondents living in Melbourne at the time of interview, during the September 2011 and February 2012 period. The research objectives were to profile and describe the personal and functional characteristics of the Bangladeshi and Pakistani migrants in Melbourne as well as their settlement patterns, integration levels and transnational activities. Moreover, this study examined the extent to which selected independent variables predicted respondents’ level of success in settlement as well as their
levels of integration into the host society in Australia. After a brief historical and demographic profile of Bangladeshi and Pakistani migration to Australia, the detailed review of literature has included migrants reasons for migration and types of migration, settlement processes and strategies (both economic and social), achievements after arrival (including cultural competencies), their levels of acceptance and rejection by the host society (social adjustment, cohesion and integration), return migration and their transnational perspectives. The interaction between disaporic and transnational perspectives in migration modelling and the emergence of transnational communities in multicultural societies were also incorporated in the literature review. Therefore, additional focus has been given on measuring the relationship between transnational ties and levels of integration of these two migrant communities living in Melbourne. In order to address the central research question, both quantitative and qualitative techniques using multiple research methods have been used in the present research. The research question was ‘how well have the Bangladeshi and Pakistani transnationally connected migrants settled and integrated into the host Australian society in Melbourne? The qualitative data was used to uncover the effects of factors on the cultural adjustment and thereby, the processes of integration for the respondents to the host society and also the effects of transnational activities upon it. Quantitative analysis was a very important part of this research and has played a significant role in interpreting all the data. The questionnaire contained both open and close ended questions in order to obtain qualitative as well as quantitative data. The strategies involved in this research were a literature review of migration, social integration and transnational theories and adaptation models used in Australian and overseas research, interviews with the key informants of the two communities in Melbourne and interviews with selected sample drawn from the two communities and this was the core strategy of the present research. The statistical analysis of data was done under three headings: firstly, it dealt with the predeparture and post- arrival situations of the Bangladeshi and Pakistani respondents. Secondly, with their settlement outcomes especially in education, employment, income and English language profile. It also dealt with their religiosity and intentions for return migration. In the analysis, respondents’ ‘proficiency in English’ was analysed in detail as this has been considered as one of the most important factors that significantly influences the settlement processes as well as their levels of integration into Australian society. Thirdly, settlement outcomes in terms of respondents’ socio-psychological and emotional profile were drawn. Further statistical analysis and interpretations were made by using multicolllinear (bi-variate) equations and linear regression methods. Multicollinear analysis (bivariate) was used in this study as a descriptive tool to show the relationships among dependent and independent variables. The values were determined on the basis of respondents’ self-assessment for each question on a five point self-rating Likert scale. This thesis focussed on settlement issues, level of integration and the patterns of transnational activities in Melbourne by the relatively recent Bangladeshi and Pakistani migrants who had permanently lived in Melbourne for 10+ years. The research revealed that respondents’ life, from the moment of arrival in a new land, was always challenging. They discovered a huge difference between the pre and post departure situations. Since, Australia was unfamiliar, they had to strive hard to make some adjustment to it. Most faced various difficulties after arrival, especially the females who suffered from homesickness and social isolation. Loneliness became a problem for some. They realized that gaining competence in English and upgrading their skills and qualifications were inevitable for successful settlement in Australia. They tried hard to adjust to a new life context by adopting various cultural aspects and at the same time, strived to preserve their own culture such as language and religion. However, interest showed by the second generation with regard to preservation of home culture, was disappointing, especially after reaching young adulthood. The majority of
respondents from Bangladesh and Pakistan were Muslim by faith and yet, a small percentage later became ‘atheist’. A large section of respondents had appreciated highly the practice of ‘freedom of religion’ in Australia and some rated ‘multiculturalism’ as beneficial to all Australian people. In contrast, people with very high commitment to their faith, had always considered themselves to be a separate entity and lived within their group. The survey showed that life in the new land for the Bangladeshi and Pakistani respondents’ was challenging and to some of them, was not successful. It has taken a considerable length of time for most of them, though not fully, at least partially, into the host society. With regard to the first generation migrants, apart from their own community, they did not participate, with some exceptions, in mainstream Australian social activities and had remained unsuccessful in making friends in the broader society, whereas they did it spontaneously in their home countries. However, they remained happy with their community based life, working and raising their children in Australia. It was observed in the study that in most cases, lack of interpersonal relationship skills in communicating with the members of the host Australian society deterred the Bangladeshi and Pakistani respondents from successful adjustment. On average, their level of functional integration into the main society was high whereas, non-functional integration had remained poor during the settlement and integration processes. Interviews with the second generation respondents revealed that the notion of ‘biculturalism’ was highly reflected in their socio-cultural behaviour. They were found to be functioning very effectively at a high level through their involvement in mainstream society. In the statistical analysis, it was found that social, economic (employment and income) and psychological factors showed higher levels of correlationship with the level of social integration. The study revealed that some respondents from both communities integrated well, both socially and psychologically within a short time of arrival. However, a large section of respondents found it to be very difficult to integrate well into the host society. The level of social integration showed variations among different socio-economic categories of the Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities in Melbourne. Those with higher socio-economic status (such as the professionals) were placed at the top of the level. Subsequent levels were drawn with the diminishing status in socio-economic levels. It was also observed in the study that, a small section of respondents, mainly of Bangladeshi origin and females in particular, felt more comfortable in developing relationship with female members of other ethnic groups in the outer suburbs of Melbourne. The study has shown, to some extent, that the process of acculturation through adaptation in Melbourne by the two communities, have been a two way process where migrant respondents as well as the host society, have accepted as well as rejected each other in the process. This was more evident among the religiously bonded hard-core Muslims and people with relatively less cultural competency from both communities. Factors such as physical appearance, lack in communication skill and cultural anxiety, have also played important roles in maintaining distances between the host and migrant communities in Melbourne. This study has also highlighted the ‘transnational activities’ performed by the Bangladeshi and Pakistani respondents and their effects on social life in Melbourne. The discussion was limited into five categories of transnational activities, namely, family oriented, professional and socio-economic, socio-cultural, domestic socio-cultural and political. Sending of remittances to relatives was found to be the most practiced form of transnational activity in the family oriented category. The availability of relatively cheaper telecommunication and the extensive use of email and face book, also had enabled them to remain close to their family members, relatives and friends back home. A majority of the respondents found that the cost incurred in making such contacts were relatively cheaper than before and such involvement did not cause much impact on their normal life in Melbourne. Access to home country TV channels in Australia, at a relatively affordable price, was another attractive source for entertainment and maintaining the feeling of ‘being at home’ to many Bangladeshi and Pakistani respondents in Melbourne. In addition, this research shows there was a growing trend for preserving own cultural traditions (such as language and religion) among the two communities of Melbourne. Respondents of both communities were found deeply engaged in transnational activities. They have also developed linear (between the host and the home country) as well as circular networks (transnational connection with multiple countries round the globe) of social connection across the globe. The increased involvement in transnational activities by both the permanent and temporary migrants in countries of destinations, have modified the shape and nature of traditional diaspora. However, despite high levels of transnational engagements, respondents from both communities opined that such intensive transnational engagements did not impede their normal activities and thereby the processes of integration. For them, transnationalism and processes of integration go together, maintaining a balance and according to Oeppen (2013) ‘could be mutually supportive’ at times of ‘positive position’. Factors such as length of residence in the host country, economic situation and education and training positively influence the level of transnational tie of migrants (Hammond 2013 and Vertovec 2009). Authors such as Jain, Vertovec, Cohen etc. have perceived the notion of ‘diaspora’ in the changing global circumstances in a way that differs from the traditional and conventional perception of ‘diaspora’ and its formation. The dimension of diaspora is changing with time and increased interaction between diasporic and transnational migrants are becoming more visible in the community. The result of such interaction is evident in the formation of ‘trans-diasporic’ ethnic communities in Australian society and the Bangladeshi and Pakistani migrants were not an exception.

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