Chinese immigration to Sydney

Chinese immigration to Sydney dates back almost two hundred years, with Mak Sai Ying being the first recorded settler in Australia. The 2006 census showed that 221,995 people (5.39%) in Sydney reported Mandarin or Cantonese as the language they used at home.[1]

Chinese immigrants to Australia at the Pageant of Nations, Sydney Town Hall, 1938

Chinese immigration was seen as part of a solution for a labour shortage in New South Wales from 1828 onwards, though the scale of immigration remained low until later in the nineteenth century.[2]

What came to be known as the White Australia Policy saw a series of restrictive legislation passed at both a state and later a federal level. The climate of fear and distrust eased somewhat from the 1950s onwards,[2] and today Chinese communities form a vibrant and important part of Sydney's character.[3]

Chinese immigration has increased continuously from the 1990s and today the Chinese are the third largest group among immigrants. Since the mid-1990s, migration has become less permanent than it used to be, and goes in more than one direction, a trend that pertains also to the Chinese. Students and academics are examples of this pattern. In 1990, Chinese settlers rarely returned permanently, but by 2002, the number of Hong Kong settlers leaving Australia for good equalled those arriving during that year.[4]


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