Earlier Indian Settlers to Australia
The Earlier settlers arrived in Australia from 1787 to 1823 in British fleets included a few Indians as crews. Majority of Indians arrived during this period were labourers or convicts. Some of the Indian-returned British farm owners in Australia called for recruitment of Indian labourers for farm work. In their opinion, ‘Indians were not addicted to opium, wine or Spirit and worked hard, equal in some respect to the Europeans’. But this did not tilt the balance in favour of large scale Indian migration on those days, as there were misgivings about the effects of paganism and skin colour of Indians. Between 1860 and 1901 the number of Indians arriving mostly from the region of Punjab as agricultural labourers increased and a few worked in Goldfields. Among the recruits were ‘Afghans’ who worked as cameleers to operate camel trains throughout outback Australia. They were called Afghans, because of their dressing style and belief in Islam. But many of them were Punjabi Muslims ( as well as from Afghanistan, Egypt and Turkey).
The 1881 census records 998 people who were born in India but this had grown to over 1700 by 1891.[1954 census recorded 2647 Indians . The 1961 Census recorded a total of 4,047 Indians, by 1971 there were 22,930. The number nearly doubled in the 1980s, reaching 41,730 by 1981, and some 50,000 in 1986. By 1991 the India-born population in Australia was 61,602 and by 1996 close to one lakh (100,000). In 2005-2006 India was the fourth major source of permanent migrants to Australia behind the United Kingdom, New Zealand and China. Between 2000–2001 and 2005–2006, the number of migrants came to Australia from India increased from 4,700 to 12,300 people. And in 2011-12, Indians became the largest source of permanent migration to Australia and formed 15.7 % of the total migration programme in 2011-12. Australia’s Indian-born population has also recorded the fastest growth in the country in 2008-2009, increasing by 44,012 (17%). (Australian Bureau of Statistics)
How Australians view Indians and vice versa
While Indians consider Australians as Dumb, drunk and racist, in my experience Australians carry a much more appreciable approach towards the Indians. There was a time; Indians were looked down in Europe, US, Canada and Australia. On those days migration from India was mostly reserved for labourers and servants of British upper-class. But today, with the emergence of IT sector, Indian migrants are better qualified, earn a better pay and maintain a much better living standard than their western counterparts. In fact today, Indians are the envy of the world, but cleverly benefits from reverse racism while branding themselves as victims of racism. The recent attacks against Indians in Australia should be viewed in a different light. In any society, sudden increase in population of an alien culture will be viewed suspiciously by the established majority. Since 1996, the intake of Indian migrants in Australia shot up considerably. This resulted in increased competition in certain sections of labour market in Australia, resulting in reduced pay and benefits for the locals. In the wake of this, the anger of the established majority could be justified and the attacks against Indians can only be described as isolated and mild, considering the repercussions that happened in other parts of the world at similar circumstances.
The Indian etiquette as perceived by the Australians
It will be interesting to know how the general Australian public views Indian culture and etiquette. Below is a brief summary of information handed out by Queensland medical board to Health professionals in the state on how to communicate with Indians.
Indian Australians usually greet each other with the word namaste and a slight bow with the palms of the hands together. Greetings are usually formal and respectful. Some Indian Australians may be uncomfortable with physical contact with strangers. In most cases, a handshake is appropriate. However, it is usually not appropriate to shake hands with the opposite sex. Handshakes are usually gentle, rather than firm. Naming conventions vary across India. Many Indians do not use surnames. People are usually referred to by their title (e.g. Mr, Mrs) and their first name. However, many Indian Australians have adopted Australian naming conventions. It is advisable to request permission to use an Indian Australian patient’s first name. Sikh people use given names followed by either Singh (for men) or Kaur (for women). Muslim people are known by their given name followed by bin (son of) or binto (daughter of) followed by their father’s given name. For older Hindus, the term ji (for both men and women) or da (meaning big brother for men) is added to the end of a person’s name or title to indicate respect (e.g.Anita-ji or Basu-da)8,13.
Indian Australians usually prefer minimal eye contact and in India it is considered rude to look someone directly in the eye, especially where they feel deference or respect. In many cases Indian Australians will often avoid saying no and may prefer to avoid conflict by giving an answer such as I will try. In some circumstances, shaking of the head may indicate agreement. Indian Australians may say yes in order to please a health professional, even if they do not understand the medical concept or treatment plan. It is advisable that health professionals ensure that the patient understands all instructions. Indian Australians may avoid the words please and thank you, believing that actions are performed from a sense of duty and do not require these courtesies. Older Indian Australians may expect respectful and deferential treatment. In turn, they often treat doctors with respect and deference and try to closely follow the doctor’s recommendations.
Social media reactions about Indians in Australia
A Google search on hate messages against Indians produced some interesting writings against Indians living in Australia. These may be the views of few ignorant mentally deranged people, but provoked my interest due to reasons I can’t explain. We did not edit the following two paragraphs and they are an exact copy as found in the social media.
Here they are
“ I’ve a good idea which can deport all the indians & Srilankans from Australia back to their india punjab,tamil,colombo etc.Few of them are listed below : 1.Increase the immigration from Ukraine &Malta,poorest White nations in europe to fulfill the needs for taxi drivers,petrol pumps and labours. 2.Force Indian students to leave Australia by using gang violence against them,ask them to tongue shine White guys’s shoes daily by rounding’em in markets,parks,roadsides elsewhere. 3.People who favour anti-indian immigration must join the police to humiliate turdskin students, workers & even tourists until they leave Australia back to their India. 4. Never make any friendship with Indian s even if they’re nice especially Whites should ignore Indians girls trying to seduce’em coz shit skin girls can kill her White boyfriend like that Indian bitch Anu Singh did. 5. Sink all Srilankan boats invading the Aussie coasts and increase the Security forces at the sea coasts. “
“Cancel the visas of all Indians living in Australia for less than five years. 2. Deport all the newly born babies and their Indian mothers and don’t grant them PR. 3.Never allow profit to Indians by using their Taxis and purchasing from their shops. 4. Humiliate Indian in the streets by calling them names. 5. Bash Indians if they spit on streets and stinks like a pig. 6. Bash Indians if they try to touch White girls and ban Indians from night clubs. Come on Aussies, screw these stinky pigs. “
The mindset of those who have written this may make an interesting case study for a psychology student. But we refrain from making any comments on this. Usually people react this way, when they feel threatened. If we take a light hearted approach, this is an indication that the Indians in Australia have already established themselves as an affluent and powerful community.
The Story of an Indian Migrant named Pooran Singh
In 2010 the Story of Pooran Singh who died 63 years back in Victoria, Australia occupied main news columns of Australian Newspapers. Below is a summary of ‘The Age’ news report.
Indian cricket star Kapil Dev arrived in Warrnambool on 26th July 2010 to fulfill the last wish of a migrant who died in Victoria 63 years ago. More than a 100 years ago, Indian immigrant Pooran Singh arrived on the shores of Australia. Pooran, as he was simply known, spent his life travelling between towns in the Warrnambool area selling linen, bath towels, haberdashery and the like from the back of his horse-drawn cart – a life much like that of other hawkers from India, China and Europe.
In winter he would use as his base a local farm owned by John and Vera Moore. Their daughter, Veronica White, now 70, recalls how she and her brother and sister would listen eagerly to his tales of travel.
”I was always fascinated with his turban, which was very, very long,” she says. ”He used to take it off and then you’d see him wrap it around and I thought it was fascinating how he could do it so neatly. We used to love sitting up in the wagon with him, talking to him. He always cooked … Johnny cakes on our wood stove. They were like bread. But he never ate in the house; he always ate in his wagon.”
One day in 1947, Pooran fell ill. Veronica’s father took him to Warrnambool hospital, where he died soon after. He left behind no wife or children, but he did make known his last wish: that his body be cremated and his ashes scattered on the River Ganges in India, in accordance with his cultural tradition.
The Guyett family, which ran the local funeral service, arranged a cremation – rare at the time – and kept his ashes in Warrnambool for collection by remaining family in India. But nobody came. For 63 years Pooran’s ashes have been waiting.
Alice Guyett-Wood, part of the fourth generation of Guyetts who still run the funeral service today, says her father, Jack, before he died in 1986, had told her of Pooran’s last wish remaining unfulfilled and had suggested the ashes be sent to India.
”At that stage he [Pooran] had been with us for 40 years,” says Guyett-Wood. ”It didn’t seem befitting that after that period of time he just be consigned over on his own. I said to Dad: ‘In my lifetime, somehow, I will either organise a suitable memorial for him or perhaps we look at taking the ashes over ourselves.”’
In the late 1980s, Pooran’s ashes were finally placed at Warrnambool Cemetery and a memorial plaque was erected. It simply reads, ”Pooran Singh died 8 June 1947, an Indian hawker in Western Victoria”.
Historian and author Len Kenna, who has researched the history of Indians in Victoria for the past 25 years, says Indians made an important contribution to the success of a new colony in the late 19th century. At the time, trade between India and Australia was carried out on ships approved by the English East India Company and manned by mixed crews of Britons, Anglo-Indians, and Indians.
It is a surprise to many, he says, that Indians were among the first to arrive in Australia. It was also a surprise to Kenna, when, during research, he came across Pooran’s will in the National Archives. Pooran’s assets totalled £2300 – a tidy sum in those days. He left his horse and cart to farmer John Moore, some money to Warrnambool hospital and the remainder to four nephews in India.
Then last month, SBS reporter Manpreet Singh (no relation) aired a story about the life of Pooran Singh and the fact his ashes were still awaiting collection. The story made it to India and reporters tracked down Pooran’s family in the village of Uppal Bhupa, near Jalandhar in Punjab.
The family confirmed a telegram had been received in 1947 informing it of Pooran’s death and that the nephews had received their inheritance. But they were too poor to come to Australia.
Kapil Dev was so touched by the story that he offered to come to Australia to collect the ashes. ”[I would] just feel happy and proud if somebody’s last wish can be fulfilled,” Dev said on radio recently.
This story of Pooran Singh takes a peak at the life of an ordinary Indian migrant to Australia on those days and makes an interesting reading.
Indians in Australia