Immigrants in Australia

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Despite the trouble Australia has had acknowledging differences within, the country has gotten better at accepting differences from without. About 4% of Australia's 18.7 million citizens now are Asian, and 33% of new immigrants come from Asia each year. This in a country that had a whites-only immigration policy until 1966. By and large, Australia's shift to multiculturalism has progressed smoothly. Racial crimes are rare—despite some tension over Vietnamese gangs—and mixed couples no longer raise eyebrows on city streets. Thai food is the rage among students, while the affluent wait weeks to get a reservation in Sydney's most booked-up restaurant, Tetsuya's, run by Japanese chef Tetsuya Wakuda. Regurgitator, one of the most popular rock bands, has two Asian members, and Asian models and actors are all over the media, films and advertising. Australia has come a long way. ALSO IN TIMECOVER: Dark SecretThe ugly story of a generation of Aborigines, taken from their homes and transferred to white families in the name of civilization, is beginning to emerge—and divide the nation• Song of Sorrow: Giving voice to a people's anguish• At Home: Asian immigrants have found a place at last JAPAN: Rocking the ThroneA newly published book reexamines how much guilt Emperor Hirohito should bear for his role in World War IIDISASTERS: Cursed IsleMother Nature seems to have it in for Japan's Miyake IslandEAST TIMOR: From the AshesA year after voting for independence, the world's newest country is still struggling with demons past and present PERSONAL HISTORY: My Daughter's MotherA father chronicles his adopted 11-year-old's voyage to Korea TRAVEL WATCH: Tokyo's Chefs Get a Grip on Europe It has only been four years since Pauline Hanson, leader of the One Nation party, stood up to make her maiden speech in parliament and said, I believe we are in danger of being swamped by Asians. Her speech—and the fact that she had been elected to parliament in the first place—sent shivers through Australia's Asian population. Many had fled discrimination and hardship at home—in China, Vietnam, Cambodia—and had arrived in Australia full of hope for a new life in a large, under-exploited continent. The last thing they wanted was a bigoted white politician stirring up racial hatred in their new home. Hanson's message, however, proved to have a limited shelf life. We knew the One Nation stuff wasn't going to work. She is nobody now, says Angie Hong, a 48-year-old Vietnamese who runs two restaurants in Sydney. Hanson's ideology quickly ran down, says Gerard Henderson, head of the Sydney Institute, a political think tank. Ideology doesn't carry in Australia. We are a very pragmatic people. Hanson's electoral appeal crumbled. She lost her seat at the next election in 1998 and today barely registers in the national political debate. But if Australia appears on the surface to have found a new degree of racial tolerance, many observers still see deep-seated racial prejudices in sections of the white population. I notice it when taking Chinese delegations around, says Geremie Barme, a China specialist at the Institute of Advanced Studies at the Australian National University in Canberra. On one level there is bonhomie, but on another there is profound racism. Part of this comes from fear: as a country, Australia has always been afraid of being overwhelmed by Asian hordes—either refugees or invaders—from the north. Last year's crisis in East Timor served to remind Australians of how close Asia's problems can come to their own shores and led to a rapid decision by the government to send troops to the territory. Barme says that if there was any merit to the rise and fall of Pauline Hanson, it was to make Australians confront many of the racial issues that had been silently festering for years, as a series of left-leaning governments aggressively pushed the country to embrace multiculturalism. Labor Prime Ministers Bob Hawke and Paul Keating decided that We are Asian, says Barme. There was no debate. Hanson brought to the foreground issues of race that had been boiling away for years. Now that the steam behind Hanson has been vented, Australians seem happy to settle back into a tolerant live-and-let-live attitude. Sure, several years ago there was Hanson, and people were talking about racial tension, says Leslie Zhao, a Shanghainese who has been in Australia since 1988. But I do not feel that here any more. This is a relaxed place. Long may that last: relaxed people are slow to hate.With reporting by Brian Bennett