Issue 6
Tuesday, 07 August 2018
Charles Darwin University
Demographers Anita Maertens and Fiona Shalley
Demographers Anita Maertens and Fiona Shalley

Alice counts on migrants to boost population

By Patrick Nelson

One of the keys to increasing Alice Springs’ population could rest with the town’s burgeoning migrant community, Charles Darwin University researchers said at a forum in the Red Centre recently.

CDU Northern Institute Research Fellow Fiona Shalley said that while the town’s population dropped by two per cent in the five years to the 2016 Census, there was a “strong growth potential”, particularly among the Sri Lankan, Taiwanese, Indian and Filipina populations, all of which experienced substantial increases.

“Alice Springs has always had a strong multicultural mix, but this is now more-so than ever with several new migrant communities growing strongly and an increase in the diversity of the overseas-born population,” Ms Shalley said.

“Census data shows that for Alice Springs, of those who answered the country-of-birth question, about 27 per cent come from overseas, compared with 22 per cent five years ago and just 18 per cent a decade ago.

“Large numbers were born in New Zealand, the USA and England, but in terms of growth there’s been a shift from Euro-centric nations to Asia-centric countries.”

Ms Shalley said one of the key challenges for Alice Springs was to retain the people who migrated to the town.

“Some of our research suggests that new migrants are more likely to settle when there is a strong match between their skills and their employment and when they feel welcome and accepted. Investing in infrastructure, which supports their cultural, culinary and religious practices is a really positive approach for a town seeking to grow these communities.”

Ms Shalley said the Census showed that females outnumbered males 51-49 in Alice Springs, that the median age had risen from 32 to 35 and that there were more people aged 65 years and older than previously.

The presentation was hosted by the Multicultural Community Services of Central Australia and followed a similar seminar in Darwin.

“We also reinforced the importance of ensuring migrant community people participate in the Census. People need to be counted so their story can be told in the data. This helps further research, but also will maximise the social and economic opportunities that are underpinned by Census numbers,” Ms Shalley said.