As a young city such as Melbourne, in just over five generations, we have witnessed the evolution of the Asian contribution to Australian society from gold rush opportunists, post-war immigrants, the arrival of overseas students to this generation’s major Asian investment players.
A perspective offered by Former Lord Mayor, John So.
As many cities in the world have developed cultural precincts like Chinatown. Melbourne Chinatown is the second longest continuous inhabitant of the Chinese community outside China in the Western World. The early Chinese diaspora to Melbourne had the same success factors of entrepreneurship. They identified the opportunity, (the gold rush in Melbourne in the 1850’s), took the risk and worked hard to build a life.
The most recent migration periods are the 1960s to 1970s such as Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Cambodia. The main types of migrants were professionals and refugees. During the late 1980s to present, more migrants came from China and also from ASEAN countries. They main categories include business migrants, professionals and students. At the current levels, the Chinese living in Australia is no longer a small minority. Successive Australian Leaders have recognized the significance and influence of our Chinese diaspora and their strong connections to our region and the opportunities awaiting us in the Asian Century.
As a former overseas student from Hong Kong in the 60’s and the honor and privilege to have served as Lord Mayor of Melbourne. I can understand and appreciate the significant contributions our overseas students to the development and growth of our city. In many cases, overseas students are children of earlier students studying in Melbourne. Their parents know Melbourne and trust Melbourne. They find Melbourne is a very safe, welcoming and livable with a stable, strong and a fast growing economy. They provide further opportunity to extend the linkage between local Chinese in Melbourne with those who have studied here. The City of Melbourne recognizes that the international student is a very important part of our economy and our community population. Many programs are provided together with the universities to ensure their experience in Melbourne is memorable and fulfilling.
Many major Chinese companies have invested in Melbourne. Some examples are shown in the slide. Property (apartment) development is not the only area of investment. Hotels are also becoming popular-the Marriott Hotel is owned by Malaysia’s YTL Group. This is an area that investors should consider as Melbourne’s hotels average about 85% occupancy. Food franchises are also becoming popular investment, e.g. Papa Rich, Sugar Bun from Malaysia. Chinese companies have also invested in mining agriculture and farming.
It is important to understand that with the new wealth, comes great influence. To further develop that influence and standing , cooperation and partnerships among the Diaspora achieves more. Forums like the WCEF brings together influential leaders, entrepreneurs, political leaders and great thinkers, which together can be the basis for expanding the role, visibility and influence of the Chinese Diaspora around the world.