Maori turn Australian towns into 'little NZs'
More Maori now live in southern Queensland than Hamilton, with tens of thousands jumping the ditch in search of a better life.
But many are also struggling in Australia, with a researcher describing Maori as among the country's most "disenfranchised" immigrant groups.
Research from Victoria University shows the number of Maori living in Australia jumped 38 per cent in the past five years to 128,000.
This exceeds the already high overall rise in New Zealanders living in Australia, with about a quarter of Kiwi arrivals identifying themselves as Maori.
Victoria University migration researcher Paul Hamer, who wrote the report, said figures were based on the 2006 census, and the actual population could be as high as 160,000 or about one in five of all Maori.
Census data from last year shows about 28,000 Maori lived in Brisbane, 3000 more than lived in Hamilton in 2006. Throw in the Gold Coast, and Mr Hamer said there were probably more Maori in south Queensland than in Christchurch.
"Brisbane . . . is possibly the fourth largest urban concentration of Maori in the world."
Moving seemed to be motivated by the lure of higher wages there, and economic hardship in New Zealand, he said.
The profile of Maori Australians - sometimes referred to as Mossies - was boosted this year by The GC, a reality television programme following a group of 20-something Maori living on the Gold Coast.
The programme was pitched as an "observational documentary", but critics compared it unfavourably to the American reality TV show Jersey Shore.
However, the biggest population jump is in Western Australia, where thousands of Maori have been drawn by the mining boom. Western Australia's Maori population has risen by 83 per cent in the past five years, mostly in southern Perth and mining towns.
In 2001, only 49 Maori lived in Port Kennedy, a small southern suburb of Perth. By last year, there were 511.
"They are turning some of these small towns into little New Zealands," Mr Hamer said.
Arawa Metekingi moved to Perth 30 years ago, where he now works for a mining construction firm. He said the Maori population in the city had exploded in the past five years, as workers lured over family and friends with talk of better wages and more jobs.
He said most Maori had adapted well, and Perth's Waitangi Day celebrations now attracted more than 7000 people every year.
However, Mr Hamer's research shows the vast majority of Maori are not Australian citizens and are not eligible for permanent residency because they do not meet tough skills requirements.
This means they are not entitled to most welfare payments - including unemployment benefit - or the student loan scheme, placing them among the most disenfranchised ethnic immigrant groups in Australia, he said.
Community advocates from Brisbane and the Gold Coast told The Dominion Post last month that these barriers had led to an increase in homeless New Zealand youth, particularly Maori and Pacific Islanders.
MAORI IN AUSTRALIA
Numbers rose from 92,912 in 2006 to 128,434 in 2011, growing at faster rate than overall number of Kiwis in Australia. Maori population of Western Australia increased by more than 10,000 in five years, a jump of 83 per cent. Maori population of Queensland increased by more than 17,000 in the same period, up 55 per cent. Maori population of New South Wales rose by less than 3000. Roughly a quarter of New Zealand-born arrivals to Australia are Maori, but they are increasingly unlikely to become Australian citizens or even permanent residents.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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