Chandigarh: Indians have surpassed the Chinese as the second-largest number of foreign nationals who have become citizens of Australia. The presence of the British in Australia is the highest Down Under. About 9.27 lakh British are now citizens of Australia followed by 6.73 lakh Indians and 5.49 lakh Chinese. The Chinese are followed by Filipinos and Vietnamese.
Among the linguistic ethnicities, except the English speakers of British origin, the number of Punjabis speaking their mother tongue are the highest in Australia with 2.39 lakh Punjabi speakers. Punjabi is the fifth most spoken language at home in Australia, but the most spoken language by an ethnic group. Apart from English, Mandarin, Arabic Vietnamese and Cantonese are the other most spoken languages at home. However, English, Mandarin, Arabic, Vietnamese and Cantonese are languages spoken by people of different ethnic groups while Punjabi is spoken by just one ethnic group.
This sudden jump in number of Punjabi speakers in Australia has been due to the record migration of Punjabis to Australia in the last five years. In 2017, there were 1.33 lakh Punjabi speakers in Australia. This number rose by about one lakh since then.
Among the Punjabi speakers, the vast majority are Sikhs — 2.09 lakh, followed by Hindus, 29,000 Punjabi Hindus, and 1,000 Muslims.
There was a demand to include Punjabi as a language to be marked during the Census of Australia. As a result, 2.33 lakh people marked Punjabi as their preferred language spoken at home. A negligible number of Punjabi speakers are also from the Punjab of Pakistan but that number just about touches one thousand.
The total number of people of Punjabi origin has crossed well over 3 lakh. However, 60,000 of them are ones who are second, third, fourth, and fifth generation Punjabis, who either speak Punjabi with an Aussie twang or they do not at all.
Bhupinder Singh, who lives in Sydney said, “When I came back in the day in 2003 from Chandigarh there were a few thousand Punjabis living here. Now the number has exponentially gone up, I think close to ten times than what it was then. One feels at Punjab in Australia.”
Ajay Shaad an IT professional in Melbourne puts it this way, “What South Hall is to the Punjabis in England, Craigieburn near Melbourne and Blacktown in Sydney are to the Punjabi community in Australia.”