Attitudinal divergence in a Melbourne region of high immigrant concentration: a case study.

Author:Markus, Andrew
Position:Survey - Case study

Dingley Village and Springvale are two suburbs in South-Eastern Melbourne that are geographically close but socially distinct. The first contains high proportions of relatively-affluent Australia-born residents, and the second high proportions of less-affluent overseas-born residents, amongst whom the Viet Nam-born constitute the largest birthplace group. This article draws on survey data to chart the differing attitudes of Australia- and Viet Nam-born people in the two suburbs to immigration and ethnic diversity since the early 1990s. While the data show support for non-discriminatory selection policies, many respondents are opposed to current levels of immigration and to aspects of multiculturalism. However, attitudes diverge widely between the two suburbs and the Australia-born are not as concerned about immigration issues as they were in the late 1990s.


This paper reports the findings of a 2006 survey conducted in south-eastern Melbourne. The 2006 survey builds on surveys conducted in the 1990s and forms part of a larger research program into social cohesion in Australia funded by the Scanlon Foundation. It explores attitudes at a time of increased immigration in a region of high immigrant concentration, characterised by its large Indo-Chinese community. The survey is concerned to explore and contrast the attitudes and values of Australia-born respondents in the suburb of Dingley Village and Viet Nam-born resident in nearby Springvale. Its objective is to further understanding of the impact of immigration at the community and local level.


The survey was administered in the suburbs of Springvale, Dingley Village and Keysborough during August-September 2006, close to the time of the census. Data collectors visited homes to invite participation and where agreement was obtained respondents were left a questionnaire for completion. These were either collected on a return visit or mailed. Where requested, respondents were assisted to complete the questionnaire. Data collectors were recruited from the local community, some chosen for their fluency in community languages. In all 1169 questionnaires were completed: 505 in Springvale, 330 in Dingley Village, 310 in Keysborough, and 24 in other locations. The survey replicated three earlier studies, undertaken in 1992 (981 respondents), December 1993 to February 1994 (499) and May to August 1998 (485). (1) The survey comprised 37 questions, 12 of which required multiple responses, and 11 demographic questions. The results presented in this paper are confined to those for Springvale and Dingley Village and have been adjusted for the sex and age composition of the sample. Weights were developed to adjust for under/over representation in terms of age and sex in the sample. The 2006 census counts by age and sex for Springvale and Dingley Village were used to compute the weights for the 2006 survey. Similar data from the 2001 and 1996 censuses were used to derive the weights for the 1998 and 1993-94 surveys respectively.


The region studied has a relatively high proportion of overseas born, with the major exception of the suburb of Dingley Village, located some five kilometres from the Springvale shopping hub. In Dingley Village 74 per cent of the population were Australia-born at the 2006 census, a slight decrease over the last ten years (77 per cent in 1996). Of the overseas-born component, England was the most common birthplace (4.7 per cent). Eighty four per cent of the residents reported that they speak only English in their homes.

To the north (and east and south-east) of Dingley Village are areas of significant immigrant concentration: immediately to the north are the suburbs of Clayton South and Springvale, in which the overseas-born constitute a majority of the population (57 per cent and 60 per cent respectively), and Springvale South (overseas-born 54 per cent), to the north-east. (2)

Dingley Village, Clayton South and Springvale South have populations in the range 10,000-12,000, while Springvale itself has in excess of 18,000. Springvale has experienced continuous growth of the overseas born in recent decades; the overseas born comprised 32 per cent of the population in 1971,38 per cent in 1986,46 per cent in 1991 and 60 per cent in 2001, a level maintained in 2006 (see Figure 1). While the overseas-born proportion has stabilised, there is continuing entry of new arrivals--25 per cent of the Springvale population has moved to the suburb since 2001, including 10.7 per cent who came from overseas. This compares with 1.9 per cent recent overseas arrivals in Dingley Village and 6.1 per cent in the Melbourne statistical region as a whole.


The 2006 census reports that a language other than English was spoken in 74.3 per cent of Springvale homes (but in only 16 per cent in Dingley Village). Of those who provided details of ancestry, only 11.9 per cent indicated that both of their parents were born in Australia (55.7 per cent in Dingley Village). The main overseas birthplaces of Springvale residents were Viet Nam (21.3 per cent) and Cambodia (5.8 per cent). The Viet Nam-born population was consolidated in the 1980s and, since 1995, has experienced a relative decline. In the five years from 1991 to 1995, 55.5 per cent of the overseas arrivals settling in the suburb came from Vietnam, in the years 2001 to 2005 21.2 per cent. Over the same...

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