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Last Updated: Friday, 31 August 2007, 13:17 GMT 14:17 UK
'Pom invasion' hitting Down Under
By Nick Bryant
BBC News

On the shores of Coogee beach in Sydney, British fitness expert Rob Derbyshire gently reminds his British client Judith that gain is normally accompanied by pain.

Australia's victorious 1999 cricket World Cup team
Test book speaks of 'immense pleasure' at beating England

Dashing up the beach together, they look like part of a "pom" invasion of Australia. And in many ways they are.

The number of British people emigrating to Australia has already increased from 8,749 in the year from 2001 to 2002 to 23,290 in 2005 to 2006.

And it has just become easier for Brits to make their homes Down Under.

Changes to the points system, which come into effect on 1 September, will award five valuable extra points for people who can pass a standard English language test, a Brit-friendly policy partly designed to lure more "poms" here.

'No looking back'

The Lucky Country is facing a chronic skills shortage, and wants Brits to make their home in this "help-wanted" nation.

For people like Rob, it should make the passage from Britain to Australia a whole lot easier. Despite being a fully qualified aircraft mechanic, the type of skill which Australia desperately needs, it required a four-year struggle to get permanent residency.

"It was very laborious, on and off, and back and forward to the immigration office. So it was a big relief when that magic piece of paper arrived in the mail one day telling me I was in. There's no looking back," he says.

Aboriginal protestors
Aboriginal protesters occupy Sydney Harbour's Cockatoo Island, 2000

Brad Ngata Hair Direction is one of Australia's leading salons - its mantelpiece almost buckles under the weight of all its trophies.

But when it advertised for qualified hairdressers, it received only three applicants. Brits, with scissors and dryers in hand, are helping to plug the shortfall.

"It's really easy to get work in Australia hairdressing, because we're really in demand," says Kelly Grant, who works alongside Brad Ngata.

"There's lots of job offers and lots of opportunities. My friends are always surprised to learn how easy it is to get jobs here."

To some, this Brit-friendly policy is happily reminiscent of the "10 poms", the post-war government assisted scheme that helped more than a million Britons to migrate.

Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach is a great symbol of the Australian lifestyle

It was one of the best bargains going - a 10 fare for adult migrants, with children travelling free.

To others, the award of extra points to fluent English speakers is more sinister, with shades of the monocultural "white Australia policy", the umbrella term for a swathe of policies and laws engineered to limit non-white immigration which finally petered out in the early 1970s.

"I do see this as an attack on multiculturalism," complains Kate Gauthier, from the group A Just Australia.

"This particular policy is about monoculturalism rather than multiculturalism, which is disturbing because we have had a proud tradition of multiculturalism in this country and it's certainly a step back towards the white Australia policy. It's not all the way back, but it's going in that direction," she says.

Tougher tests

Australia claims to be the most successfully multicultural country in the world. According to the 2001 census, 23% of the population were born overseas, while 43% of the population were either born overseas or had at least one parent born overseas.

But gaining citizenship is just about to get tougher, and applicants will be soon required to take a test on the country's history and values.

To qualify, they will be asked 20 questions - drawn randomly from 200 - and be expected to answer 12 correctly.

It's not just about Don Bradman and beating the English cricket team
Kate Gauthier

Who was the first Australian prime minister? What is the floral emblem of Australia? You get the idea.

The idea is to balance ethnic diversity with social cohesion, and the country's immigration minister claims it will not discriminate against applicants with a non-Anglo background.

Ms Gauthier says: "If they don't pass they still remain a permanent resident of Australia and we would encourage them to go away, have a look at the resources, learn a bit more in the area where they might not have been strong in and come back and sit it again."

Great Barrier Reef, off the coast of Queensland
Australia's 3,000-km Great Barrier Reef can be seen from space

But she says the test is weighted against non-white applicants.

"All the questions on Australian culture are from a really Anglo-Saxon perspective. It's about mateship and cricket. Australian culture is about much more than that. It's not just about Don Bradman and beating the English cricket team."

The booklet designed to help applicants with the test does speak of Australia's "immense pleasure" at first beating the mother country in 1882.

For British applicants, Australia is about to become more welcoming - but is it at the cost of migrants from other countries?

One British immigrant in Australia tells his story




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