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  • Writer's pictureDale Roberts

What does the Census tell us about Australia in Eurovision?

The 2021 Australian Census results were released recently and show that Australia truly is a country of migration.

Almost half of Australians (48.2%) have a parent born overseas, while (27.6%) were born abroad themselves.

And it's this migration that was the catalyst for Australia's love affair with Eurovision.

Following the Second World War, there was a large increase in migration to Australia from Europe, with a particularly significant rise recorded from southern Europe.

Source and credit: ABS

This sizeable population was catered for by the launch of a new TV/radio broadcaster in the 1970s to provide content in multiple languages: the ‘Special Broadcasting Service’ or SBS for short.

With Eurovision being such an important European event, SBS started broadcasting the contest to its audience in 1983, using commentary from the BBC.

So, looking at the Census, what can we learn about Australia's "Eurovision make-up"?

Country of birth - Countries that have competed in Eurovision (2021)

  1. United Kingdom* - 1,105,578

  2. Italy - 163,326

  3. Germany - 101,255

  4. Greece - 92,314

  5. Ireland - 80,927

  6. Netherlands - 66,481

  7. Poland - 45,884

  8. Croatia - 43,302

  9. North Macedonia - 41,786

  10. Turkey - 38,568

  11. France - 36,019

  12. Malta - 35,413

  13. Bosnia and Herzegovina - 26,171

  14. Serbia - 25,454

  15. Russian Federation - 23,864

  16. Spain - 17,281

  17. Portugal - 17,050

  18. Cyprus - 16,737

  19. Hungary - 16,655

  20. Romania - 15,268

*Combining England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, plus other UK overseas territories.

As Australia was once a British colony, and with The Queen still our Head of State, it is no surprise to see the UK come out on top here.

However, the strong southern European migration numbers are still apparent, with Italy, Greece, Malta and the nations of the former Yugoslavia ranking highly.

But how does this compare to when Australia first entered Eurovision?

Well, looking at data in the 1986 Census (just three years after the broadcast of Eurovision in Australia), there are many similarities.

The UK, Italy, Germany and Greece were in the Top 5 alongside Yugoslavia (which was ranked third). If you combine the states of the former Yugoslavia, they would be in Australia's current Top 5 countries of origin.

The Netherlands, Poland and Malta also made the Top 10 back in 1986.

Are European numbers in decline?

The underlying story, however, is that the numbers of people born overseas from most of these nations are falling.

Italy (-99k), Greece (-46k), Netherlands (-29k), Poland (-23k) and Malta (-21k) have all seen significant falls in the number of people who were born from these countries.

On the flip side, there have been increases from the UK (+48k), France (+21k) and Ireland (+10k).

In addition, although exact figures are not available, the number of people born in Turkey and now resident in Australia also rose markedly over this time.

So what's happening?

Well, to put it bluntly, many of those who arrived from southern European countries following WWII are - well - dying.

They are not being "replaced" by overseas-born immigrants, but their relatives continue to thrive in Australia as second, third and fourth generations.

This is where the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) question on ancestry gives us a better sense of the multicultural make up of Australia.

When asked about their ancestry, the responses provide more significant numbers.

Ancestry of countries that have competed in Eurovision

  1. British* - 10,718, 813

  2. Irish - 2,410,833

  3. Italian - 1,108,364

  4. German - 1,026,138

  5. Greek - 424,744

  6. Dutch - 381,948

  7. Polish - 209,281

  8. Maltese - 198,989

  9. Croatian - 164,362

  10. French - 148,927

  11. Spanish - 128,693

  12. Macedonian - 111,352

  13. Russian - 98,107

  14. Serbian - 94,997

  15. Turkish - 87,164

  16. Hungarian - 81,029

  17. Portuguese - 73,903

  18. Danish - 65,529

  19. Ukrainian - 53,359

  20. Austrian - 48,797

*Combining English, Scottish, Welsh and other British ancestries

**Not including Australian or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestry

Those figures show very large numbers within some communities: the "1 Million Plus" club including those with ancestry from the UK, Italy and Germany, whilst Greek, Dutch, Polish and Maltese heritage numbers in the hundreds of thousands.

The Asia Pacific region

Those numbers remain strong, but the new story of Australia's migration has shifted towards the Asia Pacific region.

Of the Top 10 overseas countries of both, only two are within Europe:

Country of birth - All countries (2021)

  1. United Kingdom - 1,105,578

  2. India - 673,352

  3. China (excluding SARs and Taiwan) - 549,618

  4. New Zealand - 530,492

  5. Philippines - 293,892

  6. Vietnam - 257,997

  7. South Africa - 189,207

  8. Malaysia - 165,616

  9. Italy - 163,326

  10. Sri Lanka - 131,904

If we look at ancestry from overseas nations, six European nations make the Top 10.

Ancestry of countries (other than Australia) 2021

  1. English - 8,385,928

  2. Irish - 2,410,833

  3. Chinese - 1,390,639

  4. Italian - 1,108,364

  5. German - 1,026,138

  6. Indian - 783,953

  7. Greek - 424,744

  8. Filipino - 408,842

  9. Dutch - 381,948

  10. Vietnamese - 334,785

What does this all mean for Australia in Eurovision?

Well, you only need to look at the artists who have competed at both Eurovision and 'Eurovision - Australia Decides' to see that Australia has a rich melting pot of talent from multiple continents.

Guy Sebastian (Malaysia), Dami Im (South Korea), Jessica Mauboy (Indigenous / Indonesia), Isaiah Firebrace (Indigenous), Montaigne (Philippines, France, Spain, Argentina) and Sheldon Riley (Philippines) all have connections to Europe or the Asia Pacific region.

Additionally, Australians have competed for the UK, Germany, Armenia, Denmark and Switzerland at the Contest itself.

Furthermore, past Australia Decides artists have heritage from Taiwan (Jaguar Jonze), The Philippines (Seann Miley Moore, Erica Padilla), Malaysia (Jordan-Ravi), Fiji (Paulini), Greece (Leea Nanos, Andrew Lambrou, Diana Rouvas), Italy (Alfie Arcuri, Mark Vincent, Aydan Calafiore, Vanessa Amorosi) and Albania (Tania Doko).

So, as the second, third and fourth generations of European migrants continue to thrive and Australian welcomes many new migrants from the Asia Pacific region and beyond, this can only mean a large, increasingly diverse talent pool of musicians and artists vying to join the Eurovision family.

And we will be all the better for it!

All 2021 numbers and statistics have been taken from the 'Cultural diversity: Census' page from the ABS.

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