Question: I have a project for school on immigration to Australia. We had to choose a country that people came from. I chose Cambodia. Can you help me get started on my project?
Answer: There was very little Cambodian immigration to Australia until the 1950s when a small number of students from Cambodia arrived under the Colombo Plan. The Colombo Plan was established in 1950 and encouraged economic and social cooperation between member countries in the Asia-Pacific region. It included a scheme under which students from developing countries could study in Australia.
Around 40,000 students from the Asia-Pacific region studied in Australia over a period of 35 years. Individuals were required to leave Australia when they had completed their studies, but some were permitted to remain under special circumstances such as marriage to an Australian citizen, sponsorship by an Australian employer or hardship in their home country.
By 1976 the Cambodia-born population in Victoria was still only 234. Under the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia large numbers of Cambodians fled their homeland, and many came to Victoria. By 1981 the Cambodia-born population of Victoria had reached 1,478. In another five years it tripled again to reach 4,889. Most settlers were young: in 1986, 87% of the Cambodian-born population in Australia was under 40.
Migration to Victoria from Cambodia slowed in the 1980s and 90s. By this time, political conditions in Cambodia had stabilised and most Cambodians were migrating to Victoria under the Family Reunion Program. By 2001 8,989 Victorians were Cambodia-born.
Today, many Cambodian immigrants live in Springvale and Greater Dandenong. The community has developed strong cultural and social support networks including its own Buddhist temple in Springvale.
In September 2008 a festival was held at the Immigration Museum that celebrated Cambodian culture and its impact on Victoria. In response to this festival, the Immigration Discovery Centre created a guide to resources about this community; this guide can be accessed at the centre seven days a week. A good starting-point for your project? Good luck!
Hi Summer & Chloe, it depends what you mean by how long and how far really. As explained above, some Cambodians came by boat but most flew here. It's about 7000km from Cambodia to Melbourne. To fly it takes about 9 hours. Total travel time really would have been variable as many of the Cambodians were refugees and spent different amounts of time in refugee camps prior to their journey to Australia.
Hi Dany, for information about this group, please contact them: Khmer Angkor Dance Group of Vic, 93 Heyington Cres, Noble Park, 03 9774 8887. The Cambodian Festival was a once off celebration. The museum holds several festivals a year with a different community each time.
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Hi Kelly, check out the Journeys website for information: http://museumvictoria.com.au/journeys/index.asp
Hopefully the comment above and the material in this article will give you a start with your research. Make sure you check out the links, too!
Hi Gracie. The earliest Cambodians in Australia probably came by ship as this was the most common way that all immigrants journeyed to Australia because air travel was very expensive up until the 1970s. The later Cambodian immigrants, including those who were asylum seekers, in the 1970s to 1990s came by both plane and boat. You can find a little more detail in the links at right.
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