Australia: a land built on immigration, but what’s ahead? With Simon Kuestanmacher


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Since the First Fleet dropped anchor in 1788, close to 10 million immigrants have moved from across the world to start a new life in Australia.

They have arrived in waves, encouraged by developments like the 1850s gold rushes, or to escape adverse conditions at home such as the Industrial Revolution’s social upheavals in 19th-century Britain, the two world wars, and the aftermath of the Vietnam War in the 1970s.

Collectively these migrants have helped shape what was a uniquely British-based and now multicultural society in Australia.

In today’s podcast, I chat with leading demographer Simon Kuestenmacher about the history of migration and how it’s changed our culture and our property markets over the years, and what’s happening to migration now because of our border restrictions.

Australia is the land built on migration

Immigration to Australia began about 80,000 years ago. And from the 17th century on, the continent was explored by Europeans. European settlements began to crop up around 1788, and the discovery of gold in 1851 drove more activity and permanent settlements. Immigrants have been queuing up to come to the country ever since.

But what’s happening to immigration in our nation at the moment?

  • About 2/3 of our population growth pre-pandemic came from migration.
    • Only 1/3 came from natural growth.
    • During COVID, the migration has completely disappeared. For the first time, more immigrants went out than in.
  • Our country is so much more multicultural than other nations.
    • When people are concerned about migration and focus on asylum seekers, it’s not really relevant, because it’s such a small number.
  • One of the biggest drivers of migration in recent times is international students.
    • One in 6 of those students become permanent residents.
  • You can grow the GDP through the sheer number of people added to the country.
  • The natures of homes and neighbourhoods have changed because of migration.
    • We can see this in everything from the design of homes to the food available to buy.
  • We will still see more people coming into Australia as long as they’re allowed.
    • Australia is attractive to international students.
    • We also still need skilled workers.
  • Millennials are moving out of their apartments as they age and move on to the next stage, but apartment living remains necessary because of the population size.
    • We will still need apartments, but we may need different ones moving forward. We will need more family-friendly


Simon Kuestenmacher - Director of Research at The Demographics Group

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Shownotes plus more here: Australia: a land built on immigration, but what’s ahead? With Simon Kuestanmacher

Some of our favourite quotes from the show:

“Just because of the cost of living, we do need more apartments, but we need different apartments than we’ve built in the past.” – Michael Yardney

“I know it might sound cliché but work a little bit less and play a little bit more.” – Michael Yardney

“Remember, most of the things we worry about don’t happen, or if they do happen, they’re not as serious as we thought they would be.” – Michael Yardney


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