With low unemployment, a high standard of living, a warm and friendly people and an even warmer climate, it's no wonder that so many want to live, work and study in Australia. The World of English went along to the Australian Embassy to meet His Excellency, Mr. Patrick Lawless, the nation's representative in Warsaw.
Though inhabited for over 50,000 years, it was in 1788 that the first ship from Botany Bay landed on the shores of what we now know as Australia. The country's present Ambassador to Poland, Patrick Lawless, can trace his ancestry back to that first landing. "There was a woman on that first ship who met a man from the second ship and that's how my Australian family started."
Immigration has been a constant feature ever since. Today, only 1% of its 20 million inhabitants are Aboriginal. First came the British and Irish. And then, as Ambassador Lawless explains, a change in the pattern of migration occurred. "After the Second World War, Australia became host to many from Greece and Italy. And then in the seventies, we saw more coming from Asia, in particular from Vietnam and Cambodia. Today, our main sources of migrants are from the UK, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Italy, Greece, China, Philippines, India and Vietnam."
The major cities are now a rich stew of different ethnicities. What was a culture that mirrored its largely British and Irish origins is now a vibrant, multi-ethnic dynamo. This has had the result, for example, of giving Australia a fantastically diverse and interesting cuisine. "But we don't usually identify ourselves as Irish-Australian, or Italian-Australian. We're just Australians."
And still they come. Around 5 million people living there were born somewhere else. "In an average week, about 2,000 migrate permanently to Australia, from all parts of the world."
There is a significant Polish presence, too. "About 70,000 Australian citizens were born in Poland. In total, we now have about 150,000 who speak Polish. They mainly live in Sydney or Melbourne, our largest cities. And they are a successful group. Richard Pratt, the third richest man in Australia, was born in Gdansk. And George Zubrzycki, prominent social scientist, known as the "founder of multiculturalism" in Australia, is originally from Kraków."
Aside from those who live there permanently, Australian cities are buzzing with tourists. And the universities are like a magnet for foreign students. This is because the nation's education system has a high reputation for academic excellence. Ambassador Lawless cites as an example of this the fact that 11 Australians have won the Nobel Prize for Science and Medicine.
Australia is becoming an increasingly popular place for Polish students to go to college. "Our foreign students mainly come from the United Sates or Asia. But in 2003, I expect the figure will be about 1,000 Polish students studying in Australia. They enrol on a wide range of courses, including marketing, business management, finance, IT, nursing, and, of course, the English language."
Due to fact that prices are relatively low in Australia, it is an affordable destination to learn in. It's also possible to work there, too. "Because the unemployment rate is much lower than it is in Europe, students can find some paid work quite easily. In fact, we have labour shortages in some areas, such as in the tourism and hospitality sectors. During term time you are allowed to work for up to 20 hours a week. In the holiday period there is no restriction, at all."
Casual work can be picked up, for instance, in vineyards during the grape-picking season. "Not surprisingly," says the Ambassador, "many Poles who do that type of work come back to Poland with a strong taste for Australian wine."
It all sounds too good to be true. But getting a work permit must be difficult? "It is relatively simple, actually. You can apply for a work permit as soon as you arrive. You won't have to wait for months, as is the case in some western countries."
The teaching is good in Australia, but that's not the only reason you should study there, says Ambassador Lawless. "Visiting students gain a better understanding of the whole Asia-Pacific area. They can travel easily to other Asian capitals and they also get to know Asian students studying in Australia. For example, 14,000 Chinese students are currently enrolled on courses."
But that's not all: "Polish students come back from Australia with improved job prospects."
And Ambassador Lawless sees an increase in the amount of Poles visiting Australia in general in the future. "As your economy expands I expect to see more and more Poles coming to visit."
For more information on study and travel go to the Australian Embassy in Poland's website at www. australia.pl