Hawthorn, Victoria Australia (PressExposure) November 14, 2006 -- Skilled immigration to Australia is increasingly 'feminised', Immigration and Multicultural Affairs Minister Amanda Vanstone said today.
The Minister said migration statistics showed women were playing an increasing role in skilling Australia and building the nation's future.
'Women have for many years made up almost half of our skilled migrant intake, whether as primary or secondary applicants,' Senator Vanstone said today.
'This was no different in 2005-06, when we accepted 97 500 skilled migrants, including more than 46 000 women.
'What has changed is the gender ratio of primary applicants.
'In the past, when couples migrated to Australia it was generally about the man's occupation or job prospects - they were the primary applicant and the woman was often a secondary applicant.
'Ten years ago, women made up less than 28 per cent of primary applicants.
'This figure has risen to 37 per cent in the past decade, and the actual number of women primary applicants has more than quadrupled - up from 4000 in 1996-97 to more than 17 500 in 2005-06.'
Last year alone, more than 4200 of the women primary applicants were from the People's Republic of China, up 52 per cent on 2004-05.
'It is a strong indication of the feminisation of immigration and shows that our migration programme is non-discriminatory in terms of gender, race, religion and ethnicity,' Senator Vanstone said.
China has become the largest source of skilled women migrants, leapfrogging the United Kingdom in recent years.
Senator Vanstone has highlighted the story of Chinese-born Jennifer He as exemplifying the rising number of women leaving their home overseas to come to Australia to fill the demand for skilled workers.
Outer Barcoo in western Queensland is a far cry from the bustling city of Shanghai where 30-year-old Jennifer was born and educated, but that did not stop her from accepting a job at the local shire council.
Jennifer started at Barcoo Shire Council in September 2005 on a skills matching visa, after the council twice advertised unsuccessfully to fill the position of executive assistant to the mayor and chief executive officer.
'With just 460 residents in the 60 100 sq km shire, isolation was a big factor in trying to attract a suitably qualified person to fill the role,' Barcoo Shire corporate services manager Kerri Wilson said.
'We were fortunate to get Jennifer on board through the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs' Regional Skilled Migration Scheme and we are delighted with her skills and service,' Ms Wilson said.
Jennifer had studied a master's degree in education in Sydney in 2001 and travelled to the Central Australian outback, so she had some appreciation of the remoteness of the Barcoo Shire.
'It could be a bit of a shock for people who are not prepared well enough, but fortunately I had done my homework,' Jennifer said.
'When I was in Sydney I received emails from my friends in China asking if kangaroos really hop about the streets in Australia. Never having seen one, I laughed it off as an urban myth.
'However, on my first day in Barcoo Shire when I got home from work there was a big kangaroo standing on my porch - he must have been six feet tall. My hair stood on end, but luckily he was scared too and hopped away.'
Jennifer said moving to outback Queensland was a way of stepping outside of her comfort zone.
'I truly believe that a person gains knowledge through different experiences in different places. That is when you can grow and become a good listener, value other people's viewpoints and share understanding.
'Australia is a country that offers fair opportunity to those who are willing to learn, to improve and to contribute.'