Census data can help us to delve into the nature and composition of the Scottish diaspora in great detail. Let’s look at one specific feature of the diaspora today: the time of arrival of first generation migrants who claimed Scottish ancestry.
In my previous post, I suggested that maintenance of Scottish cultural identity over the last quarter of a century has become more widespread among Scottish Australians, and that rates of Scottish cultural identification are becoming comparable to Irish identification. While second or later generation Australians are contributing the most to growth in numbers of those identifying with Scottish ancestry, a closer look at first generation migrants may yield a better understanding of cultural identification over time.
The following graph illustrates the number of individuals by decade of arrival in Australia for first generation migrants who claimed Scottish ancestry.
The largest cohort are those individuals who arrived in Australia between 1961 and 1970, accounting for 22.4 per cent of first generation migrants claiming Scottish ancestry, followed by those who have arrived in the last decade since 2001, who accounted for 19.7 per cent.
What can such information tell us about cultural identification in the Australian Scottish diaspora?
Between 1940 and 1981, approximately 172 000 Scots arrived in Australia, and between 1982 and 2006 the figure was around 45 000. Without more details on how many of those who migrated between 1940 and 1980 are still alive, it is difficult to ascertain the proportion of them who still identify with Scottish heritage. Around 48 per cent of arrivals between 1940 and 1981 have claimed Scottish ancestry, while the remaining 52 per cent either did not respond, did not claim Scottish ancestry, or have passed away.
My hunch at this stage is that, given that maintenance of Scottish cultural identity over the last quarter of a century has become more widespread among Scottish Australians, rates of Scottish identification among post-1980s arrivals are also higher than among pre-1980s immigrants. Close to 100 per cent of the post-1980 arrivals have identified as having Scottish ancestry.
With specific reference to migrants who arrived between the 1940s and 1970s, Al Thomson and A. James Hammerton’s oral history of postwar British migrants, Ten pound Poms: Australia’s invisible migrants, noted that
For British migrants in Australia issues of national identity have often been secondary to perceptions of their individual sense of struggle and accomplishment, an awareness heightened by the act of migration.
Such an observation could be reinforced with more detailed information regarding the self-identification of Scottish migrants who arrived in Australia in the postwar years, although the data here vaguely hints at Thompson and Hammerton’s conclusion.
What this all may mean is that, in addition to the findings of my previous post, not only is ‘Scottishness’ on the rise among second and later generation migrants in Australia, but it has also become the major category of self-identification for first generation migrant Scots in the diaspora who have arrived since the 1980s.