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Migration and Community Structure

The patterns of mobility in Australia are typical of a postindustrial society, in which the tertiary and quaternary sectors of the economy co-exist with a primary extractive resourcebased economy, both of which generate specific types of mobility. Alice Springs, with its government service and communications base, exemplifies the former. Many migrants in post-industrial societies are of the "transilient" type who do not necessarily settle permanently in any one locality and yet are not "rootless," alienated, or marginal people in the sense in which these terms have been understood in traditional or industrial phases of development (Richmond 1969, p.278). However, some sacrifices may have to be made, with the break-up of kin-based communities previously sustained by local propinquity. Within the city, where community often exists without propinquity, adjustments can be made to this mobility as the result of efficient public transport and the existence of the motor car. Even when the distance to kin exceeds 100 km, as was found by Burnley (1980) in a study of migration to a large New South Wales country town, visiting with relatives was not unduly disrupted, while Saha (1976) also found that migrants to the Australian capital, Canberra (mostly from New South Wales and Victoria), still turned to relatives for support when in need. But over great distances, such as are involved in migration to Alice Springs, these primary group ties may be seriously disrupted, as Zelinsky (1971) suggested in his mobility transition typology.

TABLE 5.7. Relationship of Dearest Relatives Outside Nuclear Family to Respondents by Age of Respondent

  Under 35 35-39 Over 50 Total relatives
Spouse 3 3 2 8
Son or daughter 4 14 25 43
Father or mother 181 78 22 281
Brother or sister 119 52 18 189
Other - - 11 11
Total relatives 307 147 78 532

Source: Sample survey, August 1980.

TABLE 5.8. Frequency of Visiting Dearest Relatives by Sex of Respondent

  Males Females Total respondents
More than once a week 9 22 31
Once a week 8 11 19
Once or twice a month 4 6 10
Every three months 1 10 11
Once or twice a year 59 77 136
Less often 96 84 180
Other and not stated 1 5 6
Total respondents 178 215 393

Source: Sample Survey, August 1980.

TABLE 5.9. Restriction on Visiting Relatives Because of Remoteness

  Males Females Total
Yes 115 153 268
No 42 30 72
Other and not stated 19 29 48
No close relatives 2 3 5
Total persons 178 215 393

Source: Sample Survey, August 1980.

Table 5.6 shows the place of residence of a person's "dearest relative" outside the nuclear family, by age of respondent. Only 12.6 per cent of close relatives were resident in Alice Springs, and a much smaller proportion were resident elsewhere in the Northern Territory. A third were in South Australia, mostly in Adelaide; another third were elsewhere in Australia, and 12 per cent were overseas. The differences between age groups were not significant. Thus, the majority of persons interviewed could not turn to their dearest relative in the event of an emergency or be supportive on a day-to-day basis. Table 5.7 shows that the degree of relatedness did significantly vary by age of respondent, with a third of the dearest relatives of the older respondents beings sons or daughters. This refelcted another aspect of the dislocations which are part and parcel of the "mobility transition." Four-fifths of the sons and daughters of respondents over age 50 had migrated from Alice Springs, mainly to Adelaide and Melbourne to find suitable work, and to obtain university or other tertiary training.

Table 5.8 records the frequency of visiting of dearest relatives by respondents and the effects of isolation and the time-cost tyranny of distance on their ability to visit. These effects are directly demonstrated in table 5.9. Forty-six per cent visited their dearest relative less often than once a year and a further 36 per cent only once or twice a year. Alice Springs was sufficiently remote that the six- to eight-hour journeys to visit relatives in different towns such as in the state of New South Wales (Burnley 1980) and which are not uncommon in the southern states that are also sparsely settled by international standards were simply not possible. While some firms and the Northern Territory and Australian Federal governments provided subsidies or one return fare free per year, the cost of flying, at over A$250 return to Adelaide alone, was prohibitive; the return fare to Sydney was A$434 at the time of the survey (now over A$500).

TABLE 5.10. Place of Residence of Dearest Friends by Age of Respondent

  Under 35 35-49 Over 50 Total friends
Alice Springs 154 80 36 270
Darwin 19 12 4 35
Elsewhere in Northern Territory 13 13 3 29
In Adelaide 37 30 10 77
Elsewhere in South Australia 17 13 7 37
Elsewhere in Australia 56 26 11 93
Overseas 20 10 2 32
No close friends 8 4 4 16
Not stated 8 5 5 18

Note: Location of numbers of friends of persons interviewed. Source: Sample Survey, August 1980.

TABLE 5.11. Persons Unable to See Close Friend Outside Alice Springs Because of Remoteness

  Males Females Total
Yes 63 98 161
No 19 11 30
Don't know - 4 4

Source: Sample Survey, August 1980.

TABLE 5.12. New Friendship Formed Because Respondents Had No Close Relatives in Alice Springs

  Males Females Total persons
Yes 75 129 204
No 45 35 80
Don't know 9 2 11
No new friendship 1 1 2
Friendships not dependent on relatives 47 49 96
Total persons 177 216 393

Source: Sample Survey, August 1980.

Persons were then directly asked whether their visiting with close relatives was restricted because of remoteness (table 5.9). Sixty-eight per cent stated that it was, and only 18 per cent said that it was not. Persons were also asked where their dearest friends resided (table 5.10). Thirty-seven per cent of the respondents had their dearest friends in Alice Springs; however, some 45 per cent of the 607 friends of the respondents were present in Alice Springs. Once again the highest number of friends outside the Northern Territory were in South Australia. The proportion of respondents with dearest friends in Alice, and the proportion of friends of respondents in Alice Springs were significantly greater than with close relatives outside the nuclear family.

As with relatives, remoteness precluded the majority of those who had close friends outside Alice Springs from seeing them often (table 5.11). However, the great majority of persons had formed new friendships in Alice Springs, as table 5.12 indicates. Furthermore, 52 per cent had formed new friendships specifically because they had no close relatives in Alice Springs, and only 24 per cent stated that their friendships were not dependent on relatives. Significantly more women had formed new friendships because of the absence of relatives (60 per cent) than men (42 per cent). Thus, despite remoteness and small town size, a considerable proportion of those who had migrated to Alice Springs had made working adjustments in their primary group communal relationships.

TABLE 5.13. Main Leisure Activities in Alice Springs, by Sex: Frequencies of Responses

  Males Females
Workingmen's or R.S. L. Club 35 21
Cultural group 14 27
Socializing at hotel or tavern 22 23
Sports, participation 65 75
Sports, watching 47 59
Travelling in the surrounding countryside 83 124
Visiting relatives 19 38
Visiting friends 79 134
Visiting neighbours 16 41
Staying at home and watching television 78 98
Reading 74 139
Gardening and handicrafts 43 62
Other and not stated 6 4
Total responses 581 845

Source: Sample Survey, August 1980.

TABLE 5.14. Main Leisure Activities in Alice Springs, by Age: Frequencies of Responses

  Under35 35-49 Over 50 Total
Workingmen's or R.S.L. Club 29 19 8 56
Cultural group 25 14 2 41
Socializing at hotel or tavern 34 8 3 45
Sports, participation 102 31 7 140
Sports, watching 65 27 14 106
Travelling in the surrounding countryside 119 66 22 207
Visiting relatives 34 14 9 57
Visiting friends 146 53 14 213
Visiting neighbours 38 13 6 57
Staying at home and watching television 106 45 25 176
Reading 120 60 33 213
Gardening and handicrafts 58 29 18 105
Other and not stated 6 1 3 10
Total responses 882 380 164 1,426

Note: Average number of responses per person - 3.63. Frequencies for responses and not persons. Source: Sample Survey, August 1980.

Leisure Activities

The likes and preferences for Alice Springs discussed above by Parkes in chapter 4 and the friendship adjustments just discussed provide a clue to the life-styles and associated leisure patterns of the population. In tables 5.13 and 5.14 the main activities in terms of frequencies of responses are shown by sex and age of the respondents. A wide range of activities is indicated. Outdoor activities were important, and travelling in the surrounding countryside and sports participation or watching were of significance. For women, visiting friends, travelling in the countryside, and reading were most important; for men, sports activities, visiting friends, and outdoor travelling were favoured.

There were some differences by age, with friendship and neighbouring and sports activities being relatively more important for those under 35 compared to those over 50, although the contrasts were not great. Social participation levels seemed high, and despite the physical remoteness, "social isolation" was being compensated for by many activities.

Short-and Medium-Term Acculturation to a Town or Region

Studies of migration, more particularly international migration, have seen the adjustment of migrants in terms of integration to a particular society or milieu. By integration we mean merging with social groups and the adoption of many of the traits of the receiving society. The notion of acculturation can perhaps also be applied to internal migration, more especially long-distance interstate movement. A key indicator of acculturation has been whether persons identify with the society or nation state in which they have settled (Richardson 1974). Richardson, working with British immigrants in Australia, found that identification with the host society, Australia, was necessary before acculturation, (the adoption of Australian ways) took place. Accordingly, in the context of community building in the Northern Territory and its transition towards independent statehood within the Australian Commonwealth, persons were asked whether they identified with the Northern Territory or whether they felt part of it. The results are shown in tables 5.15 and 5.16. Almost 60 per cent stated that they did identify with the Territory and only 24 per cent that they definitely did not. However, 70 per cent of those over age 50 identified compared to 56 per cent of those under age 35 and 62 per cent of those aged 30 to 49. The older persons identifying were predominantly the longer term residents, but over half the residents who had been in Alice Springs under five years felt that they identified with the Territory.

TABLE 5.15. Persons Identifying with Northern Territory, by Age

  Under 35 35-49 Over 50 Total
Identify 129 70 36 235
Do not identify 65 25 3 93
Don't know 15 9 5 29
Not stated 21 9 6 36
Total 230 113 50 393

Source: Sample Survey, August 1980.

TABLE 5.16. Persons Identifying with Northern Territory, by Sex

  Males Females Total
Identify 102 133 235
Do not identify 46 47 93
Don't know 14 15 29
Not stated 16 20 36
Total 178 215 393

Source: Sample Survey, August 1980.

TABLE 5.17. Reasons for Not Identifying with the Northern Territory, by Sex: Frequencies of Responses

  Males Females Total
Short period of settlement 6 14 20
Strong tie with previous state of residence 9 18 27
Strong tie with previous country of residence 15 6 21
Lack of friends and relatives in the Northern Territory 3 2 5
Do not intend to stay permanently 7 6 13
Lack of sense of security 1 - 1
Not stated 2 4 6
Total frequencies of      
responses 43 50 93

Note: Frequencies of reasons, not persons, although almost all persons who did not identify gave only one reason.
Source: Sample Survey, August 1980.

Of the 93 who did not identify, 22 per cent said they did not do so because of their short period of settlement, and 29 per cent felt a stronger tie with their previous state of residence (table 5.17). An additional 14 per cent said they did not feel they belonged because they did not intend to stay permanently. It is interesting that of the 37 per cent of the sample who had their dearest friends in Alice Springs, some 73 per cent identified with the Northern Territory compared to 52 per cent of those who did not. Identity may indeed be associated with communal relating rather than simply being an abstract notion.

Persons were asked what they considered were the main problems facing the Northern Territory. The number of times particular problems were cited is shown in table 5.18. Some 204, or 35 per cent of the reasons (elicited by open-ended questions), were associated with Aboriginal people: 9 per cent were associated with perceived racial tension; 14 per cent dealt with social problems associated with Aboriginal people, (some of the respondents were sympathetic to their health problems and other difficulties related to disadvantage); but about 13 per cent disagreed with the legislation on Aboriginal rights, arguing in essence that they should be treated no differently from the general population or that they did not deserve land rights legislation, equality before the law, or improved welfare, housing, or health treatment.

TABLE 5.18. Main Problems Facing Alice Springs and the Northern Territory

Problems (number of times problem cited) Age Group
Persons under 35 35-49 Over 50 Total responses
Adverse effects of development 7 4 2 13
Racial tension 27 17 9 53
Aboriginal people and related social problems 53 20 6 79
Legislation on Aboriginal rights favouring Aboriginals 43 23 6 72
Alcoholism 7 2 2 11
Too few people 33 15 14 62
Employment opportunities 6 2 1 9
Inadequate facilities for recreation, medical, and transport services 29 19 11 59
Inadequate housing 29 7 1 37
Financial mismanagement 3 8 4 15
Government incompetence 15 9 8 32
Lack of unity and identity in Northern Territory 6 3 1 10
Geographical remoteness 24 10 1 35
High cost of living and freight charges 20 12 4 36
Not stated or no problems 30 16 8 54

Note: Frequencies of times problem cited, not persons. Source: Sample Survey, August 1980.

Finally, persons were asked whether they intended to stay in Alice Springs, where they intended to move to, and why they intended to move (tables 5.19 and 5.20). Almost 52 per cent stated they intended to leave Alice Springs. This proportion is not surprising, considering the transience and nature of the migrant flow to Alice Springs, and it is interesting that 63 per cent of those who identified with the Northern Territory intended to stay in the Northern Territory compared to 39 per cent of those who intended to move from Alice Springs and the Territory. Increasing length of residence and further identification may mean that more may intend to stay.

While racial tension and associated issues figured prominently in the negative images of Alice Springs and in the perceptions of problems facing the Northern Territory, it was an insignificant reason for moving from Alice Springs. Important reasons for moving were job transfer and better employment prospects and better educational opportunities for children elsewhere. The latter reflects the lack of tertiary educational opportunities in the town and in the Northern Territory generally, discussed in more detail by.

TABLE 5.19. Persons Intending Eventually to Move from Alice Springs: Destination of Anticipated Move

Location No. of persons Location No. of persons
New South Wales 10 A rural area 12
Victoria 2 A town near a large city 5
Queensland 39 Coastal area 23
South Australia 43 Overseas 12
Western Australia 10 Uncertain 25
Tasmania 1    
Elsewhere in Northern Territory 21 Total persons 203

TABLE 5.20. Reasons for Moving from Alice Springs

  No. of persons
To obtain better education for children 22
For a change of life-style 13
Job transfer (including that of husband) 18
To join relatives 28
To continue travelling 11
No water-based recreation in Alice Springs 11
The climate and remoteness of Alice Springs 20
Racial tension in Alice Springs 4
Better employment prospects 25
Other and not stated 51
Total persons 203

Source: Sample Survey, August 1981.

Walker in chapter 7. Other important reasons were climate, environment, and geographical remoteness.

Some wished to continue travelling; almost all of these respondents resided in the caravan park, and they were at a stage between that of itinerant tourist and transient migrant. Some may eventually stay if housing and job opportunities permit. The most important reason for moving, however, was to join relatives. Here we return to the communal and familial separation factors that underlie so many of the acculturation difficulties and other adjustment problems facing in-migrants to Australia's Northern Territory and, to a lesser extent perhaps, to the arid zone settlement of Alice Springs. While economic incentives have been important in the movement to the town, and lifestyle preferences have also been influential, its physical remoteness from places where other relatives and kin reside, in relation to other economic incentives, results in an eventual drain of population from the town and increased transience. If this occurs in a society in which wider kin ties are less strong, what would happen with equally remote new settlements in the arid zones of many traditional societies where kin ties and interdependencies are much stronger? Skilled and professional staff in such resource-based towns who had migrated from overseas might be less affected but indigenous internal migrants would almost certainly be stongly affected.

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