Griffith Review 29: Prosper or Perish

Griffith Review 29: Prosper or Perish

Julianne Schultz (ed.), Text

Did you know that, despite the almost constant media storm surrounding the number of asylum seekers entering Australia, asylum seekers and refugees make up only a tiny proportion of the migrant intake of Australia?

Of much greater impact on the population is the increasing number of temporary migrant workers and students which in 2007-08 outstripped the number of permanent skilled migrants.

Often unrecognised too is that almost a quarter of Australia’s migrant intake comes via New Zealand (some of whom have become NZ citizens after migrating from elsewhere) which has unrestricted entry to Australia.

This edition of Griffith Review struggles with the well-known Australian catch-cry “populate or perish”, investigating ways to find a balance between growth, diversity and sustainability in an increasingly mobile and unstable world.

In essays, moving memoirs, reportage and fiction we are invited to consider what the right level of population on the Australian continent is.

As always, there are many great offerings. In the lead essay, Peter Mares explores the tensions between humanitarian and environmental approaches to migration and population.

Brendan Gleeson’s essay reflects on Bolton’s description of the development of Australia as a “tale of spoils and spoilers”. From the time of European settlement, he argues, Australia has largely been seen as a big blank map begging to be filled.

Climate change has emerged as the greatest threat to this drive to development.
Tone Wheeler explores some creative ways of housing our growing population in sustainable ways so that rather than continuing the spread of cities further and further away from the centres we use infrastructure already in place.

We get a glimpse of the human face of migration in “Thousandth miles” by Tangea Tansley, a moving reminder that when we talk of immigration we don’t simply talk about numbers but about humans, about belonging and loneliness, about dislocation, identity and human need.

Anna Maria Dell’Osa too reflects on relationships developed with new arrivals in the course of her voluntary work with the Refugee Language Program.

Not surprisingly, Griffith Review 29 is a much more helpful engagement in issues of population growth than our recent election campaign, and highly recommended.

Karyl Davison

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