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Effect of Immigration on Food Availability and Consumption in Australia

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: International Studies
Wordcount: 2587 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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Immigration has played a significant role in changing food availability and consumption patterns in Australia

Australian food is heavily influenced by the cultures and people that have migrated here. Australia is a country with a rich migration history; immigrants with diverse cultural background have made considerable impacts on increasing food availability and changing consumption patterns in Australia in a subtle manner.

The food pattern and consumption habits in Australia changed dynamically with immigration tides. Before the 1788 British settlement, only Aborigines lived on this island. Their food source was plain and simple, and all the cooking techniques are incredibly original. The cuisines of the Aborigines, include “eating roasted kangaroo, berries and leaves, and whatever they could find in the wild.”1. Australia was a land in which old colonists believed to be ‘terra nullius’, a ‘no one’s land,’ people did not have any choice on ‘what to eat’ or ‘how to eat them’. There was a lack of food resources and lack of civilization.

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After the British’s great discovery, the rest of the world started to know Australia, and many people moved to live in Australia permanently. “During the early 19th-century, Australian migrants were mainly originated from England, Scotland, and Ireland. In order to sustain itself, the colony was in dire need of food producers. At first, ‘crop failures were common, but grain production soon became a mainstay and market gardens popped up to grow and supply the ingredients for Anglo-Celtic dishes.” 2 The British, the Scottish and the Irish came to Australia as colonists, and they sourced a variety of food that was extremely rare in Australia at that time. For example, they brought the grain seed, made it become the leading grown food in the local farmyard and had produced a large quantity. Indeed, the grain becomes an essential ingredient for many dishes. At this time, people in Australia learned proper cooking technique and adopted more mature ways to cook food. Moreover, Aborigines’ lifestyle has changed; they no longer need to seek food in the wild; instead, they were able to grow grains and consume them. Grains can provide sodium and dietary fiber that human need to consume every day. Before that, Aborigines can only absorb nutrient from natural plants and roasted kangaroos. Therefore, grain has provided them with an alternative choice of nutrition intake. It seems that the import of grain has to lead to a healthier and more balanced dietary intake for Australians. Therefore, the first tide of immigrants from Europe was making significant progress in extending food variability in Australia. Until now, the grain is one of the major sources of food consumption in Australia. People see grains as excellent and essential ingredients for some dishes. Moreover, grains not only supply nutrients that Australians needed but also provide the taste that people favor.

“Following European immigrants, people from other countries came here to seek opportunities to make money, such as the early Chinese immigrants during ‘gold rush’. By 1850s, most gardens were owned and operated by British settlers. However, by the time gold was discovered in 1851, Chinese people had begun to make their mark. Over the gold rush period, as the Europeans moved on to try their luck, it was often migrants from China who supplied the diggings with fresh leafy vegetables and sometimes locally grown fruit”.3 With Chinese miners’ arrival, they have brought plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, and they grew those seeds nicely in the Australian soil. Local Australians used to eat leaves and fruits grown in wild, however, these plants might contain toxic elements. It may cause harm to the human body if these wild plants are consumed in the long term. After Chinese immigrants bringing in fresh homegrown vegetables and fresh fruits, people in Australia were able to eat vegetables and fruits safely and regularly. Since the Chinese introduced a variety of vegetables and fruits to Australia, the local Australians, Europeans settlers and Aborigines can have a wider choice of food. Vitamins, fibers, and water are the primary nutrients in vegetables, the introduction of various kinds of food inevitably changes Australian’s food consumption patterns. With later immigrants’ arrival, a wider range of food was grown and become readily available in Australia. Chinese immigrants have made enormous impacts on changing Australia’s food patterns. Chinese community continues to expand in the late 19th century, with more cuisines being introduced to the food market. Until now, we can see Chinese restaurants are distributed in towns and Chinese food has become a popular choice amongst local people. Western people adopted Chinese eating styles by learning to use chopsticks and eating rice. The Chinese culture has a far-reaching influence on Australians’ food consumption pattern. Also, some eating habits are influencing some Australians.

“The gold rush brought another migration wave, this includes the Germans who would establish Australia’s famous wine growing region in Barossa Valley. They would also bring a culinary tradition of smoked meats, dried fruit, fermented and pickled vegetables, farmhouse cheeses.”3 During the gold rush period, German came here, and they came here with many things like others. The wine that German brought also changes the consumption patterns, and it’s a kind of goods that people might enjoy during their free time. Sometimes, wine might be an important ingredient in some dishes to make a unique flavor. The Germans have introduced food that can be stored for a long time, such as the smoked meats, dried fruit, fermented and pickled vegetables, farmhouse cheeses, which further enriches the Australian food varieties. On the other hand, those smoked, dried and pickled foods are beneficial and useful for people who would go out for a long and far trip at that time, because it is not easy to take all the cooking equipment around. Also, those foods have lots of salt in it, and it will provide enough sodium intake to regulate fluid levels in the human’s body. Moreover, Australia has an enriched, authentic coffee culture, this was contributed largely by Italian immigrants. Back then, many skilled Italians were demanded in Australia, they have come with authentic food culture. Greek settlers also opened cafes and coffee houses in towns and cities. More European nations came, the cafe and coffee that Greek brought to Australia change the consumption patterns. Nowadays, coffee plays a critical role in people’s daily life. Australians normally will have morning coffee and sit with their families, friends or coworkers before they head to work. Also, the bar that Italians and Greeks brought to Australia, influencing Australians’ leisure lifetime. “At the end of World War II, millions were displaced across Europe. ‘Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, Poles, and Ukrainians, along with Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, Bulgarians, and Yugoslavians were crowded into refugee camps.’ Around 170,000 would make a new home in Australia.” 3 After World War II, plenty of refugees came to Australia to try to find a shelter to survive. These people are from different nations; they brought a huge variety of food to Australia and explored some plants grown in Australia are actually can use as food. Also, they brought plenty of food from their nations, that made the food availability in Australia increased a lot more than before, and the consumption patterns continue to change dynamically. “At a time when Australian agriculture was expanding to embrace new crops and cuisines, like rice and pineapple, Slavic migrants brought innovative food production methods. Sprinklers and regulated watering saw foods, including root vegetables and nut varieties, entered the Australian diet.” 3 Slavic migrants brought sprinklers and regulated water; these techniques made Australia have more root vegetables and nut varieties. These products are essential for the market that runs in Australia right now. “Some 20 years on and, the fall of Saigon saw a steady influx of refugees from Vietnam begin. Like their fellow migrants, many established market gardens. Previously unavailable fresh Asian herbs and greens also began appearing in local green-grocers. Soon Australians began to explore the delicious new flavors of Vietnamese cookery too.”3 After Vietnamese refugees came, the variety of herbs and green vegetables become even more substantial. Australians found out those unique flavors from Vietnam taste delicious. Therefore, they further expanded the market for these herbs and vegetables. Overall, all the early migrants gradually enriched Australia food availability in subtle manners across different historical periods over hundreds of years. Various immigrants brought seeds, grew them and made all different food ingredients readily available in Australia, it leads to more diverse food consumption patterns amongst Australian citizens.

Nowadays, the consumption patterns in Australia is very different from the pattern back in the early 19th century. “Within the meat group, Australian consumers currently allocate 44% of the meat expenditure on beef, 12% on lamb, 20% on chicken, 24% on pork and very little on mutton.”4 In direct contrast, back in the 18th century, those Aborigines can only eat roasted kangaroo and Australian-grown plants, but nowadays, the meat consumption patterns have become board enough for people to absorb different kinds of nutrients in daily life. Therefore the meat consumption patterns had been changed through immigration from the early 19th century, Australia was an undeveloped land back then, Australians realized there is plenty of food resources waiting for them to explore. “Establishing healthy eating habits during adolescence is important given that eating behaviors likely to cause fatness are actively adopted during this age, while fruit and vegetable consumption, which has both immediate and long-term health-protective benefits, has been shown to decline.”5 Vegetable intakes take a significant role not only for teenagers but also for everyone. Vegetables and fruits balance the nutrients intakes; more minerals and vitamins have been absorbing by eating vegetables and fruits. All these different food that exist in Australia today is a significant influence by all the migration. These foreign people brought a bunch of goods and ingredients to Australia to make a massive variety of food patterns.6 Now Australia food is made up of different kinds of food, Australians like to take a little from each different country’s dish and put it together for their dishes.1 For example, ‘Beef & Reef’ is a common Australian dish in local restaurants, by combining steaks with seafood in a dish, it has now become a typical Australia meal that people like to order.

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During multiple immigration tides, people with different cultural backgrounds and food consumption habits had lived together for centuries. The cultural diversity is deeply rooted in the Australian food industry, and it creates a large food availability for everyone who lives in Australia right now. From the old time when Australian people can only eat roasted kangaroo and wild plants, to the most recent times when most Australians can eat well-cooked multicultural food from different regions around the world. It makes Australians become healthier with those different nutrients intakes after migrations come to Australia and bring a huge variety of food. Immigration has made Australia a country with broad food availability and diverse food consumption patterns.



  1. “Australia Food”, paragraph 1&2, https://www.remotetraveler.com/australia-2/australian-food/
  2. “Australia’s History”, second category, paragraph 1, https://www.australia.com/en/facts-and-planning/history.html
  3. “Food and Migration”, Posted by Anne Macindoe, 22 June 2014, https://www.originsinfo.com.au/origin-blog/food-and-migration/
  4. “Modelling the meat consumption patterns in Australia, Lucille Wong, Eliyathamby A., Selvanathan, Saroja Selvanathan. https://www-sciencedirect-com.ezproxy.lib.monash.edu.au/science/article/pii/S0264999315000656
  5. Predictors of changes in adolescents’ consumption of fruits, vegetables and energy-dense snacks

6.      Pearson, NatalieBall, KylieCrawford, David.The British Journal of Nutrition; Cambridge Vol. 105, Iss. 5,  (Mar 14, 2011): 795-803. https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.monash.edu.au/docview/852902378?accountid=12528&rfr_id=info%3Axri%2Fsid%3Aprimo

7.      Anderson, Lara, and Heather Merle Benbow. “Cultural Indigestion in Multicultural Australia: Fear of ‘Foreign’ Foods in Australian Media.” Gastronomica, vol. 15, no. 1, 2015, pp. 34–43. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/gfc.2015.15.1.34.https://www-jstor-org.ezproxy.lib.monash.edu.au/stable/10.1525/gfc.2015.15.1.34?seq=2#metadata_info_tab_contents


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