Yanks flee hostility

January 5, 1996

More than 200,000 Americans have migrated to Australia since the second world war. But research shows they are not warmly welcomed and that most Yanks go home.

David Mosler, senior lecturer in history at the University of Adelaide is among the more successful migrants from the United States. But others, he says, are perceived to be "invisible" because Australians think that, with a common language and culture, they settle easily.

But Dr Mosler has found that migrants from the US experience considerable and growing anti-American sentiment. They endure hostility and discrimination socially and at work and they have to contend with frequent disparaging comments in the media. Many become alienated and up to 70 per cent of them finally quit Australia - triple the rate for immigrants in general.

Dr Mosler is one of 1,100 academics from North America employed in Australian higher education. With a PhD from Stanford University and several years teaching European and English history in the US behind him, he arrived in Australia in 1971.

In 1991 he decided to investigate the experience of Americans who had arrived since the second world war. He has now done a 100,000-word report on his work. Dr Mosler says he was startled by the anti-Americanism recounted by the people he surveyed. Australians, he says, are reacting to the growing pervasiveness of US culture and often do not distinguish between the country a person comes from and the individual. "They object to the effect of US pop culture on TV and the introduction of US sports such as basketball; even the replacement of indigenous sports cards with those from the US - Don Bradman displaced by Babe Ruth."

Unlike many of their countrymen, US academics are highly satisfied with life in Australia and almost 60 per cent intended to become Australian citizens. But US university teachers do very well here and enjoy a relatively high rate of promotion. Although only one has become a vice chancellor, about a third hold posts above senior lecturer level compared with the 17.5 per cent for Australian academics overall.

"One is not surprised that this group of Americans with high status, tenured positions, and living in some of the world's most appealing environments, should be especially satisfied with life in Australia," Mosler writes. "They come to Australia with the clear desires for employment (92 per cent) and adventure (60 per cent) and they appear to achieve their objectives."

The academics' behaviour reflects a wider trend. Australia's traditional links with United Kingdom higher education and training are shifting to North America. Australians and Americans cross the Pacific for undergraduate, postgraduate and postdoctoral studies and hundreds of academics from both nations now work in the other's libraries and universities.

Despite allegations about the poor academic standing of Americans, Dr Mosler discovered that his colleagues are mostly recruited from Ivy League US institutions and that they earned their PhDs from equally prestigious universities.

In Dr Mosler's sample, 85 per cent received their highest degree from medium to high status institutions and 82 per cent had previously taught in these universities in America or elsewhere such as Oxford, Cambridge and London.

As is probably true of other groups in Australia, American women immigrants appear to be less contented and less successful than their male counterparts. Mosler found that women experienced higher levels of discrimination and greater problems of adjustment than men.

These include Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia and other private institutions of similar stature like MIT, Stanford and Chicago.

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