The proportion of Australians who were born overseas has reached its highest level in 120 years.
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29 Jan 2015 - 2:57 PM  UPDATED 2 Feb 2015 - 10:57 AM

 The Australian Bureau of Statistics says around 28 per cent of the nation's population, or or 6.6 million people, were born overseas.

It's a proportion not seen since the Gold Rush era of the late 1800s which transformed a former convict colony into a first choice destination for immigrants from around the world.

And the new figures have also highlighted a dramatic growth in Asian migration over the past decade, especially from India and China.

Between the 2013-2014 financial years, the populations of Australians who were born in Bhutan, Japan and Taiwan each grew more than 18 per cent.

That is more than India, China and Australia's largest population of immigrants: people born in the United Kingdom, yesterday's data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show.

The next largest groups of residents who were born in other countries are from New Zealand and China.

 

More than 1.2 million Australian residents were born in the United Kingdom at June 30 last year, the ABS said.

That is roughly 18 per cent of all residents from overseas, although the ABS figures were rounded.

Australia-Britain Society Victoria Branch president Andrew Hilton said Australia was seen as an independent nation with a stable economy, and many British people had family ties to Australia.

"A lot of people in the United Kingdom have had family in Australia for a long time," Mr Hilton said.

Australia's weather was good, but not the reason so many people move to Australia from the United Kingdom, Mr Hilton said.

The notion of Australia as a penal colony without an identity of its own was not common in the UK, he said. "Generally speaking, people in the UK see the positives for getting ahead better in Australia."

Although UK countries like England and Scotland are some of the largest countries of birth for Australians, Asian countries are rapidly catching up.

Between 2005 and 2014, the population of people born in India has grown by 167 per cent, to a total of 397,200 last year.

China is another big mover - and one of Australia's biggest populations. Since 2004, the number of Australian residents who were born in China has more than doubled, to a total of 447,400 in 2014.

Multicultural Communities Council of NSW chair Doctor Anthony Pun OAM said Australia was an attractive place for Chinese people because of a different way of life.

"I think it's the attraction of a different way of living and different political systems. I think the weather plays a big role in this too because the Australian weather is very, very nice. The air is clean and I think from the point of view of the environment that we're living in, we're much better off than in China".