Studying Goan migration… Down Under

In today’s globalised world, distance seems to
matter less than every before. Economic
opportunity, access for jobs or cultural openness
can make Sydney, Doha or Perth seem like a suburb
of Mapusa or Margao. A book one recently received
and called ‘Goenkars in Western Australia’ only
further underlines such possibilities.

This book “recounts the voices of Goan migrants in Western
Australia and retraces their experiences as they came to this
land in pursuit of their aspirations and hopes of building
new lives.” A back-cover blurb also tells us, “the Goans are
often described as an exemplar minority migrant community in
multicultural Australia.”

So that makes you curious: why examplar? And how do they make
their impact felt? Goans in Australia, we’re told, have
multiple attachments to both Australia and Goa. They are
seen as a “multicultural success story”. Besides, they show
“high levels of integration and (a) successful impact on
Australian professional life.” And, who doesn’t want to hear
also that “they have successfully contributed to the creation
of multicultural Australia in multiple ways”?

This book flows out of a collaborative project
between the Goan Overseas Association (WA) Inc.
and Dr Jaya Earnest at Curtin University (email
contacts below), courtesy whom I managed to get a
copy. Its subtitle is “Voices and Images of a
Vibrant Goan Community”. Incidentally, the Goan
Overseas Association (WA) Inc is a 400-member
strong not-for-profit community.

This large-sized book throws up some interesting facts. For

* Only in 1966 did the Liberal-Country Party Government begin
dismantling the White Australia policy, and this meant
allowing “distinguished” non-Europeans in. Until the late
1960s, the contentious principle of “assimilation” was the
basis of admitting migrants.

* Goans began to migrate out of Africa in the late 1960s,
when British colonialism ended and the practice of
“Africanisation” became widespread in former British
colonies or protectorates. They began to look for a new
beginning, and Australia was among the countries sought for

* Opportunities for Goan migrants in the Middle East began to
decline during the mid-1990s, as local citizens acquired
new skills too. The Kuwait-Iraq crisis was a significant
event. Goans who migrated to Western Australia from the
Middle East arrived as recently as the late 1980s and
1990s. Their primary reason for migration (besides the
Iraq-Kuwait conflict) was a better future for their
children, and a lack of avenues for permanent settlement in
the Middle East.

* Australia is a preferred country for migration because
Goans feel it offers a way of life and culture more suited
to their upbringing and interests. Most Catholic Goans in
India receive an English education. The temperate climate
and proximity of Perth to India were other attractions.

In its various chapters, this book pieces the mosaic of Goan
migration Down Under. For instance, Goans made first contact
with the shores of Australia in the middle of the 19th
century, when they landed as crew members of sailing ships
from “British India” and called into ports such as Albany,
Fremantle and Bunbury in Western Australia.

We’re told: “Sailing on towards the seaports of Adelaide and
Sydney alongside Afghans, camels and other goods, Goans
helped open up the rugged and unexplored interior of the
continent. However, it was not until the late 1950s and
early 1960s that the first significant wave of Goan migration

Goans came from Uganda, Malawi and later Kenya and
Tanzania. By the mid-1970s, many more Goans got
visas through the newly-introduced points system.
Goans were able to qualify for immigration on
grounds of family reunion, professional skills or
the business criteria.

Apart from East Africa, Goan migrants also came from
Southeast Asia, the Middle East, India and the UK. In the
early 1970s, couples and families began to reach out to each
other. They did so via New Year’s Eve parties, burning the
old man, St Francis Xavier Feasts, and celebrations over the
Immaculate Conception and Mae de Deus feasts.

Apart from the brief historical overview, there are many
images, names and details about the experiences of Goans in
migration. Art-logos of the GOA over the years, youth
activities, and even the story of the live radio programme
“Goans on Air” (95.3 FM 6EBA World Radio, in 2006) are
detailed in the book. This, we are told, was the first and
only live Goan radio show hosted by the Goan community in
Australia. The book suggests it is still available from 7 to
8 am on EBA 95.3FM World Radio on each Friday morning.

There are discussions over the future of the
diasporic initiative GOA. “Beyond socialising, can
we do more?” asks one section of the book. A
crucial concern indeed. Issues of social justice,
creating space for families, and the elderly, are

Another section of the book focuses on “Goan Voices” and
covers narratives of Goans in Western Australia. Talking to
Goan expats Down Under, the book asks many why they shifted
to Australia.

Some complain about Africanisation, others about the
uncertainties of Gulf employment. There are issues about
having to learn Marathi and Hindi while speaking English at
home. A lady identified as Ruth is quoted saying: “My
husband knew about eight foreign languages, but he didn’t
know Hindi. His educational background was Portuguese and
French, so he found that getting jobs was very difficult, and
we decided to migrate here as teachers. He knew Italian and
French, and he immigrated as an Italian and French teacher.”

Also looked at is the first impressions of new migrants into
Australia, and how they managed to cope. Some found the
skies a deeper hue of blue, the cities “so clean after coming
from Bombay” and yet were shocked that everything closed at 5
pm. Employment and racism are other issues touched on here,
as is the lack of recognition for qualifications and previous
experience gained by the migrants prior to arriving in

Acculturation, integration, settling-in,
contribution to the wider community, and a pride in
their Goan identity and values — all these themes
get touched upon. There is a section for youth
voices too, and another of photographs at the end.
One section is devoted to giving a history of Goa,
migration, celebration, song and food.

Tiny Goa has a big stake in migration. Yet, till now, it has
mostly been treated as a necessary evil at best, not as the
opportunity it could be strategically converted into. Or, it
is seen as something which should be conveniently ignored.
Yet, for many Goans, migration remains an important issue.

In the fallout of the recent election result, the NRI
Commission has been rendered headless. In the past too, it
did not always have at its helm individuals who have empathy
towards the many migrants and their valid concerns. One can
only wait and watch to see if Goa’s attitude towards her
not-so prodigal sons and daughters changes for the better.

Goenkars in Western Australia
Voices and Images of a Vibrant Goan Community
Jaya Earnest
GOA (WA) Inc-Black Swan Press, Perth
97809 80631333 (pb) Pp 258

First published in Gomantak Times, April 9, 2012.

1. That the only state in India having two official state languages is Goa with Konkani and Marathi.

2. That Goa is the smallest state of India having a national highway road span of only 120 km N to S and around 80 kms E to W.

3. That Goas’ official language, Konkani, is the only Indian language that is written in two scripts, Devnagri and Roman English script.

4. That Goa is the only state where the state road transport is named after an old age dynasty called Kadamba.

5. That Goa is the second state after Orissa where the world famous Olive Ridley Turtles come to lay their eggs on Morjim beach.

6. That Goa is the state having the whole non-decompos-ing miraculous remains of St Francis Xavier at old Goa.

7. That Goa is the only Indian state with an active and enforced uniform Civil Code implemented by the Portuguese.

8. That if you are a Goan you can avail of Portuguese Nationality Passport.

9. That the first printing press of Asia was installed in Goa at St Pauls’ college in 1556.

10. That the first medical school of India was established in Goa set up in 1842 at Panaji, demolished in 2004.

11. That Goa is exporting 60% of Indias’ Mineral Ore to Japan.

12. That Goa is the first state in India to permanently host the international film festival.

13. That Goa is the only place where one can hire a two wheeler taxi called “pilots.”

14. That Goas’ only airport is military airport of the Navy.

15. That the one and only one Naval Aviation Museum of Asia is located at Vasco in Goa.

16. That India has only two temples dedicated to the Brahma of the Hindu Trinity. One is in Rajasthan and other in Goa; 17.7 km from Valpoi in the village of Carambolim Brahma Temple.

17. That Mumbai owes its daily bread to Goa more precisely, to migrant bakers from Saligao and Siolim who brought with them the blessed Pao to Mumbai.

18. That Goa, even though the smallest state in India, has the highest bank saving deposit.

19. That Asias’ only floating casino is launched in Goas’ coastal waters at Panaji harbour known as “Caravela.”

20. That Indias’ largest laterite stone carving of St. Mirabai is at ancestral Goa at Loutolim village.

21. That Goa is the only state of India having the highest forest destiny cover of 33% of total land mass.

22. That the first English medium high school in Goa was established in 1896 at St. Josephs’ High School, Arpora.

23. Goa is the first state in India werein one can register car, bike or other vehicle on line from the dealers directly which started in June ’06 and one need not go to R.T.O. for registration.


Dear Mr. Colaco,

I am writing to request the assistance of the Goan Overseas Association of NSW Inc in a research project called ‘Multiculturalism and Temporary Migration’, which is being conducted in the Department of Sociology at the University of Sydney. My name is Elsa Koleth and I am a PhD candidate in the Department, under the supervision of Professor Stephen Castles (Research Chair in Sociology). This study is being undertaken for the purpose of completing my PhD dissertation, with a view to disseminating the results of the study more broadly in conferences, journal articles and other publications.

The project investigates the way in which temporary migration challenges and extends existing visions of multiculturalism in Australia. The central case study of the project concerns people who have migrated to Australia from India, as India has become one of the main source countries for both permanent and temporary immigration to Australia. It examines the experiences of migrants from India who are in Australia on a long-term temporary basis, those who arrived in Australia on temporary visas and transitioned to permanent status in the last ten years, and more established migrants from India who have lived in Australia for longer than fifteen years.

It is hoped that the findings from the case study will contribute to a better understanding of the issues facing people who migrate on a temporary basis, as well as implications for Australian society in responding to the changing nature of migration (particularly the increase in temporary migration) and diversity in cities and local communities. In the process, it is also hoped the study will shed more light on the experiences of the growing population of Indian migrants in Australia.

I am seeking to recruit participants of Indian background who are living in Sydney and who meet one of the following criteria to be interviewed for the project:
– Individuals who migrated to Australia from India on a student visa and currently have temporary migration status in Australia
– Individuals who migrated to Australia from India on a Temporary (long stay) Business Visa (Subclass 457), or are dependents of a person who migrated on a 457 visa, and currently have temporary migration status in Australia
– Individuals who first migrated to Australia on a temporary visa (whether student or working visa) between 2000 and 2012 and have now acquired permanent residence in Australia
– Individuals who migrated to Australia from India prior to 1995 and are long-term settlers in Australia.

At this stage of the project I am writing to enquire whether your organisation would be willing to assist in communicating with eligible people to participate in the study. The assistance requested is the circulation of a notice that invites participation in the study amongst the organisation’s networks. The notice could be circulated, as appropriate, in the form of an email, and/or flyer notice in relevant publications circulated by the organisation (e.g. newsletter or bulletin), and/or at events held by the organisation (hardcopies of the flyer notice can be supplied for this purpose if required).

Your organisation’s assistance in communicating with potential participants for this study would be most valuable. I would be grateful if you could inform me whether this would be possible. If so, I can forward you a copy of an email and flyer notice to be circulated amongst your networks in the relevant forms.

I would be happy to discuss these matters further with you at your convenience. Please feel free to contact me at or on 0438 809 662.

Yours sincerely,

Elsa Koleth

Elsa Koleth | PhD Candidate
School of Social and Political Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
RC Mills Building, A26 | The University of Sydney | NSW | 2006
T +61 438 809 662 | E

From: ” NRI office Goa”
Date: 3 May 2012 4:46:03 PM AEST
To: , , Cc:
Subject: Directory on Goan Diaspora
Dear Sir / Madam,

I am pleased to inform you that the Govt. of Goa, Department of NRI Affairs has
decided to bring out a Directory on Goan Diaspora. The idea is to include therein
the particulars of eminent Goans such as Doctors, Scientists, Architects,
Educationists, Information Technologists, etc. who have distinguished themselves
in the field of their speciality.

I am quiet sure that some of the eminent Goans settled in Sydney and New South
Wales in Australia are Members of your Association, and if not, are atleast known
to you or your colleagues.

On behalf of the Department of NRI Affairs, I would like to request you to kindly
furnish the particulars of such eminent Goans even though they may have taken up
Citizenship of foreign countries, to enable us to include them in the Directory on
Goan Diaspora.

Awaiting positive response from your end by 15th May 2012 and thanking you in

With Regards

(U.D. Kamat)

The Government of India, Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA), is organizing their 20th edition of Know India Program (KIP) from April 25 to May 15, 2012, in which a group of 40 Indian Diaspora Youth aged 18-26 years would be participating and travelling across the country.
These youngsters — from countries as diverse as Australia, South Africa, Israel, Canada and Zimbabwe, among others — have distinguished themselves in different fields, and have been selected by the Indian Missions in respective countries. This initiative allows these Diaspora youth to be exposed to the transformations that are taking place in India and be briefed about the country’s progress as an emerging powerhouse in the global economic system.
As part of the program these youth will also be exposed to the grassroots’ governance and cultural heritage which is a significant part of their ancestry. The Government of India, (MOIA), has thus selected Goa Chitra, the ethnographic Museum situated in Benaulim as the ideal place for the Diaspora youth to know the rich Goan indigenous culture and heritage.
The youth shall be taken on a personal tour of the Goa Chitra Museum by the curator of the museum Mr. Victor Hugo Gomes. At the end of this tour the youth shall interact with some of Goa’s top notch intellects who shall share their insights on the emerging trends in the current fields of arts, culture and heritage with a panel discussion titled EMERGING TRENDS: A forum on the emerging trends of contemporary India.

The program will be held on the 9th May 2012 between 3.30 to 5.30 pm at Goa Chitra Amphi-theater.

The speakers at the function shall include famous journalist and writer Aniruddha Sen Gupta who will speak on ‘The Written Word: Booked Solid’, essentially looking at how writing and publishing has begun to flourish in India, IITian and entrepreneur, Desmond Nazareth will speak on ‘From High Tech to High Spirits, following the High Road’, a short talk about his journey as a small Indian challenger taking on a global industry and director of Green Essentials an Organic Store, Karan Manral will speak on “Organic Farming”, a talk on the future of Agriculture in India.

Mr. Avertano Furtado, Hon. Minister for Fisheries and Labour, Mr. Nilesh Cabral, Chairman GTDC and Mr. Benjamin Silva, Chairman KVIB have kindly consented to grace the occasion’.

This is the first time that MOIA is organizing a visit of Indian Diaspora Youth to Goa under KIP. In the past, Goa Chitra has been host to visiting younger Goans from various countries under ‘Know Goa Program’.

The Panel:
Desmond Nazareth has multiple interests and a variety of formal training, with degrees in pure sciences & engineering (IIT Madras, India); multimedia & computer sciences (USA). He has lived and worked in India (37+ years) and the USA (18 years). he has traveled to many parts of the world on work and pleasure. He maintains a global outlook that is “inclusive”, taking into account the underprivileged and the environment.

Aniruddha Sen Gupta: After 20 years of working in the fields of journalism, communications and graphic design, Aniruddha Sen Gupta has returned to his first love — writing — since he moved to Goa in 2006. So far, he has authored a couple of books in a children’s adventure series, a graphic guidebook on environmental matters, and a sprinkling of short stories in various anthologies. He is currently working on a chronicle of his travels by road around India with his wife Anjali and their dogs — six of them as of now. Interspersed with all this, he enjoys setting, conducting and participating in quizzes and is a founder-member of Goa’s Sunday Evening Quiz Club.

Karan Manral: Is a technology marketing consultant, who is now in the third year of a five year plan to move into organic farming in Goa. Along with his wife Yogita Mehra he runs a Garden-cum-Eco store near the capital city of Panjim (in Taleigao) and has just completed the first phase of an experiment in commercial growing of organic vegetables. Karan has also been the Editor of CHIP and Digit which are India’s leading computing and technology magazines. He continues to write on topics related to technology even today.