Turkish Community Profile and its implication for Service Delivery

 

 ATA History

 

Historical Background

First Turkish immigration to Australia was recorded back in the 19th century, but in 1901 the community members in Australia counted only 40. The first significant migration waves of the Turkish people goes back to 1967 following a bilateral agreement between the Turkish and Australian governments, made to facilitate the provision of assisted migration to Australia for Turks. The 1967 agreement coincided with increasing Turkish interest in employment opportunities outside Turkey, especially in Europe. Turkish migrants were the first major Muslim religious group to arrive in Australia in the years after World War II. Most Turkish migrants were not in fact Turkish-born but rather Turkish Cypriots. The Turkey-born community in Victoria increased from 970 in 1966 to 5,383 in 1971.

The annual intake of assisted settlers from Turkey remained consistently high until 1974, when family reunion became the main reason for immigration. The Turkish migration to Australia was growing rapidly until the sharp decline in the early 1980s, when fewer opportunities were presented to Turkish families for assisted migration following the economic recession. The growth resumed in the second half of 1980’s due to high inflation and unemployment in Turkey. Settler arrivals have declined since then, with a slight increase in the mid-1990s. During this period migrants from Turkey have been admitted mainly through the Family Migration program, with a small number with educational or professional qualifications through the General Skilled Migration. In 2001 the Turkey-born population of Victoria was over 15,000-around half of entire Turkey-born population. Over 80 per cent of those living in Victoria were Muslim, while 9 per cent were Christian. Turkish was spoken at home by 85 per cent of the community.

 

 

Present Day

The Turkish community in Australia today is reasonably well-established. It is largely made up of families who have been settled in Australia for longer than a decade and whose children have grown up in Australia. The population now is approximately 60,000 and the numbers are increasing rapidly.

 

Geographical Distribution

The latest Census in 2006 recorded 30 490 Turkey-born people in Australia, an increase of 2.3 per cent from the 2001 Census. The 2006 distribution by state and territory showed Victoria had the largest number with 15 290 followed by New South Wales (12 470), Queensland (1120) and Western Australia (760). The majority of Turkish Australians nowadays are of school age as being either Australian-born, or as having arrived in Australia as young children, who had the bulk of their schooling completed in Australia.

Turkish-born people in Australia by State

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Demographics

In 2006 the media age of the Turkey-born in 2006 was 42.4 years compared to 37.1 years for the total Australian population. 3.9 per cent were aged 0-14, 6.6 per cent were aged 15-24 years, 47.6 per cent were 25-44 years, 32.4 per cent were 45-64 years and 9.5 per cent were 65 plus. There were 15, 670 males compromising 51.4 per cent of the Turkish-born population and 14,830 were females compromising 48.6 per cent of the population.

The sizeable Turkish populations in Victoria and New South Wales have resulted in the development of community infra-structure and services relevant to the needs and wants of the Turkish community. In addition, provision is made by the Victorian and New South Wales departments of education for Turkish language support for school students, through Saturday community language classes and by more extensive bilingual support programs within schools. Such initiatives work to facilitate greater language proficiency in both English and the mother language.

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Barriers and Service Gaps

The barriers and service gaps listed provide a general outlook on the Turkish speaking community in Australia, however, the focus is on the aging Turkish speaking population in Victoria due to the increased barriers and difficulties they currently face and are likely to continue experiencing in the future.

 

Language and Literacy

English language proficiency and low literacy levels present a major challenge for the Turkish community that are limited and disadvantaged as a result. This is specially a problem that characterises the aging Turkish speaking population who arrived to Australia in high numbers during the 1960s. In this regard women experience greater disadvantage since traditionally they were discouraged from perusing education and professional opportunities. This situation, however, has changed dramatically in the last few decades with Turkish speaking migrant families seeing the great value of education for both genders and the importance of working hard to gain successful careers and secure a good place in the Australian society. In the multicultural context this seems to empower the socially and culturally marginalised, counteracting the effects of a disadvantaged background. For the elderly, nevertheless, the lack of language knowledge prevents them from being active in the local community and accessing the much required services and sources of assistance and support.

In addition, lack of language skills impairs their communication and confidence levels may often lead to increased isolation, depression, anxiety and deterioration of general health and mental well-being. Lack of language and limited literacy levels also contribute to lack of awareness and knowledge of available services, including where to go for help and how to get there while having to navigate through a complex and rigid system.  Elderly with low literacy levels are also find it difficult to relate to written information even in their own community language.

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Cultural Beliefs

Traditionally, Turkish people feel embarrassed about asking for help from sources outside their immediate circles of family and friends and having to use a service can cause shaming and anxiety. In general, there is lack of trust towards service providers and non-Turkish sources of support. Additionally, accessing a service may be difficult due to religious practices or beliefs due to factors such as dealing with people from the opposite sex and lack of awareness from the services side of the importance of religion and major role in plays in people’s lives.

 

 

Isolation

In general, the Turkish speaking families often feel isolated due to the loss of community identity and close connections and community networks that were central to their living in their home country. Many of the elderly and frail citizens experience isolation due to physical and linguistic constrains (e.g. disabilities and chronic illnesses) as well as financial hardships (often due to supporting their children and other family members late in life), restricted mobility and lack of awareness of available sources of support.

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Attitude towards accessing Aged Care Services

Traditionally the family undertakes primary responsibility in caring for the elderly. Families often consider it a moral obligation to care for their loves ones at home and often reluctant to place them in a residential care facility. With the younger generation there is no clear preference in terms of care, however it is expected that when it comes to personal care female child is preferred to provide care. This is also applies to external services as personal care needs to be provided by a person of the same sex.

 

 

Attitude towards community care

Nowadays resistance to external assistance is diminishing and the Turkish community is becoming more favourable of home care services. There is a preference for carers to speak Turkish but this is not a prerequisite. People are more likely to ask for help and receive assistance even if it is provided by non Turkish speaking person. It is important, however, to try to match the gender of the worker to the gender of the client.

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Attitude towards counseling

Counselling is often still seen as a taboo or inappropriate and there are fears around privacy when talking to counsellors about personal issues. Most people prefer face-to-face counselling with Turkish speaking worker and would feel uncomfortable using an interpreter in this case. In most cases Turkish speaking elderly community members would be inclined to use the telephone to access a service, particularly upon discussing private matters.

 

 

Women’s Issues

Often women of Turkish background find themselves in a disadvantaged position in comparison to their male peers. Women are still considered as the main, and sometimes the sole, care provider in their families.  This comes as an addition to their household responsibilities which are still viewed traditionally as ‘women’s area’. Women in families with children that have disabilities or suffer from mental illnesses who are often single parents are especially in need of support as they often feel helpless, lonely and isolated.

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Youth Issues

Like most young people in Australia Turkish youth experience a large number of challenges while undergoing through the transition period from adolescence to adulthood. In addition to the common issues faced by youth Turkish young people experience additional obstacles and concerns associated with their settlement process, family hardships, economic difficulties, language and literacy difficulties and the search for belonging and acceptance. Young people from Turkish background grow in society that encourages them to preserve their culture, language and heritage while fitting in with the mainstream society and their peers. This can be a challenge as they are two worlds that contradict each other but at the same time require a full synergy. Most of the Turkish families follow the Muslim religion and the relevant customs and practices and see Islam as the guiding light of their lives. It is a world where family and community are valued most while traditions, modesty, respect to the elders and their ways and self-discipline are encouraged. In contrast, the outside environment offers them to be the citizens of the world and promotes free thinking and creativity, leadership, exploration, flexibility and acceptance. It is not surprising that many of the Turkish youth and their parents experience inter-generational conflicts and problems with parenting and discipline. This however can often lead to family breakdowns and impede youth development and general well-being.

Studies conducted on Turkish youth highlighted the commitment of Turkish youth and their parents to higher education. While Turkish parents still preferred university as a way of avoiding unemployment, obtaining respect in their community and getting a ‘good job’ (high pay and high status), the main objective they had for their children was to ensure they did not end up labouring like they had. Turkish students said their parents wanted them to go to university. However, Turkish youth educational attainment was somehow limited despite their commitment levels. At times of high unemployment Turkish youth presented with higher levels of unemployment in comparison their Australian born peers partly due to limited post-secondary qualifications. In recent years an increasingly high level of tertiary participation among Turkish Australians both men and women could be detected. Turkish parents continue to place a high value on university education for their children, while acknowledging that their goals were probably unrealistic. 

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Historical Background

Present Day

Geographical Distribution

Demographics

Barriers and Service Gaps

 

Language and Literacy

 

Cultural Beliefs

 

Isolation

 

Aged Care Services

 

Community care

 

Counseling

 

Women's Issues

 

Youth Issues 

 
   

 

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