Go see Australia yourself

I WAS surprised and disappointed to read of Zenoyise Madikwa's experience in Australia.

I WAS surprised and disappointed to read of Zenoyise Madikwa's experience in Australia.

This is because many thousands of South Africans of all races and thousands of Africans from Africa visit, study and do business in Australia each year.

According to South African Tourism, from January to November 2009, almost 50000 South Africans visited Australia. About 9 000 students from Africa study in Australia each year.

As Australia's High Commissioner to South Africa, I write this letter to provide a balancing view about modern Australia.

Australians are a unique and culturally diverse mix of people.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have inhabited the country for around 60000 years. The rest of Australia's people are migrants or descendants of migrants, who have arrived during the past two centuries from about 200 countries. Today, almost one in four of Australia's population of more than 22 million was born overseas.

Giving everyone a fair go and respect regardless of their background or beliefs is a typical Australian response to our diversity.

Since 1945, more than 6,5million migrants from all around the world, including 675 000 refugees, have settled there, significantly broadening our social and cultural profile.

Africans are a significant and growing group in Australia's cultural mix. In fact, in recent years, Africa has increased in importance in the context of Australia's migration programmes.

Following the last census in 2006, there were almost 250000 people born in Africa resident in Australia, accounting for 5,6percent of the overseas-born population.

The largest groups from Africa include South Africa, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Mauritius, Kenya and Ethiopia. We are also proud to have welcomed through our humanitarian programme Africans from Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo, among others. Sudanese-born people are currently the fastest growing birthplace group, increasing by an average of 28percent a year.

Almost three quarters (72,6percent) of Africa-born resident population were from southern and East Africa, 22,9percent from North Africa and 4,5percent from central and west Africa regions. In fact, a significant percentage (25percent) of the African-born population live in Melbourne, the city Ms Madikwa visited.

As a proud Australian, I did not recognise the picture painted by Ms Madikwa and I would encourage all South Africans to visit Australia to reach their own accurate conclusions about our beautiful country.

Ann Harrap, Australian High Commissioner to South Africa, Arcadia, Pretoria