Australia's Apparent Heritage
Although a large amount of convicts did arrive in the beginning of British colonization, much to the dismay of some Australians, who like to brag about their supposed convict heritage, most of us are not descended from freed convicts. In fact, the states Victoria and South Australia weren't even penal colonies. Apparently, being descended from Scottish or Welsh farmers isn't as exciting as being descended from bread-thieving East-Londoners - who, admittedly, have had a large influence on our accents, eh mate?
With currrently 24% of Australians being born overseas, the number of possible convict descendents rapidly decreases. The majority of Australians are indeed descended from struggling immigrants as this article discusses:
While the perception of rural Australia is that it is largely anglicised, in reality it is home to many nationalities, such as the Germans in South Australia's Barossa Valley, the Italians of Griffith, the Sikh community in Woolgoolga, NSW, Finnish and Yugoslav miners in Mount Isa, and the Hmong, from Laos, growing pineapples and tropical fruit in northern Queensland.
James Jupp, director of the Immigration and Multicultural Studies Centre at the Australian National University, says early migration came from the British Isles, with some exceptions such as the Germans who went to South Australia and Queensland.
The legacy of Scottish migration is evident in rural Australia. A scan of farmer politicians reveals names such as Malcolm Fraser, Ian McLachlan, Ian McFarlane, Ian Sinclair and Donald McGauchie.
Jupp says Scottish migrants started coming in the 1820s.
"They didn't want to divide the property up so the younger sons were told to go to Canada or Australia. They were not necessarily poor by any means."
Most Irish settlers came from rural areas. Many took up small farms in southeastern NSW but the depression of the 1890s forced a large number off the land and into the cities.
I had an inkling of our mixed heritage as a child when a neighbouring central QLD country town celebrated an Oktoberfest, followed by an Irish festival the next year.
Throughout our history, we have had a continuous flux of immigration. A vast wave of non-convict immigrants arrived during the Australian Gold Rush period of the 1850's - the transportation of convicts to Australia was phased out between 1840 and 1868 with WA being the last colony. The next major immigration wave was after WWII and since then our population has grown more than doubled in size and it continues to do so through immigration.
Being descended from hard-working immigrants may explain why the Poms and the Irish* strike us as so lazy.
*I've been told the Irish are hard-working but my mate and I saw nothing concrete to confirm this.