Letter 50: Get to Know Your Overqualified Uber or Ola Driver

Sheba Nandkeolyar, the national chairwoman of the Australia India business council and the founder of a multicultural marketing company in Sydney, said the Indian diaspora has been growing in leaps and bounds all over Australia, with a wide range of workplace experiences.

“There’s one segment of the Indian diaspora who are migrating and coming in to good jobs — those are in IT, finance, or science and STEM roles,” she said. “But there is also a group which is finding it hard to break through, especially in more general professions.”

A 2016 study from Juliet Pietsch, a professor of politics and international relations at Australian National University, found that many Asian immigrants struggle to gain professional work and pay in Australia. Even those who are highly qualified and English-fluent permanent residents or Australian citizens tend to earn less than immigrants from Europe.

Letter 50: Get to Know Your Overqualified Uber or Ola Driver
Letter 50: Get to Know Your Overqualified Uber or Ola Driver

Many of India’s high-achieving immigrants simply give up and start businesses of their own, said Ms. Nandkeolyar. Others join the sharing economy.

The Uber driver we met in Melbourne didn’t seem to mind his fate. He said his children were both receiving university degrees in engineering and he figured they’d face fewer barriers.

But will they?

“My own research on this issue has shown evidence of structural discrimination in the work force,” Professor Pietsch told me.

Skin color, accent, even just a name hinting at a nonwhite background can be an obstacle to professional advancement and political inclusion — that’s according to a growing body of research about race and immigration in Australia, Canada and the United States.

But what I’d like to know is: How is this experience lived out day to day?

Australia often holds itself up as a model of multiculturalism and skilled immigration, but tensions are growing. The country is once again in the middle of a major debate about immigration and population growth.

I’m interested in getting beyond the politics, into people’s lives — to find out more about the hurdles, challenges and successes that come with Australia’s ambitious effort to forge a more diverse and international nation.

Where is integration working, where is it failing? What do you see in your daily life that you think helps or hurts the creation of a “new Australia”?

We’ll be exploring this issue in a variety of ways, but we’re always eager for more input. So if you’ve had an experience related to this issue, or have a tip for a story about inclusion or exclusion in multicultural Australian life, email

Oh, and one more thing: If you’re looking for more about Nippers, after my newsletter last week, here’s our roundup of reader contributions in this week’s Australia Diary.

Thank you for all the Nippers support!

Now for the week’s stories, and a recommendation that might make you hungry.

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In his first statements since it was revealed that a political data firm obtained the data of 50 million Facebook users, Mark Zuckerberg said that if the site can’t protect information, “then we don’t deserve to serve you.”

A whole lot of people have come to that exact same conclusion — they are leaving Facebook in droves. But it may not be as easy as it looks.

And if you’re late to this whole Facebook mess, here’s the story that got it started.


David Bowie’s Clothes. In Your Living Room.


It’s a little weird the way that augmented reality places 3D objects right in front of you. But I did it anyway.

Here’s how you can do it too (with your phone).


Australia Picks


Credit David Maurice Smith for The New York Times

For Fun

Where Do Birds Flock Together? Australians Are Mailing In Feathers to Help Find Out: Kate Brandis has enlisted the public to help her track elusive waterfowl as wetlands disappear.

Introducing a Major New Voice in Comedy (Who Also Attacks Comedy): The Australian stand-up Hannah Gadsby examines a culture that excuses abuse and takes on comedy’s pieties.

Mesmerizing Thai Boat Noodles in a Melbourne Parking Garage: Soi 38 is a colorful nook of a restaurant churning out classic Thai street food.

The Nippers Way of Life: Young and old share their junior lifesaving experiences, from early morning swims to deepwater board races — and for one nipper, a bit of misery.

Australia and the World

China Refuses Entry to Australian Critic of Communist Party: The brief detention of a Chinese-born Australian signals that China is paying close attention to the intensifying debate about its influence in Australian politics.

Cambodia’s Ruler Dared Australians to Burn His Effigy, So They Did: Protesters say the visit by the strongman Hun Sen ignores his attacks on free speech and his attempts to influence diaspora communities.

Minneapolis Officer Charged With Murder in Australian Woman’s Death: The shooting in July of Justine Damond by Officer Mohamed Noor renewed questions about police conduct.


Daphne the Missing Duck May Be Finding Her Way Home: A beloved member of a swimming club who disappeared off the Western Australia coast has been found at sea.

James Packer, Australian Billionaire, Resigns From Casino Company: Mr. Packer, one of Australia’s richest men, recently found himself embroiled in a corruption scandal involving Israel’s prime minister.

Devastating Australia Bush Fire Destroys Scores of Homes: Hundreds of residents were evacuated as fires in southern New South Wales spread to a town of 1,600 people.

Australian Official Calls for Emergency Visas for White South African Farmers: South Africa responded angrily to comments by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, who said white South African farmers deserved protection in a “civilized country.”


Opinion | Selections


Credit Nathaniel Russell

What the West Doesn’t Get About Xi Jinping Kevin Rudd asks: Why would China commit to a liberal world order that doesn’t reflect its own political values?

Can Australia Regulate Intra-Office Sex? Waleed Aly explores whether a sexual relationship between a minister and a staff member should become a firing offense.

Bigger Is Not Better for Ocean Conservation: Luiz A. Rocha explains how to protect the world’s oceans.


… And We Recommend

We’ve been watching “Ugly Delicious” on Netflix lately, which is chef David Chang’s new show exploring foods that are often taken for granted, from pizza to dumplings and tacos.

In addition to the fresh approach — which includes swearing and hokey graphics, making it the antithesis of “Chef’s Table,” another Netflix foodie hit — it’s a really interesting examination of Asian-American culture, and what parts of that culture are so rarely represented on television.

The show gets props from me for pushing the identity conversation further, and for allowing a little messiness into the culinary doc genre.

Damien Cave is the new Australia bureau chief for The New York Times. He’s covered more than a dozen countries for The Times, including Mexico, Cuba, Iraq and Lebanon. Follow him on Twitter: @damiencave.

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