|This paper examines the process of development of the Bosnian Muslim community in Western Australia, in its everyday practical, as well as its underlying political aspect. The practical aspect pertains to the relevance of ethnic community and extended family in the everyday lives of refugees as they try to re-establish themselves following displacement. The political aspect pertains to the process of nation-building and the emergence of a new Bosnian (sometimes called 'Bosnjak') nation that virtually excludes non-Muslims (cf. Eastmond 1998). This process of nation-building was triggered by the war in Bosnia, and the building of Bosnia diasporic communities in Australia reflects political processes in post-war Bosnia. The nation-building is intertwined with changes in understanding Muslim ethnicity and identity as a consequence of the war, the formation of the new state of Bosnia and Herzegovina and forced migration of a large section of the population. In this context nation building is an 'abstract' process of consciousness building and formation of an 'imagined community' triggered by political circumstances, while community building is essentially a 'practical' process of developing culturally determined coping strategies in the process of resettlement following refugees' arrival in an alien environment.|
In this paper the processes of nation and community building in Bosnian Muslim refugees in Western Australia are analysed with regard to relevant social contexts: the political context of the refugees' home country as well as the context that Australia provides for its recent humanitarian migration. The theoretical framework of the following analysis is ethnic and migration research, and particularly its section that pertains to various aspects of migrants' settlement. The argument presented in this paper is based on the review of available research as well as on data collected by a bilingual researcher in Perth, Western Australia, in the period 1996-2001. In the early stages the data were gleaned from participant observation and non-structured meetings with Bosnian refugees and resettlement professionals; in the later stages data were collected in a formal way, mainly through in-depth semi-structured interviews with Bosnian refugees, their community leaders and activists, and professionals involved in the refugee resettlement programs. The research is designed as a qualitative study with a quantitative component. The latter is currently in progress and is based on a survey of Bosnian refugees in the Perth metropolitan area. This paper analyses part of the qualitative data gleaned from interviews and participant observation of the largest section of the Bosnian Muslim community in Perth that gathers around Bosnian Cultural and Recreational Centre. The building of the community of Bosnian Muslims in Perth is presented as a case study in the last section of this paper.
|Historical background of the recent Bosnian migration to Australia|
During the 1990s people from the Former-Yugoslavia accounted for the largest single component of the Australian humanitarian immigration program (The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia 1996). Among them, people from Bosnia and Herzegovina (referred to as 'Bosnia' in further text), one of the the Former-Yugoslav federal republics, were the most numerous.
This refugee wave was a consequence of the 'war for Yugoslav succession' (1991-96), which broke out after the three western republics -- Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia -- announced their secession from Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1991. While the westernmost Slovenia only had a week long war before the federal Yugoslav army withdrew from its territory, Croatia and Bosnia, with their substantial Serbian minorities, had to endure four years of war with significant casualties and destruction. Serbian minorities in these republics opposed the dissolution of Yugoslavia and were supported by the Serb-dominated federal army and later also by Serbian paratroops. The warfare in Croatia involved parts of Croatian territory, while Bosnia, a geographically central federal unit of the Former-Yugoslavia, and ethnically the most mixed, was by far the worst affected by warfare. Hundreds of thousands of people fled the country during the 1990s.
A great majority of residents of Bosnia normally identify with one of the three largest ethnic groups who lived together in Bosnia in a 'tiger-skin' ethnic territorial pattern before the war: Croats (about 17 per cent of the total population), Bosnian Muslims (about 44 per cent) and Serbs (about 31 per cent). During the 1990s' war Muslims were the worst affected ethnic group. The main reason for this was that they, unlike Bosnian Croats and Serbs, did not have their ethnic 'mother country' within the Former-Yugoslavia; war-torn Bosnia was their only homeland.
April 1992 marked the end of the civil state in Bosnia and beginning of the civil war. A reluctant peace was re-established in 1996. About 2.2 million people -- about half of the pre-war Bosnian population -- were displaced during the war (Phuong 2000:165). Most of them were internally displaced due to the 'ethnic cleansing' and formation of ethnically based provinces with Bosnian Muslim, Croatian or Serbian majorities (Cohen 1993). Hundreds of thousands of persons from Bosnia are today scattered through West-European and overseas countries.
As a consequence of the war, recent Bosnian migration in Australia is exclusively humanitarian. The number of Bosnians who eventually resettled in Australia cannot be established by simply reading the immigration statistics; a conservative estimate is about 25 000. Most refugees who arrived in Australia were Bosnian Muslims. The Western world generally considered Bosnian Muslims to be the true victims of the war; unlike them, Bosnian Serbs and Croats could rely on neighbouring Serbia and Croatia for protection and were often seen as perpetrators as much as victims. Bosnians in ethnically mixed marriages were also prioritised in the Australian humanitarian immigration program during the 1990s. These people, because of the different ethnic origin of the spouses, had nowhere to go within the new mono-ethnical political and territorial organisation of Bosnia (The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia 1996).
|The three Bosnian ethnicities, their ethnic communities in Australia and the politics of identity and belonging|
People who fled the Bosnian war during the 1990s and eventually arrived in Australia found long-established Croatian and Serbian ethnic communities in major Australian cities (Jupp 2001). The Croatian community was older and larger, but the Serbian community was also substantial. The bulk of both communities arrived in Australia in the post-Second World War era, mostly as voluntary 'economic' migrants during the 1960s (cf. Jupp 2001). During the 1990s, a number of Bosnian refugees of Croatian or Serbian ethnic background chose to join their respective communities in Australia and to identify with their ethnic and religious affiliation rather than with Bosnia as their 'country of origin' (Colic-Peisker 2000). The war in Bosnia, where the three ethnic groups were fighting against each other, prompted such affiliation.
A considerable number of people in mixed marriages did not find highly politicised and nationalist Croatian and Serbian communities a comfortable environment and chose to stay away from organised ethnic communities and their clubs, churches and other ethnically based organisations. Instead, they formed their own private networks of like-minded people. Most people in ethnically mixed marriages were from Sarajevo and other urban centres -- mixed marriages were extremely rare in rural areas -- which meant that ethnic clubs, mostly nurturing traditional rural values and styles of socialising, were unlikely to meet their social needs. A minority of people in ethnically mixed families did opt for one of the two established ethnic communities as a locus of support and belonging, or joined the emerging Bosnian Muslim community (cf. Eastmond 1998). A small number of people in ethnically mixed marriages frequented 'Yugoslav' clubs that profess ethnic tolerance.
By the end of the 1990s Bosnian Muslims were present in their thousands in all Australian capital cities, but they did not find established communities to join because of the small earlier migration of Bosnian Muslims in Australia (Jupp 2001). These earlier migrants usually joined Yugoslav clubs that were 'ethnically neutral' and followed the official doctrine of 'brotherhood and unity' that was relentlessly promoted by Yugoslav communist authorities and their overseas diplomatic posts. In the 1990s, as a steady current of Bosnian Muslims was arriving in Australia, Yugoslav clubs became political dinosaurs, ideologically attached to the phantom country -- Federal Socialist Yugoslavia -- that ceased to exist in 1991, but still attracting membership of the people who for various reasons did not want to identify in ethnic terms. However, this is not where recent Bosnian Muslim arrivals seem to fit. The war and the creation of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a separate country, caused a rather fast separation of Bosnian Muslims from the pan-Yugoslav identity. This same process involved developing the image of Serbs as enemies and aggressors. Ethnically more exclusive and politically more radical sections of the Bosnian Muslim community also rejected Croats as possible ethnic and political allies. The process of building a separate political and national identity for Bosnian Muslims emphasised religion as an identity marker that differentiates them from Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs. A linguistic differentiation -- by deliberate use of Turkish and Arab words -- is another aspect of building a separate Bosnian Muslim identity (cf. Eastmond 1998). Islam as a religion assumed more importance than was the case previously, especially among generally more religious rural population. A small minority of women started wearing traditional Muslim headscarf or some other elements of traditional Muslim dress in order to emphasise their ethnic belonging. The process of strengthening the ethnic affiliation and its various symbols as a consequence of the 'ethnic war' was also noticeable in Croatian and Serbian communities during the 1990s.
When the intake of Bosnian Muslim refugees in Australia reached a critical mass in the mid-1990s, the creation of publicly visible Bosnian ethnic communities was imminent. Bosnian clubs, resource, information and welfare centres nowadays exist in Australian capital cities, mainly catering for and representing the Bosnian Muslim population, which in this way claims its political and cultural distinctiveness.
|The importance of ethnic community and extended family in the process of resettlement of refugees: a sign of a traditional, collectivist culture?|
Australian migration literature recognises that in the culture of many non-English-speaking-background (NESB) migrant groups the collective aspects of living are more salient than in the individualistic mainstream culture of Anglo-Australia (Storer 1985; Thomas 1999). Australian multicultural 'folklore' has developed images of Italian or Greek family connectedness; a tendency of some migrant groups, such as the Vietnamese or Chinese for example, to stick together and hold the communal aspect of living in high esteem is acknowledged. These popular notions are largely confirmed by research. Residential concentration of migrant communities in large Australian cities may be understood as evidence of such communitarian tendencies (cf. Thomas 1999; Colic-Peisker 2000a; Baldassar 2001).
There are at least two immediately identifiable reasons for such collectivist tendencies in Australian ethnic communities, especially in refugee communities. The first is a socio-psychological tendency of people to 'stick together' in a time of hardship. Migration to a different culture and outside one's native language is a situation of hardship for most people, at least temporarily. Leaving the homeland is more difficult for people with less social capital, such as language proficiency, education, urban skills and recognised formal skills. Collectivist tendencies are thus generally more pronounced in migrants from lower socio-economic backgrounds (Gans 1962; Colic-Peisker 1999). Refugees coming to Australia are less 'filtered' by Australian authorities than voluntary migrants in terms of their social capital (which in the case of migrants translates into their 'settlement potential', see Iredale at al. 1996), with the consequence that refugee communities are usually worse off than communities of voluntary migrants in terms of language proficiency, employment and other social indicators. In addition, refugees by definition come from urgent situations and are often unable to transfer their material and social capital to the new country. This makes the principles of community cooperation and mutual support even more important. This is clearly the case with Bosnian refugees, especially those from rural areas who as a rule spoke no English on arrival.
The second reason for collectivist tendencies is the fact that most NESB migrants come from less urbanised and less affluent societies. In these societies, the service sector is generally less developed, so a broad and supportive community that includes extended family, neighbourhood and friends is not only essential to a well-developed social life and sharing of leisure pursuits, but is also necessary for economic and social survival. In an environment where paid services are sparse, unreliable, too expensive, or any combination of these, people rely on help from their relatives, friends and neighbours. In pre-war Bosnia, closely-knit social networks were necessary for finding employment, renting a flat, or even being able to afford house renovations or baby-sitting. In the highly urbanised Australian environment where everything from pet care to lawn mowing can easily be outsourced, recent migrants retain the old cultural practices of exchanging services. This saves their scarce financial resources and strengthens their community at the same time.
From mainstream Australia's perspective, these traditional practices may be perceived as a residue of the traditional lifestyle ill-suited to the modern or 'postmodern' way of life. By-passing professional services does not support the mainstream economy; exchanging free services does not contribute taxes to the government budget which feeds improvements to the social standard of the wider community. Relying on informal, close-knit groups does not promote capitalist principles of competition, accumulation of profit, investment and economic growth. Apart from being 'economically dysfunctional' in this way, residentially concentrated ethnic communities which maintain their values and cultural practices and have a strong ethnic/national consciousness, are often seen as a threat to social cohesion and stability. This may be one of the reasons why -- even though we live in a 'multicultural era' -- the mainstream public generally feels uncomfortable about ethnic concentrations in the cities. Thus the high visibility of ethnic concentrations, rather than their actual socio-economic impact has worried governments of all persuasions. As Coleman and Robinson (2000:1223) reported about the resettlement of Bosnian refugees in Britain, the British Government attempted to influence the residential patterns of newly arrived Bosnian refugees, choosing to support a policy of dispersal rather than clustering. This was strongly opposed by NGOs that had practical experience with migrant resettlement and were well aware of the value of ethnic community networking and support in migrant settlement, especially in the case of people from non-English-speaking backgrounds.
Ethnic self-help has always been important in the settlement process, especially for NESB migrants. However, it was disregarded and even actively discouraged during the many decades of the official assimilation policies. Ethnic self-help was thought to be a strategy that goes against the grain of assimilation (Martin 1965; Jupp 1994). Until the 1970s, when political rhetoric changed in favour of 'integration' and multiculturalism, refugees and other NESB migrants were expected to assimilate as soon and as radically as possible into the English-speaking culture (Jupp 1998). The change in the official view on the role of ethnic communities in the process of settlement in the new country is noticeable in the 'Galbally Report' (Australian Institute of Multicultural Affairs 1982), which emphasises the value of ethnic self-help and ethnic community-based welfare and other services. Mainstream services, even those devised specifically to assist refugee resettlement, are sometimes not sensitive enough towards culturally diverse clients (Davis 1982). They are also more strictly regulated than ethnic-based or informal help, and thus are often perceived as rigid and fraught with bureaucratic obstacles (Waxman 1998). In addition, refugees may feel distrustful towards government agencies because of traumatic pre-migration experiences. This may be exacerbated by the language barrier and cross-cultural misunderstanding (Waxman 1998). For all these reasons, ethno-specific and community-based services, as well as informal support networks and exchanges of information, are crucial for orientation in the new environment. Residential dispersion of refugees may impede gaining awareness about available services (Waxman 1998). Printed information material may be inaccessible because of the language barrier. For example, my research in the Bosnian community shows that word of mouth and ethnic radio programs remain the main sources of information for recent arrivals. Therefore, residential concentration may be highly functional for recent arrivals. This pattern is clearly noticeable in the Bosnian communities in Perth, especially in its largest, Muslim component, as will be analysed shortly.
Living in extended family households also seems to be an important self-help strategy in NESB communities in Australia. Iredale et al. (1996) found that having family members in Australia was of paramount importance for settlement of humanitarian entrants; family reunion was a high priority for most respondents. The importance of family support during the period of initial settlement ranked a close second after health as a factor that facilitated successful settlement (op.cit.). Waxman (1998:763) similarly reported that family reunion was one of the key concerns for refugees in their initial stages of their settlement in Sydney.
My research in the Bosnian community confirms the relevance of the extended family. For a start, extended family households have lower living expenses per person and provide an 'on the spot', readily available pool of skills and services. Many Bosnian refugees in Perth sponsored, or at least nominated, their aged parents to come to Australia after the legal requirement of at least two years of sponsor's permanent residence in Australia was met. In the great majority of cases, aged parents live with their children and grandchildren in the same household. Sponsorship and nomination often extends to siblings, nieces and nephews. Adult brothers and sisters with their families normally do not share the same household apart from immediately upon arrival, but tend to live close to each other and regularly support each other in practical and emotional terms. The family home is a symbol of the family; among my interviewees, living in one's own home is understood as a necessary condition for re-establishing a normal life, while renting a place to live means a pariah status. A considerable number of Bosnian refugees obtained their homes through public housing schemes, and the rate of home-ownership among recent arrivals is surprisingly high. Pronounced family connectedness among Bosnians is also evident in the importance they give to regular communication with their relatives overseas; they express great concern for those still not permanently resettled or who are in difficult situations. Bosnians in Perth, even though recent migrants themselves, put a lot of effort into helping their long-distance families. Some families who are still welfare-dependent send money to members of their extended families overseas.
In the tenets of highly urbanised mainstream Australia, extended families and family networks are perceived as impractical and even incompatible with some important principles of modern living, such as privacy, and the independence of very young as well as very old adults. The care of dependent family members, such as children and the elderly, is normally outsourced in urban Australia, apart from care of very young children. Western capitalist culture, especially its Anglo variety, places great emphasis on, and accords high status to individualism, efficiency, professionalism, competition, paid work, independence and privacy, leaving little room for communitarian, extended family models that value mutual support and interdependence.
Therefore the norms and values that govern the community life of Bosnian refugees, especially those with rural and working-class backgrounds, are often at variance from the values that dominate the highly urbanised and individualistic Australian mainstream community. However, arguing that 'Bosnian culture' allows for considerably more collectivist discourses and cultural practices is not to say that there are no conspicuous class and rural-urban differences that inform not only the level of individualism versus collectivism within various sections of the Bosnian refugees community, but also other values and lifestyle generally. As a general rule, the higher the level of education and English proficiency, the higher a person's individualism and the lesser the reliance on the community.
|Building of the Bosnian Community Centre in Perth as a process of community building: an example of ethnic self-help in the process of healing and resettlement|
In the last section of this paper I analyse the building and development of the Bosnian Community Centre in the northern Perth suburb of Beechboro as a showcase of ethnic self-help and community development. The establishment of the community centre seems to have a significant role in the process of resettlement of Bosnian Muslim refugees in Western Australia.
During the 1990s, several thousand humanitarian entrants from Bosnia resettled in Western Australia. The Muslim community leadership estimates there are about 3000 Bosnian Muslims among them in WA. For many people, their Muslim identity means that they consider themselves to be 'real' Bosnians (unlike Croats and Serbs). Although war and persecution led to a more religious Islam taking root in the community (cf. Vulliamy 1994; Eastmond 1998), for most Bosnian Muslims being Muslim is not primarily a religious but rather an ethnic identity. A minority regularly observe religious rules and rites in their everyday life but do not identify with other Muslim communities in Australia (cf. Eastmond 1998).
As already mentioned, for Bosnian Muslims who come from rural areas (about half of the Perth community), the religious Muslim identity seems to have somewhat more importance than for urban Muslims (cf. Eastmond 1998:169). In the Former-Yugoslavia this was the case with all denominations: less educated rural populations were more religious than the more educated urban populations; in addition, during the communist era, the latter experienced more political pressure to abandon religious practices. Most Bosnian Muslim refugees from rural areas have completed either primary school (eight years) or less. Some people, mostly men, are skilled tradesmen. A minority has completed vocational secondary school (12 years of schooling). Most people from this group did not speak any English on arrival. A few years later, at the time of this research, an estimated 70 per cent still had very limited English.
Variations in education levels in Bosnian refugee community are extreme: from women from remote villages in Eastern Bosnia, some of them born in the 1960s, who never attended school and are practically illiterate, to those from Sarajevo with doctoral and other postgraduate qualifications. Less than half of the Bosnian refugees are from urban areas, from the capital Sarajevo and other larger cities. These persons have, as a rule, completed 12 years of schooling or have tertiary qualifications. Among them there are specialist doctors, dentists, teachers, engineers, journalists and previously highly ranked politicians. At the time of my research, most of these people did not achieve their previous occupational status (cf. Waxman 2001). For most, language was an obstacle, at least in the initial stages of settlement. Some medical professionals had to either upgrade their qualification at Australian universities, or sit for demanding exams which some of them found intimidating because of their limited English. The urban section of the refugee community is scattered across the Perth metropolitan area, in some cases in groups of several families living close to each other, but not in a pattern that can be described as residential concentration. They keep their private ethnic networks but do not gather around Bosnian or other community centres.
People who gather around the Bosnian community centre in Beechboro are typically from rural areas and from peasant or working-class backgrounds. A large number of families are concentrated in the surrounding suburbs of Girrawheen, Koondoola, Balga and Mirrabooka (cf Puls 2000). The gradual building of the Bosnian community has happened spontaneously and informally, entirely outside government community development schemes or refugee resettlement programs.
The construction of the Bosnian cultural and recreational centre in Beechboro started in 1994 when the community reached a substantial size. Well-educated, long-term Australian residents of Bosnian Muslim origin and those with English skills and higher education among recent arrivals acted as 'middlemen' between the newly arrived refugees and the mainstream Australian society and coordinated the project. This middlemen role gradually translated into a leadership role. The leadership dealt with local government, state and federal politicians and others who could help the community in settling legal issues involved in buying the premises and the construction itself. Two grants from the Lotteries Commission, and two smaller grants from the Shire of Swan and the Ministry of Sport and Recreation were obtained for the building of the community centre. The rest was the work of volunteers from the refugee community: builders, tilers, plumbers, as well as unskilled labourers, men as well as women. Within a year the roof was on the building and community gatherings, dance parties and visits from Bosnian entertainers were organised there. The Bosnian Centre in Beechboro was officially opened in November 1998 in the presence of local and state politicians. The soccer pitch, where Bosnian youths gather most nights, was opened in November 2000. Monthly community events have been organised in the club. Bosnian community radio at 6EBA seems to be a useful extension of the northern suburbs face-to-face Bosnian Muslim community.
The construction of the community centre as a place that represents and symbolises the community was a great boost to community building. The centre itself became a focal point of the community. Refugees' voluntary work involved in the physical construction of the community centre was at the same time an intense process of constituting a collective self and a social identity in exile. As the community leadership and volunteers reported, the building of the community centre was therapeutic for the individuals involved who sought to establish a community and a feeling of belonging in a new country. It was also therapeutic for refugees who experienced war trauma, and who in the interviews expressed satisfaction about having been able to focus on current issues and problems through contributing their time and skills to a worthwhile cause, rather than remaining absorbed in their painful past experiences. These people became more positive and future-oriented through the process. The following quote from an interviewee illustrates this:
Some volunteers regained confidence in their skills and abilities that had been shaken by the language barrier and the stress of coping in an alien environment. Some people found employment or other ways to use or upgrade their skills via their voluntary work on building the community centre. The intense networking and community building that happened through working together helped the process of refugee resettlement. Harrell-Bond (1999) reports that in the case of refugees, passively receiving help and being dependent on the government, aid agencies and charities can be a source of 'debilitating stress' and can cause feelings of powerlessness and low self-esteem. The prolonged role of aid recipient and the 'victim identity' that can develop through 'medicalization' and 'pathologization' of the refugee status are reported to be psychologically damaging (Mayadas and Segal 2000; Harrell-Bond 1999; Eastmond 1998). Long-term welfare dependency and comprehensive trauma counselling and other psychological services often perpetuate social marginalisation (Eastmond 1998). Actively negotiating a new social identity through community activism, employment and other ways of reconstituting a 'normal life', proves to be a more fruitful approach to resettlement. As the presented case indicates, contributing to one's own resettlement and community building can be a source of empowerment and an opportunity to regain a sense of control. The latter seems to be central in the process of healing and re-establishing a 'normal life'.
The 'improved' public image of the refugee community that is likely to result from the active approach reflects favourably on the building of a positive social identity of its members in practical and emotional terms. With help from mainstream 'multicultural-oriented' agencies, the Bosnian community in Western Australia seems to have succeeded in building a community with an increasingly positive identity over a decade (1992-2002). The opportunity of accessing the mainstream assistance to the community development (e.g., grants) may have been crucial in this 'active strategy' by individuals and families within the Bosnia Muslim community.
Thus the Bosnian Cultural and Recreational Centre can be seen as a symbol of the resilience of this particular refugee group, as well as evidence of the value of community self-help in migrant resettlement and, in the case of refugees, in the process of healing and growing out of a traumatic past. The Bosnian centre remains a well-used facility and a locus of community self-help and support.
The ethnic community-building of recent Bosnian refugees in Western Australia presents itself to the observer in at least two aspects: first, the more abstract political aspect which encompasses the re-building of an ethnic/national identity and belonging to the imagined community of Bosnian Muslims as 'real Bosnians'; and second, a concrete, everyday aspect which encompasses the re-building of a community that provides emotional and practical support to individuals and families in the process of resettlement.
This paper's main focus is on the second aspect and its central finding is that for the Bosnian Muslim refugees in Perth the community building created a beneficial dynamic between individuals, families and the ethnic community where refugees become more resourceful, self-reliant and able to establish themselves in the new environment while ending their initial dependence on government welfare and aid agencies. Individuals, families and the community support each other in the early accumulation of material and social capital in exile. This is not to say that the researched community is ideally cooperative and free of competition and conflict. However, it has an important role in making a transition from the negative and often pathologised identity of a 'refugee' to a positive social identity with its ethnic, gender, cultural, religious, occupational and other components.
The case of Bosnian Muslims in WA shows that a community can use a collective strategy to rebuild its social identity following displacement once it reaches a critical size, and in the process develop successful internal mechanisms of self-help and empowerment. This, of course, requires a degree of welcome from the mainstream society beyond the initial government resettlement program; with Bosnians this prerequisite seems to be met.
The described process of the community and identity building mainly pertains to Bosnian Muslim refugees from formerlyr rural areas who are residentially concentrated in the vicinity of the Bosnian centre. People from larger cities and with professional qualifications usually resort to more individualistic ways of dealing with resettlement, the central issue for them being to re-establish themselves professionally. The community-building of the Bosnian Muslim community in Perth, with its focus on the building and formal establishment of a Bosnian Cultural and Recreational Centre, is an example of successful coping with the stress of forced migration and resettlement in an alien environment, and another piece of evidence that forced migration does not necessarily lead to negative outcomes (cf. Donna and Berry 1999). Strong extended family and community ties, sometimes regarded as remnants of a traditional lifestyle and not really fitting into the (post)modern urban lifestyle, have proven to be extremely valuable in providing recently arrived refugees with emotional and practical support. These networks of familial and communal self-help are especially valuable to rural populations from lower socio-economic backgrounds with limited English. The collective coping strategies of familial and ethnic self-help, rather than endangering social cohesion and segregating the community from mainstream society, have in this case provided tools for regaining independence from debilitating prolonged reliance on welfare and refugee aid agencies. A possible indicator of the success of these collective coping strategies is an extremely high rate of home ownership among recently arrived Bosnians. It is important to mention that home ownership is culturally highly valued among Bosnians and regarded as a necessary condition for the re-establishment of a 'normal life' in Australia. It should also be noted, although I cannot elaborate on it in this paper, that Bosnian refugees, being white Europeans, are less likely to experience racial and cultural prejudice (cf. Eastmond 1998:176-7) and are more likely to benefit from their 'invisibility' and relative cultural proximity to mainstream society in their process of resettlement; this possible advantage may not apply to other refugee groups.
 Mac Millan World Atlas 1997, p.209
 In January 1993 the UN-initiated Vance-Owen Plan divided the country into ten ethnically defined provinces and one mixed province of Sarajevo (Cohen 1993:253-4). However, Bosnians always refer to three ethnically defined parts.
 The reason why the Census data or immigration statistics cannot be used straightforwardly is the way people identify their 'country of birth' and 'language spoken at home'. In the case of Bosnians, the country of birth can be 'Yugoslavia', 'Bosnia' or any other Yugoslav republic. The language spoken at home can be 'Croatian', 'Serbian' 'Serbo-Croatian' 'Bosnian' and 'Yugoslav' depending on ethnicity and political preferences of a person. The only category that could truly identify the number of Bosnians who arrived in Australia fleeing from the war in the 1990s would be 'the country of permanent residence before migration', but this is not a census category. 'Nationality' would not be helpful either: some people arrived with a Bosnian passport, but most did not have travel documents apart from the visa issued by an Australian overseas post. For these above reasons, available numerical data (Census or immigration statistics) should be carefully interpreted.
 For many of them Australia was the 'third country' where they settled permanently after being previously granted temporary protection in the 'country of first asylum' (most commonly neighbouring Croatia or Serbia, or a Western European country, Germany or Sweden taking the largest numbers).
 The war in their homeland intensified political passions and animosities.
 See also Queensland Health Department 2002. Cultural Diversity, A guide for Health Professionals, Community Health Profile: The Bosnian Muslims: [https://www.health.qld.gov.au/hssb/cultdiv/cultdiv/bos_musl/html] and Queensland Health Department 2002a. Cultural Diversity, A guide for Health Professionals, Community Health Profile: The Former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia: [https://www.health.qld.gov.au/hssb/cultdiv/cultdiv/sfr_yugo/html].
 Most Croatian and Serbian ethnic clubs were founded in the 1960s and 70s. At that time Croatian and Serbian ('Yugoslav') migrants were from rural or working-class backgrounds and they maintained their traditional folklore, entertainment and values. In many cases, more recent migrant cohorts, among which professional and white-collar migrants are numerous, do not fit into the old-style clubs (see Colic-Peisker 2000a).
 Communist authorities (1945-91) were eager to eradicate nationalist sentiments of separate ethnic groups that constituted federal Yugoslavia and create a Yugoslav melting pot. Needless to say, they were unsuccessful: Yugoslavia fell apart in 1991 and five new states were created on the ethnic principle. The process unfolded through a bloody war (see Ignatieff 1993).
 For example Homeswest's 'Good Start Shared Equity Scheme' enables tenants to buy a share of their property for a start.
 In making this estimate I took into account immigration statistics (Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (DIMA) Settlement database extract 24/8/01) and my own research.
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|Val Colic-Peisker holds degrees in political science (B.A. and M.A.) , women's studies (MPhil) and sociology (PhD). Her carreer includes teaching, journalism, radio-production and university teaching and research. She has published extensively in Croatian and English. She is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at Murdoch University, Western Australia. Her recent publications include: 'Migrant communities and class: Croatians in Western Australia', in Kennedy, P. and Roudometof, V., (eds.), Communities Across Borders: New Immigrants and Transnational Cultures, London, New York: Routledge, 2002 ; 'Croatians in Western Australia: migration, language and class', Journal of Sociology, Vol. 38, No. 2, 2002, pp. 149-166 ; 'Croatian and Bosnian migration to Australia in the 1990s: gender, ethnicity and belonging', in Lange, C., (ed.), Being Australian Women: belonging, citizenship and identity, a special issue of The Studies in Western Australian History, Vol. 21, July 2000, pp. 117-136 ; 'Two waves of Croatian migrants in Western Australia: class and national identity', Australian Journal of Social Issues, 1999, Vol. 34, No. 4, pp. 353-370.|