Getting to know you series: Australia’s Persian community

This Getting to Know You blog was written by Aman Gupta, a creative member of the MultiConnexions team, who gives us some insight into the Persian community in Australia and the rich history of the Parsi diaspora in India and beyond.

Spanning from Europe in the West all the way across to India in the East, during its height the Persian Empire was one of the largest and most powerful in history – leading in arts, science, agriculture and more. Today, Persians have migrated all over the globe and have become key contributors in every society.

Many of those who identify as ethnically Persian are from Iran, where they make up about 65 per cent of the population (other major ethnicities in Iran include Azeris, Kurds and Afghans.)

The biggest Persian holiday is Nowruz – the Persian New Year – which is a huge celebration of renewal. A carnival-style parade happens through the streets, market vendors sell fresh herbs, coloured eggs and fish, and Persians will also buy new shoes and clothes to wear on the day. Persians also celebrate Mehregan (Fall Festival) and Tirgan (Rain Festival).

Looking at the numbers in Australia, the 2016 Census found that Australia’s Iran-born population stands at close to 60,000 – with almost 40 per cent living in NSW followed by Victoria at 28 per cent. Many more are Australian-born Persians/Iranians.

Early migrants from Iran to Australia were mostly workers in the oil industry. The Iranian revolution in 1979 and the subsequent Iran-Iraq War led to an increase in migration to Australia. More recently, there has been greater migration from Iran in the last decade. This could be due to a number of factors such as the conflict in the Middle East and the Skilled Migration Program by the Australian Government which led to many Persian engineers and doctors migrating here.

Looking at India specifically, migration from Persia dates back to somewhere between the 8th and 10th century. These migrants were largely followers of one of the oldest religions in the world – Zoroastrianism – and became known as Parsis.

Parsis are very much Indian in terms of nationality, language and history but have also continued to maintain their own customs and traditions and have thus formed their own ethnic identity.

There are two stories that are considered folklore about the Parsis’ arrival and settlement in India. In the first one, the local king sent the migrants a jar of milk that was filled to the top – his way of saying that there was unfortunately no more room for them. In response, the Parsis stirred in a spoon of sugar and sent it back to the king. In the second story, they dropped a gold ring into the jar and sent it back to signify the value they can add to the nation. Whichever story you prefer, there is a wonderful analogy and peaceful message to be received!

Much like their ancestors’ message of integration to the local king, today’s Parsis have become an integral part of the Indian population, forming some of the country’s top corporate dynasties. The Tata, Godrej and Wadia families are some examples, and arguably the most well-known Parsi music celebrity is the late Freddie Mercury, the original lead singer of Queen. Similarly, in Australia our Parsi and Persian population adds to the richness of the fabric of Australia.

In India – a country of more than 1.3 billion – it is inspiring that the 61,000 Parsis have become a key contributor in all different areas of society including the arts, science, technology, and business.

Looking at the Persian diaspora globally and in India, their migration has added rich history, cultural flair, and immense economic benefits to society. Their deep roots and drive to become a contributing part of society have helped them achieve excellence in their chosen fields of profession and business. It does not stop at that! The Persian community is a very caring and giving community, watching out for, and supporting those who are less fortunate than us.

The Parsis have rich community media platforms that they are proud of, and which can be accessed by marketers to reach this audience.

If you would like to know more about this audience or any other multicultural groups in Australia and how to market to them, contact MultiConnexions today.

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