Asian and Pacific Communities in Australia and New Zealand

Trends / Realness
Yuri Endo
Jan 5, 2023
In a previous article, I discussed how a lot of global media and advertisements are struggling to portray a compelling representation of Asian and Pacific Peoples that they themselves can relate to1. The truth is that Asian and Pacific Peoples in Australia and New Zealand, too, are plagued by underrepresentation and unspoken stereotypes, and experience specific kinds of difficulties in their lives.

Our VisualGPS research shows that in Australia and New Zealand, only 14% feel that the advertising and media they see every day shows diversity accurately. Additionally, only 2 in 5 agreed that seeing people like them has the most significant appeal when making decisions on what products or companies to use.

Looking at the current visual landscape in Australia and New Zealand, there are significant differences in how Asian and Pacific Peoples are represented compared to other Asia‑Pacific regions. We have found aspects of diversity that are often missing in imagery, and therefore opportunities to combat stereotypes to drive more inclusive representation. In this article, let’s explore three areas of identity: race and ethnicity, age, and profession. Recommendations for representing body size, religion, socio‑economic status, and cultural nuance can be found in a previous article.1
Race and Ethnicity
While the current majority of the Australian and New Zealand populations are of European origin, these nations are becoming more ethnically diverse. For example, in Australia, the number of ancestry responses categorized within Asian ancestral groups accounted for 17.4% of the total Australian population.2  Additionally, the number of people claiming Pacific ancestry is growing fast, from 0.56% in 2006 to almost 1% in 2016.3 For New Zealand, the main ethnic communities include the Māori indigenous people (14.9%) and Pacific Peoples (7.4%). With 1 in 7 New Zealanders of Māori descent, Māori are the second largest ethnic group in New Zealand, but the Asian population of New Zealand is also growing, from 6.6 % of the population in 2001 to 11.8 % in 2013. The number of Asians in New Zealand will outnumber Māori in the future.4  By 2043, New Zealand is projected to be home to over 6 million people, with over a quarter of the population being Asian, 21% Māori, and 11% Pacific Peoples.

Looking at how the population is visualized in popular Getty Images downloads, what we see doesn't line up with this shift in demographics. Chinese and Thai people are the most represented Asian ethnicities, followed by Indian and Japanese people. In contrast, Pacific Peoples and Southeast Asians are underrepresented. In terms of scenario, Chinese, Thai, Japanese and Pacific Peoples are mostly represented in family and domestic settings, while Indian people are seen in business settings. Multiracial groups are mostly visualized in business settings, and well integrated into diverse groups. So, to drive authentic representation of Asian and Pacific Peoples in Australia and New Zealand, it is important to show Asian and Pacific Peoples in a variety of scenarios and roles outside of business settings. As they are multi‑layered countries, it’s also key to show them in multi‑ethnic groups and interracial families doing everyday activities.
In 2016, the Asian‑born population in Australia had a median age of 35 years, much younger than people born in Europe, who had a median age of 59 years.6 Additionally, in 2016, 39% of the population with Pacific ancestry were children aged 19 years old and under, 38% were young adults between 20 to 44 years old, and 23% were older adults between 45 years old and over.Most Pacific Peoples in New Zealand are under 25 years old, with a median age of 23.4 years in 2018.8 For Asian ethnic groups, about 31% of them are aged between 15 to 29 years old and their median age is 30.6 years old.9 

In our most popular visuals, 9% feature 60+ year‑olds, and they are most frequently shown in family settings. In contrast, young adults between 20 to 29 years old are the most represented, accounting for close to 43% of overall popular visuals, seen mostly in business settings. It is then important to represent Asian and Pacific children and teenagers enjoying their free time, as well as in school. As a growing portion of the population, there is an opportunity to show more Asian and Pacific young to mid adults outside of business settings, doing everyday activities or enjoying free time.
Looking at the professional environment for both Australia and New Zealand, the occupations held by people who identify as Asian or Pacific Peoples vary: from managers and professionals, to community and personal service workers, to laborers. However, in popular visuals at Getty Images, Asian and Pacific Peoples are predominantly represented in white‑collar jobs, accounting for over 30% of our most popular visuals. The most visible industries are finance and economics, and an almost equal balance of men and women is being featured. Only 3% are represented as working class, and in those professions we mainly see men. It’s important not to default to certain business scenarios for certain ethnic backgrounds, and focus on common human experiences and emotions that transcend socioeconomic status.

In summary, when choosing or creating visuals, it’s not just about featuring Asian and Pacific Peoples, but about how we are visualizing them, and how we reflect their true selves and lifestyles. Make sure it is free of stereotypes and be aware of how diverse and multidimensional Asian and Pacific communities and their lifestyles are. Authentic visual storytelling not only helps brands connect with their audiences, but also changes the way Asian and Pacific Peoples are seen.
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