For Australia’s population of nearly 1.5 million people of Chinese descent, the Mid-Autumn Festival is the second most important cultural celebration after Lunar New Year. The festival falls on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese lunisolar calendar, during autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. It is also known as the Moon Festival, the Harvest Moon Festival or the Mooncake Festival, because of the moon-shaped cakes that are traditionally given as gifts during the festival period.
The celebration became popular around 1300 years ago in the time of the Tang Dynasty. It coincides with the end of harvest celebration in the middle of autumn and is traditionally believed to be the day when the full moon shines brightest. It is shrouded in history, traditions and symbolism. It represents an important way for contemporary Chinese people to celebrate and preserve their culture, heritage and community.
These days, perhaps the most commonly known aspect of the celebration is the gifting of mooncakes. These ornate pastries can be filled with red bean or lotus seed paste, or yolks from salted duck eggs. Contemporary pastry chefs are known to get creative with the flavours, experimenting with concoctions such as sweet potato and ginger soup, cream corn soup, black sesame glutinous rice ball and even Beef Wellington.
Colourful lanterns are also an important part of Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations and can be seen hung on trees or buildings in many cities and towns where the festival is celebrated. Hong Kong’s Lee Tung Avenue (LTA) is lined with nearly 1,000 lanterns for the crowds to enjoy and people can even try making their own lanterns. Traditionally the lanterns symbolise family reunion, as they illuminate the way home.
Across China and east Asia, there is huge commercial activity surrounding the celebration and it is spreading with the diaspora. A plethora of luxurious mooncakes are marketed to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore’s trendy elite, elaborate lanterns are sold on the streets of Hong Kong and deluxe Moon Cake gift boxes are even available in Australia.
LEXIGO translator Cecilia Chiu originally hails from Hong Kong and is now based in Tasmania. She shared what the Mid-Autumn Festival means to her and Australia’s Chinese diaspora.
Do you think the Full Moon Festival is important to the Chinese diaspora in Australia?
Every part of our traditions (including Mid-Autumn Festival) is important to us. It is the many different aspects of our traditions that shape our culture. In this sense, yes, the Mid-Autumn Festival is important to us.
How do you celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival?
I have not always celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival since I moved to Tasmania. When friends of the same ethnicity have time, we may have a meal together. Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival becomes a pretext for socialising rather than observing the tradition.
Last year, our celebration was a bit special. Friends got together and made mooncakes ourselves.
How do celebrations differ for you compared to when you lived in Hong Kong to now living in Australia?
Celebrations in Tasmania are very different from what I used to have in Hong Kong where festive foods and paraphernalia were readily available off the shelf.
Here in Tasmania, we have to make them our own, such as the lanterns for the Mid-Autumn Festival. We even bake our own mooncakes if we have time. To a certain extent, this is good. Celebration activities here are less commercialised and ‘getting our hands dirty’ makes us appreciate the traditional aspects more.
What's your favourite type of mooncake?
I love the snow skin mooncakes, which is a modern form of mooncake. Snow skin mooncakes are a non-baked mooncake originating from Hong Kong. Unlike the traditional baked mooncakes, snow skin mooncake uses less sugar and fat which is comparatively a healthier food.
There is a legend about mooncakes. It was once a revolutionary vehicle at the end of the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368 CE). Han Chinese concealed messages in the mooncakes (think of it as a forerunner of fortune cookies!) to rebel against the ruling Mongols on Mid-Autumn Day.
Read more about the fascinating history of the Mid-Autumn Festival here.
The 2021 Census results data by the Australian Bureau of Statistics was officially released on 28 June 2022 and provided excellent insight into Australia's population, including data on cultural diversity.
A record number of people and households responded in the 2021 Census period - in fact, a total of 96.1 per cent of Australians responded, and the results showed an increasingly multicultural society.
"This increasingly diverse social and cultural landscape present in the 2021 census is a great strength for Australian society."The Executive Director of the Australian Multicultural Foundation, Dr Hass Dellal.
The data is a goldmine of statistical information on a range of other topics too, including:
However, for this article, we'll take a closer look at cultural and language diversity indicators to explore the current state of multicultural Australia.
Even then, the depth and breadth of data can be daunting, so this post will attempt to provide some context around Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Australians and how the multicultural landscape is changing.
As a multicultural country, the first release of data from Australia's 2021 Census shows that:
The top five ancestries identified in the 2021 Census were:
The top five countries of birth outside Australia were:
An interesting observation is that the vast majority in this list are officially English-speaking countries (all but China).
Not surprisingly, the most common language spoken at home is English, followed by:
In contrast to the top 5 countries of birth, 4 of the top 5 countries in this list are non-English speaking countries.
Across Australia, over 5.5 million people speak a language other than English at home, equating to around 21.5% of Australia’s total population of 25.5 million, or over one in five people.Australian Bureau of Statistics
The language that has seen the most significant increase in use in Australian homes since the last census is Punjabi.
In the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania, Nepali is in the top five most commonly spoken languages, with 1.3% of those populations using it at home.
Across the Australian population, over 5.5 million people speak a language other than English at home, equating to around 21.5% of Australia's total population of 25.5 million, or more than one in five people.
Compared to previous years;
On a global scale, Australia's neighbours Papua New Guinea and Indonesia are the most linguistically diverse countries in the world.
According to the World Economic Forum, 840 languages are spoken in Papua New Guinea, almost 12% of the total number of languages worldwide.
Indonesia has an estimated 711 languages across the archipelago. One theory about why these countries have so many languages is that many of their communities are geographically isolated.
Over 80% of Papua New Guinea's population lives in rural areas, and Indonesia is a collection of thousands of islands.
Indonesia, it's interesting to note, has achieved the impressive feat of establishing a national lingua franca without destroying its linguistic diversity. Australia ranks sixth in the world for linguistic diversity, between the United States in fifth and China in seventh place.
How does Australia's cultural and linguistic diversity compare to other countries?
According to the CIA World Factbook, the latest data on languages spoken at home show that 78.2% of US households speak English only, 13.4% Spanish, 1.1% Chinese and 7.3% other.
Interestingly, the United States has no official national language. English has official status in 32 of 50 states, Hawaiian is an official language in Hawaii, and Alaska has 20 official indigenous languages.
The CIA World Factbook also identifies ethnic groups in the United States as 61.6% White, 18.7% Hispanic (including people of Spanish/Hispanic/Latinx origin), 12.4% Black or African American, 6% Asian, 1.1% Amerindian and Alaska native and 0.2% Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander.
Over 350 languages are spoken in homes across the United States, and around 44.9 million people or 13.7% of the total US population, were born overseas, according to 2019 statistics.
Statistics on New Zealand's cultural and linguistic diversity are based on their 2018 Census. English is the de facto national language (it does not have legal status as the official language but is spoken by most citizens), spoken by 95.4% of Kiwis.
Maori is legally recognised as an official national language and is spoken by 4% of the population. Other languages spoken in New Zealand include 2.2% Samoan, 2% Northern Chinese, 1.5% Hindi, 1.2% French and 1.1% Yue (a dialect from Southern China).
Kiwis identified as 64.1% European, 16.5% Maori, 4.9% Chinese, 4.7% Indian, 3.9% Samoan, 1.8% Tongan, 1.7% Cook Islands Maori, 1.5% English, 1.5% Filipino, 1% New Zealander and 13.7% other (percentages add up to over 100% because census respondents could identify with more than one cultural identity).
Over a quarter of New Zealand residents, 27.4%, were born overseas.
English and French are the official languages of Canada, with 63.7% of Canadians speaking English at home and 20% speaking French at home, according to the 2016 Census (language statistics from the 2021 Census are due for release in November 2022).
0.3% of Canadians speak an aboriginal language at home. Over 200 languages are spoken in Canada, plus 60 Indigenous languages.
Canada's most common international languages are Chinese, Punjabi, Spanish, Italian, German, Tagalog, Arabic, Portuguese, Polish and Urdu. Of Canada's population of nearly 37 million, over 7 million people, or around 18%, were born overseas.
How can you find more ABS census data and information?
The 2021 Australian Census data illustrates that Australia's cultural and linguistically diverse nation can provide incredible opportunities for businesses and government alike. By understanding the latest census data to communicate and engage more effectively with members of a culturally and linguistically diverse community and with people from diverse backgrounds.
LEXIGO will create more tools, analyses and guides for understanding and making the most of this valuable information to enable effective communication across 171 languages. Check out LEXIGO's guide for choosing languages for your multilingual campaign here.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics released most of the 2021 Census data on 28 June 2022, with smaller and more complex topics to be released in late 2022 and early to mid-2023. They will also host online and in-person events around the 2021 Census data release.
Explore the countries that are part of the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth Games and the languages they speak.
At the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, English will be the only official language. English is not, however, the only language spoken in the 54 countries and 18 territories that will compete in the Games. When we look at all the languages spoken across the Commonwealth, it paints a diverse picture of the people who inhabit it and the complex histories of Commonwealth member states and territories. LEXIGO has collated a list of languages spoken across the Commonwealth, mostly based on the CIA World Factbook, below.
It would be incorrect to assume that everyone competing in the Commonwealth Games speaks English. As the table below outlines, in many of the competing countries and territories, English is only spoken by officials or a minority. Even in countries where English is spoken by the majority of people, it certainly does not represent the only language widely spoken. In Australia, as discussed in LEXIGO’s blog post about the 2021 Census results, over one in five people speak a language other than English at home. This includes 167 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. In New Zealand, Maori is legally recognised as an official language and is spoken by 4% of the population. 63.7% of Canadians speak English at home, while 20% use Canada’s other official language, French. Even in England itself some people in Cornwell still use the Cornish language (Kernewek).
Currently the Commonwealth does not support linguistic diversity. Eligibility to join the modern Commonwealth includes acceptance of “Commonwealth norms and conventions, such as the use of the English language as the medium of inter-Commonwealth relations”. There could be scope, however, to support the linguistic diversity of its members, as other multilateral organisations have done. For example, French, English and German are the main working languages of the European Union, and a total of 24 languages have official status. Furthermore, the Council of Europe has a Charter for Regional or Minority Languages whereby 79 languages are protected and promoted to enable speakers to use them in public and private life.
Protecting linguistic diversity plays an important role in preserving cultures, the knowledge they encompass and creating equality in multilateral organisations. UNESCO says languages are strategically important to people and the planet because of their “complex implications for identity, communication, social integration, education and development”. With organisations such as the Council of Europe and UNESCO already benefitting and working to protect linguistic diversity, it could be time for the Commonwealth to follow suit. In LEXIGO’s blog post about linguistic diversity vs lingua franca, experts pointed out that “when a social movement operates across language barriers (as opposed to movements where everyone speaks the same native language), deliberations are more equal”.
While linguistic diversity does not appear to be on the agenda for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, there could be an opportunity for Australia’s linguistic diversity to be promoted and used at the Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games.
|Antigua and Barbuda||English (official), Antiguan creole|
|Australia||English, 2.7% Mandarin, 1.4% Arabic, 1.3% Vietnamese, 1.2% Cantonese, 0.9% Punjabi|
|Bahamas||English (official), Creole (among Haitian immigrants)|
|Barbados||English (official), Bajan (English-based creole language, widely spoken in informal settings)|
|Belize||English 62.9% (official), Spanish 56.6%, Creole 44.6%, Maya 10.5%, German 3.2%, Garifuna 2.9%, other 1.8%, unknown 0.5%; note - shares sum to more than 100% because some respondents gave more than one answer on the census (2010 est.)|
|Bermuda||English (official), Portuguese|
|Botswana||Setswana 77.3%, Sekalanga 7.4%, Shekgalagadi 3.4%, English (official) 2.8%, Zezuru/Shona 2%, Sesarwa 1.7%, Sembukushu 1.6%, Ndebele 1%, other 2.8% (2011 est.)|
|British Virgin Islands||English|
|Brunei||Malay (Bahasa Melayu) (official), English, Chinese dialects|
|Cameroon||24 major African language groups, English (official), French (official)|
|Canada||English (official) 58.7%, French (official) 22%, Punjabi 1.4%, Italian 1.3%, Spanish 1.3%, German 1.3%, Cantonese 1.2%, Tagalog 1.2%, Arabic 1.1%, other 10.5% (2011 est.)|
|Cayman Islands||English (official) 90.9%, Spanish 4%, Filipino 3.3%, other 1.7%, unspecified 0.1% (2010 est.)|
|Cook Islands||English (official) 86.4%, Cook Islands Maori (Rarotongan) (official) 76.2%, other 8.3% (2011 est.)|
|Cyprus||Greek (official) 80.9%, Turkish (official) 0.2%, English 4.1%, Romanian 2.9%, Russian 2.5%, Bulgarian 2.2%, Arabic 1.2%, Filipino 1.1%, other 4.3%, unspecified 0.6%; note - data represent only the Republic of Cyprus (2011 est.)|
|Dominica||English (official), French patois|
|Eswatini||English (official, used for government business), siSwati (official)|
|Falkland Islands||English 89%, Spanish 7.7%, other 3.3% (2006 est.)|
|Fiji||English (official), iTaukei (official), Fiji Hindi (official)|
|Ghana||English (official), Asante 16%, Ewe 14%, Fante 11.6%, Boron (Brong) 4.9%, Dagomba 4.4%, Dangme 4.2%, Dagarte (Dagaba) 3.9%, Kokomba 3.5%, Akyem 3.2%, Ga 3.1%, other 31.2% (2010 est.)|
|Gibraltar||English (used in schools and for official purposes), Spanish, Italian, Portuguese|
|Grenada||English (official), French patois|
|Guernsey||English, French, Norman-French dialect spoken in country districts|
|Guyana||English (official), Guyanese Creole, Amerindian languages (including Caribbean and Arawak languages), Indian languages (including Caribbean Hindustani, a dialect of Hindi), Chinese (2014 est.)|
|India||Hindi 43.6%, Bengali 8%, Marathi 6.9%, Telugu 6.7%, Tamil 5.7%, Gujarati 4.6%, Urdu 4.2%, Kannada 3.6%, Odia 3.1%, Malayalam 2.9%, Punjabi 2.7%, Assamese 1.3%, Maithili 1.1%, other 5.6%; note - English enjoys the status of subsidiary official language but is the most important language for national, political, and commercial communication; there are 22 other officially recognized languages: Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Nepali, Odia, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu; Hindustani is a popular variant of Hindi/Urdu spoken widely throughout northern India but is not an official language (2011 est.)|
|Isle of Man||English, Manx Gaelic (about 2% of the population has some knowledge)|
|Jamaica||English, English patois|
|Jersey||English (official) 94.5%, Portuguese 4.6%, other .9% (includes French (official) and Jerriais)|
|Kenya||English (official), Kiswahili (official), numerous indigenous languages|
|Kiribati||I-Kiribati, English (official)|
|Lesotho||Sesotho (official) (southern Sotho), English (official), Zulu, Xhosa|
|Malawi||English (official), Chewa (common), Lambya, Lomwe, Ngoni, Nkhonde, Nyakyusa, Nyanja, Sena, Tonga, Tumbuka, Yao; note: Chewa and Nyanja are mutually intelligible dialects; Nkhonde and Nyakyusa are mutually intelligible dialects|
|Malaysia||Bahasa Malaysia (official), English, Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, Hakka, Hainan, Foochow), Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Panjabi, Thai; note - Malaysia has 134 living languages - 112 indigenous languages and 22 non-indigenous languages; in East Malaysia, there are several indigenous languages; the most widely spoken are Iban and Kadazan|
|Maldives||Dhivehi (official, dialect of Sinhala, script derived from Arabic), English (spoken by most government officials)|
|Malta||Maltese (official) 90.1%, English (official) 6%, multilingual 3%, other 0.9% (2005 est.)|
|Mauritius||Creole 86.5%, Bhojpuri 5.3%, French 4.1%, two languages 1.4%, other 2.6% (includes English, one of the two official languages of the National Assembly, which is spoken by less than 1% of the population), unspecified 0.1% (2011 est.)|
|Mozambique||Makhuwa 26.1%, Portuguese (official) 16.6%, Tsonga 8.6%, Nyanja 8.1, Sena 7.1%, Lomwe 7.1%, Chuwabo 4.7%, Ndau 3.8%, Tswa 3.8%, other Mozambican languages 11.8%, other 0.5%, unspecified 1.8% (2017 est.)|
|Namibia||Oshiwambo languages 49.7%, Nama/Damara 11%, Kavango languages 10.4%, Afrikaans 9.4% (also a common language), Herero languages 9.2%, Zambezi languages 4.9%, English (official) 2.3%, other African languages 1.5%, other European languages 0.7%, other 1% (2016 est.); note: Namibia has 13 recognized national languages, including 10 indigenous African languages and 3 European languages|
|Nauru||Nauruan 93% (official, a distinct Pacific Island language), English 2% (widely understood, spoken, and used for most government and commercial purposes), other 5% (includes I-Kiribati 2% and Chinese 2%) (2011 est.); note: data represent main language spoken at home; Nauruan is spoken by 95% of the population, English by 66%, and other languages by 12%|
|New Zealand||English (de facto official) 95.4%, Maori (de jure official) 4%, Samoan 2.2%, Northern Chinese 2%, Hindi 1.5%, French 1.2%, Yue 1.1%, New Zealand Sign Language (de jure official) 0.5%, other or not stated 17.2% (2018 est.); note: shares sum to 124.1% due to multiple responses on the 2018 census|
|Nigeria||English (official), Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo (Ibo), Fulani, over 500 additional indigenous languages|
|Niue||Niuean (official) 46% (a Polynesian language closely related to Tongan and Samoan), Niuean and English 32%, English (official) 11%, Niuean and others 5%, other 6% (2011 est.)|
|Norfolk Island||English (official) 44.9%, Norfolk (also known as Norfuk or Norf'k, which is a mixture of 18th century English and ancient Tahitian) 40.3%, Fijian 1.8%, other 6.8%, unspecified 6.2% (2016 est.)|
|Northern Ireland||Irish (Gaelic), Ulster Scots and English.|
|Pakistan||Punjabi 48%, Sindhi 12%, Saraiki (a Punjabi variant) 10%, Pashto (alternate name, Pashtu) 8%, Urdu (official) 8%, Balochi 3%, Hindko 2%, Brahui 1%, English (official; lingua franca of Pakistani elite and most government ministries), Burushaski, and other 8%|
|Papua New Guinea||Tok Pisin (official), English (official), Hiri Motu (official), some 839 indigenous languages spoken (about 12% of the world's total); many languages have fewer than 1,000 speakers; note: Tok Pisin, a creole language, is widely used and understood; English is spoken by 1%-2%; Hiri Motu is spoken by less than 2%|
|Rwanda||Kinyarwanda (official, universal Bantu vernacular) 93.2%, French (official) <0.1, English (official) <0.1, Swahili/Kiswahili (official, used in commercial centers) <0.1, more than one language, other 6.3%, unspecified 0.3% (2002 est.)|
|Samoa||Samoan (Polynesian) (official) 91.1%, Samoan/English 6.7%, English (official) 0.5%, other 0.2%, unspecified 1.6% (2006 est.)|
|Scotland||Scotland has three main languages, English, Scottish Gaelic, and Scots.|
|Seychelles||Seychellois Creole (official) 89.1%, English (official) 5.1%, French (official) 0.7%, other 3.8%, unspecified 1.4% (2010 est.)|
|Sierra Leone||English (official, regular use limited to literate minority), Mende (principal vernacular in the south), Temne (principal vernacular in the north), Krio (English-based Creole, spoken by the descendants of freed Jamaican slaves who were settled in the Freetown area, a lingua franca and a first language for 10% of the population but understood by 95%)|
|Singapore||English (official) 48.3%, Mandarin (official) 29.9%, other Chinese dialects (includes Hokkien, Cantonese, Teochew, Hakka) 8.7%, Malay (official) 9.2%, Tamil (official) 2.5%, other 1.4%; note - data represent language most frequently spoken at home (2020 est.)|
|Solomon Islands||Melanesian pidgin (in much of the country is lingua franca), English (official but spoken by only 1%-2% of the population), 120 indigenous languages|
|South Africa||isiZulu (official) 25.3%, isiXhosa (official) 14.8%, Afrikaans (official) 12.2%, Sepedi (official) 10.1%, Setswana (official) 9.1%, English (official) 8.1%, Sesotho (official) 7.9%, Xitsonga (official) 3.6%, siSwati (official) 2.8%, Tshivenda (official) 2.5%, isiNdebele (official) 1.6%, other (includes Khoi, Nama, and San languages) 2%; note - data represent language spoken most often at home (2018 est.)|
|Sri Lanka||Sinhala (official and national language) 87%, Tamil (official and national language) 28.5%, English 23.8% (2012 est.); note: data represent main languages spoken by the population aged 10 years and older; shares sum to more than 100% because some respondents gave more than one answer on the census; English is commonly used in government and is referred to as the "link language" in the constitution|
|St Kitts and Nevis||English; Saint Kitts Creole|
|St Lucia||English; Antillean Creole|
|St Vincent and the Grenadines||English; Vincentian Creole|
|Tanzania||Kiswahili or Swahili (official), Kiunguja (name for Swahili in Zanzibar), English (official, primary language of commerce, administration, and higher education), Arabic (widely spoken in Zanzibar), many local languages; note - Kiswahili (Swahili) is the mother tongue of the Bantu people living in Zanzibar and nearby coastal Tanzania; although Kiswahili is Bantu in structure and origin, its vocabulary draws on a variety of sources including Arabic and English; it has become the lingua franca of central and eastern Africa; the first language of most people is one of the local languages|
|The Gambia||English (official), Mandinka, Wolof, Fula, other indigenous vernaculars|
|Tonga||Tongan and English 76.8%, Tongan, English, and other language 10.6%, Tongan only (official) 8.7%, English only (official) 0.7%, other 1.7%, none 2.2% (2016 est.)|
|Trinidad and Tobago||English (official), Trinidadian Creole English, Tobagonian Creole English, Caribbean Hindustani (a dialect of Hindi), Trinidadian Creole French, Spanish, Chinese|
|Turks and Caicos Islands||English|
|Tuvalu||Tuvaluan (official), English (official), Samoan, Kiribati (on the island of Nui)|
|Uganda||English (official language, taught in schools, used in courts of law and by most newspapers and some radio broadcasts), Ganda or Luganda (most widely used of the Niger-Congo languages and the language used most often in the capital), other Niger-Congo languages, Nilo-Saharan languages, Swahili (official), Arabic|
|Vanuatu||local languages (more than 100) 63.2%, Bislama (official; creole) 33.7%, English (official) 2%, French (official) 0.6%, other 0.5% (2009 est.)|
|Zambia||Bemba 33.4%, Nyanja 14.7%, Tonga 11.4%, Lozi 5.5%, Chewa 4.5%, Nsenga 2.9%, Tumbuka 2.5%, Lunda (North Western) 1.9%, Kaonde 1.8%, Lala 1.8%, Lamba 1.8%, English (official) 1.7%, Luvale 1.5%, Mambwe 1.3%, Namwanga 1.2%, Lenje 1.1%, Bisa 1%, other 9.7%, unspecified 0.2% (2010 est.); note: Zambia is said to have over 70 languages, although many of these may be considered dialects; all of Zambia's major languages are members of the Bantu family; Chewa and Nyanja are mutually intelligible dialects|