Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Migration and Multicultural Studies


This thesis investigates the way in which ethnicit>' and gender influence both the rate of enterprise formation and the dynamics of entrepreneurial life in Australia. It reviews the theory of ethnic enterpreneurship and international research on ethnic enterprises to provide a theoretical framework in which to study the Australian entrepreneurial experience. It also critically reviews theories of - and Australian history of - immigration and racialisation. The thesis then presents a history of ethnic entrepreneurs in Australia as an historical and contemporary backdrop to the analysis of three surveys of Australian entrepreneurs undertaken for the thesis. The Sydney Survey of 280 entrepreneurs in small businesses was conducted in 1988-92. The National Survey and the TAFE Survey were conducted in 1996, and cover about 1,500 entrepreneurs. The findings of these surveys suggest that ethnicity^ lass and gender shape the lives of Australian entrepreneurs in complex, changing ways. A key feature is the great diversity of paths to entrepreneurship for immigrants. Macro structural aspects, such as globalisation, shape immigration flows and the characteristics of different ethnic groups in Australia. Globalisation also has an impact on the opportunity structures that new immigrants face in their new country. The racialisation of government immigration and settlement policy and racial discrimination in the labour market also shape opportunity structures for aspiring entrepreneurs. Class is also critical, in terms of both access to class resources and the production and reproduction of the petit-bourgeiosie. It also stresses the importance of studying female ethnic entrepreneurs, and in considering the link between the sexual division of labour in the business and in the homes of entrepreneurial families. The thesis provides evidence on the economic contribution of ethnic entrepreneurs in Australia, and comments on the implications for immigration and employment policy. It suggests a reformulation of the theory of ethnic entrepreneurship. Finally, the thesis demonstrates that ethnic entrepreneurs have been at the vanguard of the renaissance of the small business sector of the Australian economy.