On a suburban football oval in Alice Springs, 15-year-old Andre Kim is playing AFL with his teammates.
“As a new immigrant I’ve never played AFL before,” he said.
“AFL is like super, super hard, because the shape of the ball is different, and you kick it in different angles … it’s really different from soccer.”
A few blocks from the oval under the shade of a Ghost Gum, Andre’s father Stephen is taking orders in his busy Korean restaurant.
“The first time he told me he was going to play AFL, I said, ‘Do you know how to play?'” he quipped.
“And he said, ‘Don’t worry I can run’ and that was his plan.”
For Andre Kim, football was an easy way to make friends in a new country. (ABC News: Nick Hose)
The Kim family moved to the outback from Hong Kong last year, and said they preferred living in a regional town to the big East Coast cities.
“Sydney, Melbourne, it was just like duplicate of Hong Kong,” Mr Kim said.
“I want to live where there is space and opportunity, and the answer was Alice Springs.”
As the Australian population reached the historic milestone of 25 million people this week, one of the few things that seems to be stopping the Northern Territory from falling into population decline is overseas migration.
Traditionally, migrants have come from England. But for the first time, South Asian countries have overtaken the UK as the predominant country of birth.
For the last five years, around 2,500 immigrants have migrated to the Northern Territory annually — but roughly 1,500 people move each year, leaving a wafer-thin population increase of just 1,000 people per year.
According to demographer Andrew Taylor, not only were more people migrating from South Asian countries, but evidence suggested those who did were choosing to stay in the Northern Territory long-term.
“If you include the Indigenous population, we would be by far the most multicultural place or jurisdiction in Australia,” Dr Taylor said.
‘We’re gaining new cultures, we’re gaining new experiences, we’re gaining festivals, we’re gaining restaurants.
“The main drawcard for everybody has always been jobs, and there are jobs, clearly, as we’re seeing from the skilled migration scheme. We’re managing to hold onto our new migrant arrivals.”
For Mr Kim, Alice Springs is home — and that is how he likes it.
Contrary to misconceptions that small, outback communities were “racist” or “small minded”, Mr Kim said his family had been welcomed with open arms.
“Alice Springs is considered very multicultural city, and we have a lot of great community here,” he said.
“Until my sons grow up and then when they come back from university, I want to stay here forever.”
Andre Kim says the football community has made him feel at home in Australia. (ABC News: Nick Hose)
Back on the footy oval, as the sun sets on the West McDonnell Ranges, Andre Kim reflected on his time in Australia.
“When my dad came home and told me, ‘Son, we’re moving to Australia’, my first thought was, ‘Hmm, okay I guess’,” he said.
“But through AFL I have made friends, they’re really encouraging, even though I stuff up a lot, they’re like, ‘You’ve got this, we’ve got your back’.
“And I feel like this place is home.”