Transnational Care and Kinship in Australia: Perspectives from Sinhalese Migrants in Later Life

A/Prof Raelene Wilding4, Dr Shashini Gamage4

4La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia

Migration is a disruptive experience that requires the reimagining and reconfiguring of connections to family, place and community. Existing studies of transnational families have clearly demonstrated how migration and resultant familyhood across distance transform the gendered roles of parents and the associated practices of parental care for both mothers and fathers. In this paper, we build on those accounts by considering how distance and transnational practices transform and reconfigure the gendered duties and roles of older migrant adults who are not only parents but also grandparents. Drawing on ethnographic interview data, we explore the experiences of older men and women from Sri Lankan backgrounds who are living in Melbourne, Australia and who are engaged in transnational relations of care that incorporate practices of grandparenting, aged care and community leadership. We demonstrate how these practices are informed by the gendered obligations, roles and responsibilities associated with ageing in Sri Lanka, but also by the divergent and relatively negative cultural narratives of ageing in Australia. We argue that engagement in both social media and broadcast media provide important resources for reimagining and enacting later life as a Sinhalese migrant in Australia who is embedded in gendered and generational roles within a transnational family and community.


Raelene Wilding is Associate Professor, Sociology at La Trobe University. Her research on transnational families pays particular attention to the intersections of intimacy and communication technologies. Her most recent book is Families, Intimacy and Globalization (2018, Palgrave).

Shashini Gamage is a researcher, journalist and documentary filmmaker. Her research interests include how transnational social fields are shaped by diasporic media, gender, and popular culture. Her ethnographic work with Sri Lankan migrants has been published in a PhD thesis, journal articles and book chapters.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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