Germans were at the forefront of Australia's early European settlement and exploration. Germans comprised a significant and enduring part of the settlement in South Australia, and German missionaries were among the first Europeans to settle in what is now Moreton Bay in south-east Queensland.
The first significant group of 517 migrants were Lutherans pursuing religious freedom and settled in South Australia in late 1838. Along with other Germans who arrived that year, they were considered by themselves and the British as founding pioneers. The 1850s gold rush in Victoria also drew large numbers of fortune-seeking adventurers from Germany with about 10 000 German migrants working the goldfields by 1861.
German-speaking people in Australia came under suspicion during both World Wars. At the end of World War I, hundreds of Germans were deported and migration from Germany did not resume until 1925. During World War II, anti-German sentiment was high resulting in settlers being interned in Australian camps. More than 2000 Jewish refugees from Germany were also interned for short periods. The two World Wars had a marked impact on the number of Germany-born in Australia, with numbers falling from approximately 45 000 at the 1891 Census to a low of 14 567 at the 1947 Census.
Australia's post-war immigration program, which was founded on settling Europe's displaced persons, saw the Germany-born population increase again to 109 315 by the 1961 Census, peaking at 112 000 in 1991. By 2001, this number dropped to 108 240 due to low numbers of new arrivals, return migration (especially of aged pensioners), and deaths among some of the older Germany-born migrants.
The latest Census in 2011 recorded 108 003 Germany-born people in Australia, an increase of 1.4 per cent from the 2006 Census. The 2011 distribution by state and territory showed New South Wales had the largest number with 31 084 followed by Victoria (28 021), Queensland (21 027) and South Australia (11 409).
Age and Sex
The median age of the Germany-born in 2011 was 62 years compared with 45 years for all overseas-born and 37 years for the total Australian population. The age distribution showed 2.5 per cent were aged 0-14 years, 3.9 per cent were 15-24 years, 17.8 per cent were 25-44 years, 37 per cent were 45-64 years and 38.8 per cent were 65 years and over.
Of the Germany-born in Australia, there were 51 327 males (47.5 per cent) and 56 675 females (52.5 per cent). The sex ratio was 90.6 males per 100 females.
In the 2011 Census, the top ancestry responses* that Germany-born people reported were German (84 984), Polish (8326) and English (4991). In the 2011 Census, Australians reported around 300 different ancestries. Of the total ancestry responses*, 898 674 responses were towards German ancestry.
*At the 2011 Census up to two responses per person were allowed for the Ancestry question; therefore providing the total responses and not persons count.
The main languages spoken at home by Germany-born people in Australia were English (56 923), German (43 023) and Polish (1726). Of the 51 078 Germany-born who spoke a language other than English at home, 95.7 per cent spoke English very well or well and 2.6 per cent spoke English not well or not at all.
At the 2011 Census the major religious affiliations amongst Germany-born were Catholic (30 478) and Lutheran (26 230). Of the Germany-born, 23.2 per cent stated 'No Religion' which was higher than that of the total Australian population (22.3 per cent), and 5.5 per cent did not state a religion.
Compared to 62 per cent of the total overseas-born population, 80.6 per cent of the Germany-born people in Australia arrived in Australia prior to 2001. Among the total Germany-born in Australia at the 2011 Census, 7.1 per cent arrived between 2001 and 2006 and 8.5 per cent arrived between 2007 and 2011.
At the time of the 2011 Census, the median individual weekly income for the Germany-born in Australia aged 15 years and over was $471, compared with $538 for all overseas-born and $597 for all Australia-born. The total Australian population had a median individual weekly income of $577.
At the 2011 Census, 67.9 per cent of the Germany-born aged 15 years and over had some form of higher non-school qualifications compared to 55.9 per cent of the Australian population.
Of the Germany-born aged 15 years and over, 2.6 per cent were still attending an educational institution. The corresponding rate for the total Australian population was 8.6 per cent.
Among Germany-born people aged 15 years and over, the participation rate in the labour force was 48.1 per cent and the unemployment rate was 4.8 per cent. The corresponding rates in the total Australian population were 65 per cent and 5.6 per cent respectively. Of the 46 912 Germany-born who were employed, 56 per cent were employed in either a skilled managerial, professional or trade occupation. The corresponding rate in the total Australian population was 48.4 per cent.
Produced by the Community Relations Section of DIAC All data used in this summary is sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics Census of Population and Housing. Sources for the Historical Background are available on our website.
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