History of immigration from Denmark

     Select a language:
Map of Denmark
Map date: 2013
One of the first Danes to visit Victoria was Jorgen Jorgensen. He participated in the surveying and establishment of the first white settlement in Sorrento.

It was not until the gold rushes of the 1850s that many Danes settled in Victoria. Some were young soldiers seeking new opportunities beyond Denmark following the loss of a territorial war against Prussia. By 1857 over 1,000 Danes were believed to be working on the Victorian goldfields. A settlement near Castlemaine was named Copenhagen after the resident Danes who ran a hotel and general store. One of the most enduring Danish dairy farming settlements was located in East Poowong in Gippsland, where 13 families lived by the mid-1890s; their descendents continue to live there today.

The end of the nineteenth century saw significant growth in Australia’s Danish community, to 6,403 in 1891. Most settled in Queensland, where they received land grants under the Assisted Immigration Scheme. Fewer than 1,400 Danish immigrants lived in Victoria by 1891, but their contributions to the colony far outweighed their size. They established the Danish Dannebrog Club in Melbourne in 1889, contributed to the Scandinavian newspaper Norden, predominantly written in Danish, and played a crucial role in the development of the Australian dairy industry.

In the first half of the twentieth century, the number of Danes in Victoria halved, with only 517 recorded in the 1947 census. Subsequently, in 1952, the General Assisted Passage Scheme was opened to Scandinavians, and by 1961 the Danish community in Victoria had almost doubled in size. By 1971 the number had stabilized at around 1500, and remains at this level today.

Despite their modest numbers, the Danes in Victoria have continued to maintain links to their heritage and culture through organisations such as Dannebrog, the Danish Australian Cultural Society, and the Danish Church in Melbourne.

© Museum Victoria Australia