History of immigration from England

Map of England
Map date: 2013
English immigrants have been the largest group to migrate to Australia since the establishment of New South Wales as the first penal colony in 1788. In 1803 the first official settlement of Port Phillip Bay at Sorrento was established by Lieutenant-Colonel David Collins, but it was short-lived. William Buckley, a convict, escaped from that settlement and lived for 32 years with the local Wathaurung people.

Many more English immigrants were lured to Victoria by the gold rush of the 1850s. By 1854 there were 97,943 England-born people in Victoria.

Immigration policies and assistance schemes helped maintain high levels of immigration from England. Of the one million immigrants who arrived between 1860 and 1900, just over half came from England. From 1922 the Empire Settlement Act assisted thousands of migrants from England.

After World War II, even as immigration from other countries expanded dramatically, English citizens had almost unrestricted entry into Australia. Arthur Calwell, Minister for Immigration, wanted nine out of ten new immigrants to be British. The majority of England-born migrants received assisted passages until the scheme was abolished in 1982.

In 2011 the English were still the largest group of overseas-born in Victoria, with over 3% of Victorians born in England. Community members were mainly employed as professionals, managers and administrators, and many worked in manufacturing and in the ‘property and business services’ industry. The vast majority of England-born immigrants were Christian; 42% were Anglican, 12% were Catholic and 3% belonged to the Uniting Church.

Today, the England-born community is spread throughout Victoria, with a high proportion living around the Mornington Peninsula, Frankston and the Yarra Ranges. In some ways ‘invisible immigrants’, the English have been able to settle with relative ease because of English-language dominance and a history of British colonisation. Yet, while they continue to be well-represented among immigrants to Australia, the overall decline of English immigration to Australia since the 1980s has meant that the England-born component of the population as a whole is falling. With over 200 years of English settlement, however, Australian society continues to be influenced by its strong English heritage

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