History of immigration from Germany

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Map of Germany
Map date: 2013
Victoria’s first German immigrants arrived in 1849 under a British bounty to attract vineyard workers. They established a thriving settlement north of Melbourne, in what was later to become the suburb of Thomastown.

Hundreds more Germans rushed to Victoria hoping to strike gold. Almost immediately they were the largest non-British group in Victoria: 10,000 strong in 1861. By 1864 there were already around 13 German associations in Victoria's gold field towns.

At the same time, German Lutherans who had initially settled in South Australia began to move to Victoria’s inland regions as farmers. Other German immigrants to Victoria included artists and scientists such as Ferdinand von Mueller, who became a highly influential director of Melbourne’s Botanic Gardens.

In the 1870s an economic downturn and political unrest in central Europe saw increased immigration from the German states. Germany’s enthusiastic participation in international exhibitions in Melbourne consolidated links between the two countries, and German immigration continued into the twentieth century.

During the First and Second World Wars, anti-German sentiment meant that Germans were banned from immigrating, and some of those already here were imprisoned as enemy aliens. After World War II, large numbers of Germans began to arrive, many of them Displaced Persons. 22% were Lutheran, while almost 10% were Jewish. The number of Germans in Victoria increased five-fold from the end of the War to 1961, when 39,291 were counted.

German technology, manufacturing and trade soon became highly significant to Victoria. The German Chamber of Industry and Commerce opened in Melbourne in 1978.

Today Germans constitute one of the largest ethnic groups in Victoria, with 28,021 Germany-born people counted in the 2011 census. Nearly half of those employed today work in professional jobs; 38% still speak German at home. Organisations such as the Goethe-Institut and the Association of German Teachers of Victoria help to maintain German culture and heritage.

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