History of immigration from Cook Islands

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Map of Cook Islands
Map date: 2013
Cook Island-born Victorians were first recorded in the 1976 census, when there were nine residents in Victoria.

Although the Cook Islands had been under New Zealand rule since 1901, it was the move to self-rule, whilst remaining under New Zealand control, which gave Cook Islanders free access to New Zealand. From there they were able to re-migrate to Australia under the Trans-Tasman agreement. So, as New Zealand migration to Australia grew in the 1980s, so too did Cook Islander migration. The 1986 census recorded 287 Cook Island-born Victorians.

Over the next decade the Cook Island-born population in Victoria more than doubled, reaching 787 in 1996. This was due to an economic recession in New Zealand which prompted people to seek work in Australia. By 2001 census the Cook Island-born community had reached 1346.

In 2011 there were 1,701 Cook Island-born Victorians counted in the census. The majority, 58%, speak Cook Islands Maori in the home, while 32% speak English and 6% speak New Zealand Maori. Almost 90% of the community is Christian and the three most popular faiths are Presbyterian and Reformed, Uniting and Catholic.

The community is relatively young, with 52% under the age of 40. Of those employed 30% are labourers, 20% are Intermediate Production and Transport Workers; and 11% are employed in managerial, professional and associated roles. 25% live in the local government area of Casey, 22% in the Greater Dandenong area and substantial numbers also live in the local government area of Kingston.

The community is supported by the Cook Islands Maori language program on SBS radio and the Cook Islands Welfare Association.

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