History of immigration from Austria

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Map of Austria
Map date: 2013
It is difficult to determine the precise number of Austrians in Victoria until after World War I because everyone from the Austro-Hungarian Empire was considered Austrian.

A small number of Austrians came to Victoria during the gold rushes of the 1850s. Among these was Johann Joseph Eugen von Guerard, a talented landscape painter who became first master of the School of Painting at the National Gallery of Victoria. In the 1880s some Austrians who came to Melbourne to take part in the International Exhibitions settled permanently in Victoria.

After the outbreak of World War I, non-naturalized Austro-Hungarians in Australia were interned. The 1920 Immigration Act restricted the arrival of further Austrians, and by 1933 just 286 Austria-born people were living in Victoria.

After the Nazi occupation of Austria in 1938, many Austrian Jews fled Nazi persecution. By 1942, 2,144 Austrian refugees had arrived in Australia.

During World War II people carrying Austrian passports and stateless people formerly from Austria faced restrictions and even internment, but after the War the Assisted Passage scheme helped many Austrians to migrate to Australia. Many settled in Victoria and found work in the building industry. Others were employed as fruit-pickers or domestic workers. Some were highly qualified intellectuals who made a significant contribution to the arts sector.

The number of Austria-born living in Victoria peaked in the 1960s at 8,615, then declined in the following decades. A total of 4,562 Austrian-born Victorians were recorded in 2011. Over 57% were Catholic, while 4% were Jewish. The majority of the Austria-born population in Victoria was aged over fifty; 35% spoke German at home. Although the community is ageing, Austrian cultural traditions are being maintained through organisations including the Austrian Cultural Society and the Austrian Choir, which performs a popular European Christmas concert each year. Today, Austrians live throughout Victoria, and many members of the community are employed as professionals.

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