History of immigration from Portugal

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Map of Portugal
Map date: 2013
Portugal’s links with Australia may extend as far back as the sixteenth century, predating Captain Cook’s voyage to Australia by 250 years. Some evidence suggests that Portuguese explorers were the first Europeans to visit Australia.

Three hundred years later, a few Portuguese were among the earliest settlers in Australia. Emanuel and Ana Serrão and their infant daughter arrived in Sydney in 1824, and moved to Warrnambool with their family in 1852. Few followed, and by 1901 only 86 Victorians were Portugal-born. Males made up 90% of the community.

The Portugal-born population in Victoria declined in the early twentieth century, and by 1933, only 12 were recorded in the census.

While the post-war migration boom had little effect on the Portuguese population of Victoria, the late 1960s saw the beginning of a dramatic increase in immigration. After the Portuguese colonial wars in Angola and Mozambique ended in 1974, and the former Portuguese colony of East Timor was invaded by Indonesian troops in 1975, more ethnic Portuguese immigrants settled in Victoria. The number of immigrants from Portugal also increased, from 131 in 1966 to 2,335 in 1986.

By 2011, 2,648 Portugal-born migrants were living in Victoria. The Portuguese community in Victoria today also includes people from the former Portuguese colonies of Macau, East Timor, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Angola, Goa and Brazil.

Members of the Portugal-born community today are predominantly employed as tradespeople and workers within the manufacturing and construction industries. Almost three-quarters still speak Portuguese at home.

The community is supported by organisations including the Portuguese Community Council of Australia, which serves as an umbrella organisation for all Portuguese people in Australia. Portuguese language radio programs, language classes and sporting clubs help maintain the community in Victoria. Events such as performances by Madeira Folk Dancing provide an opportunity for the wider community to appreciate the rich, vibrant Portuguese culture.

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