History of immigration from Samoa

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Map of Samoa
Map date: 2013
The majority of Samoans in Victoria come from the Independent State of Samoa, previously known as Western Samoa.

In the early part of the nineteenth century, Samoans aboard whaling and trading vessels made intermittent contact with Australia. This led a small number of Samoans to migrate to Australia, drawn by commercial and educational opportunities.

After Wesleyan missionaries from Australia began to visit Samoa in 1857, Samoan pastors began to travel to Australia for training and work. Other Samoan converts studied in Australia for short periods. By 1871, however, only six were living in Victoria, and a decade later only two remained.

From 1901 the White Australia Policy restricted immigration from Samoa. By 1921, the population of Samoa-born Victorians was just 12.

During the 1970s educational programs sponsored by the Australian Government saw an increase in the Samoa-born community in Victoria. The community grew from just 49 people in 1976 to 493 in 1986. By 2011, 4,021 Victorians were Samoa-born.

Today the community predominantly lives in the Dandenong area. 85% speak Samoan at home; 12% speak English. They are mostly Catholic and Protestant. A combination of Christian beliefs and Samoan traditions underpin community life.

The Samoan Advisory Council of Victoria supports the community and provides representation in political forums. Cultural organisations such as the Samoan Cultural and Performing Arts Group provide an avenue for the celebration and maintenance of Samoan culture. SBS Radio and the Melbourne Ethnic Radio Station 3ZZZ regularly broadcast Samoan language programs.

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