History of immigration from Spain

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Map of Spain
Map date: 2013
Although Spanish seafarers began exploring the South Pacific in the fourteenth century, it was not until the Victorian gold rush of the 1850s that Spanish immigrants began to arrive in Victoria. The first Spanish restaurant was opened in Melbourne in 1860. By 1871, 135 Spaniards lived in Victoria, 80% of them men. Over the next two decades, the number of Spanish women arriving in Victoria tripled; a few more men also arrived.

Despite a military coup in Spain in 1923 and the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939, few Spanish refugees settled in Victoria. Immigration Acts passed in the 1920s restricted the entry of Spaniards and other southern Europeans. By 1947, the Spain-born population of Victoria was only 252.

The Spain-born population dramatically increased from the late 1950s, following the 1958 Spanish-Australian migration agreement. The agreement provided assisted passages to Spanish migrants, many escaping poverty and hunger. The community in Victoria increased from 374 in 1954 to 3,143 in 1966.

During the following decades economic improvements in Spain coincided with a slowing of Spanish immigration to Australia. The Spain-born community in Victoria today has declined from 4,067 in 1986 to 3,106, in 2011.

The Spain-born community in Victoria is also ageing: 45% of its population are between the ages of 50 and 75. Living predominantly in the Geelong area, the majority are employed as professionals and tradespeople.

The community is supported by a number of groups and organisations including the Spanish and Latin American Welfare Centre (CELAS), providing counselling, community development and educational programmes. Spanish culture in Victoria is further maintained through SBS and community radio and television programmes, and publications such as The Spanish Herald.

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