History of immigration from Turkey

     Select a language:
Map of Turkey
Map date: 2013
Few Turks came to Victoria in the 19th century. Ten Turkish men were recorded in Victoria in 1871, and by the time of Australia’s Federation, in 1901, the community numbered just 40.

When World War I broke out, Turks in Australia were interned as enemy aliens. The 1920 Enemy Aliens Act prohibited more Turks entering Australia for five years, and “Asiatic Turks” continued to be prohibited from entry to Australia under the White Australia Policy. “European Turks”, were able to immigrate.

After World War II, Turkish immigration to Australia did not increase dramatically, and by 1966 there were still less than 1,000 Turkey-born people in Victoria. Declining emigration from Europe promoted the Australian Government to consider accepting Turkish immigrants. At the same time, the Turkish Government was encouraging emigration to solve unemployment and over-crowding. In 1967 Turkey became the first country beyond Western Europe to sign an Assisted Passage agreement with Australia. The Turkey-born community in Victoria increased from 970 in 1966 to 5,383 in 1971. Many Turkish immigrants were met with hostility in Australia, as the first post-war immigrants who were non-Christian and of non-European descent.

The annual intake of assisted settlers from Turkey remained consistently high until 1974, when family reunion became the main reason for immigration. In 2011 the Turkey-born population of Victoria was 16,491 – around half of Australia’s entire Turkey-born population. Over 79% of those in Victoria were Muslim, while 7% were Christian. Turkish was spoken at home by 86% of the community.

Today the community lives mainly in Coburg and Broadmeadows, in the area of the Broadmeadows Migrant Hostel which initially housed Turkish immigrants upon arrival. A third of those employed work in trades, production, transport and labouring roles, and a quarter work in professional roles.

The preservation of culture is important to the Turkish community, supported by organisations such as the Australian Turkish Cultural Association, soccer clubs, religious groups and political associations. Community celebrations include an annual ball to celebrate Turkish Republic Day on 29 October.

© Museum Victoria Australia