British Culture

British in Australia

Due to Australia’s beginnings as a of Britain, British migration has deeply influenced the cultural and social makeup of society. Between 1788 and 1852, around 100,000 (mostly British) convicts were transported to Eastern Australia. In the 1850’s large numbers of free British settlers came to Australia to join the gold rush. The population of people born in the United Kingdom outnumber the number of Australia-born until 1861. The number of United Kingdom-born peaked at 825,000 in 1891. From then on, there was a continual fall in the proportion of British among all immigrants to Australia.


Following World War II, the post-war immigration program was very effective. British ex-servicemen, selected civilians and their dependants were given free and assisted passage to Australia. Schemes were introduced to incite British migration to Australia, especially in the 1950’s. For example, the ‘Bring Out a Briton’ campaign asked employers and organisations to sponsor certain families and aid their settlement.


The United Kingdom-born population continues to be the largest overseas-born group in Australia, with over a million British residents recorded in the 2016 census. Furthermore, Australia remains the first preference of destination for British emigration. Many UK citizens see Australia’s employment opportunities, lifestyle and climate more favourably. Due to the history between the two countries, many also find the culture to be very compatible with their own. In general, these cultural similarities afford British migrants relative ease acculturating to Australia. They do not encounter the same language barriers, difficulties and social isolation that some other migrant groups face.


Today, most British gain residency with skilled migration visas, usually through employer sponsorship. Some also arrive through family programs (for example, through marrying an Australian). However, the vast majority of British migration is temporary and does not lead to permanent residency. Australia receives half a million British visitors each year. Some people may extend their stays and live in Australia for some time – roughly 40,000 are granted the right to live and work in Australia on a working holiday visa for a year. Nevertheless, the majority return back to the United Kingdom. Between 2014 and 2015, 96.5% of the British citizens that entered Australia stayed temporarily.1



1 Department of Immigration and Border Protection, 2015

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