The first Japanese migrants to Australia arrived in the late 1800s, most of whom worked in the sugar cane or diving industries, or were employed in service roles. Many continued to arrive as part of indentured work schemes. However, the Japanese community in Australia remained relatively small throughout the 19th century. Thesaw further Japanese migration restricted for much of the 20th century, though some Japanese individuals were able to acquire temporary permits during this time.
The Pacific War (1941-1945) during World War II saw Australia and its Allied forces in conflict with Japan. As a result, the Japanese population in Australia were almost all interned and most were deported at the end of the war. Only 74 Japanese nationals and their children were permitted to stay in Australia, leaving Japanese communities and businesses across the country effectively eradicated.1 Immigration from Japan remained banned for the next few years, though by 1949-1951 the number of Japan-born in Australia grew with the arrival of over 500 Japanese women who married Australian military personnel.2
The end of thein 1973 saw further growth of Australia’s Japanese community as Japan-born business people, students, and tourists arrived in the country. The community has since steadily grown, with over half of the current Japan-born population (52.9%) arriving before 2007. Immigration from Japan to Australia continues to rise. The 2016 census found that while 16.3% arrived between 2007 and 2011, nearly a quarter (24.4%) of the Japan-born population arrived between 2012 and 2016.3
Australia's Japanese Community
The most recent census in 2016 recorded 42,421 Japan-born people in Australia. The main language spoken at home is Japanese (79.8%), followed by English (16.7%). The vast majority of Australia’s Japan-born population reside in the eastern states of New South Wales (33.0%), Queensland (29.2%) and Victoria (20.1%). Various cities and towns in Australia have a connection to a city or region in Japan. In fact, there are 101 sister city relationships and six state-to-state relationships between Australia and Japan.4 These relationships provide various opportunities for cultural, economic, educational and sporting exchanges. Such relationships are often commemorated by a Japanese garden or monument in the respective Australian city or town.
Education exchanges are a large aspect of Australia’s Japanese community. Over 650 primary and secondary schools in Australia and Japan have a relationship that helps facilitate student exchange programs and study tours with students from both countries.5 Australia is also a popular choice for Japanese students interested in vocational and tertiary education, as well as English language courses. According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, there were 12,616 enrolments by students from Japan in 2017.6 Japanese continues to be the most widely studied foreign language in Australia, with approximately 400,000 students studying the language across primary through to tertiary levels.7
Short-term travel between Australia and Japan is also common. Over the last couple of decades, Australia has been a popular holiday destination for Japanese and vice versa. In 2019, there were 498,600 short-term visitors from Japan, an increase of 6.3% from the previous year.8 Similarly, 515,000 Australians visited Japan in the same year.9 Many Japanese also travel to Australia for short-term business trips. In fact, of the Japan-born population who are employed, nearly half (46.3%) were employed in a skilled managerial, professional or trade occupation. Additionally, approximately 33% were employed in a communication or personal service, clerical or administrative occupation.
A variety of local services and clubs help support the Japanese community in Australia. For example, there are Japanese grocery stores and restaurants throughout the country. Many clubs and societies have been established to foster and share different arts, such as pottery, textiles and music. Major capital cities also host Japanese festivals to celebrate the Japanese community and their contributions to Australia.
1 Department of Home Affairs, 2018
2 Department of Home Affairs, 2018
3 Department of Home Affairs, 2018
4 Australian Embassy Tokyo, 2021b
5 Australian Embassy Tokyo, 2021b
6 Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2021a
7 Australian Embassy Tokyo, 2021b
8 Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2021a
9 Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2021a