The first ever Mexican recorded in Australia was a male living in Tasmania in 1881. The Mexican-born population remained at less than a hundred people throughout the first half of the 20th century. Exact numbers were unknown in the 1950s and ’60s because Mexicans were recorded as “other countries in South America”. Migration only really became significant from the 1980s onwards, following economic reforms that increased income inequality in Mexico. The Mexican-born population in Australia has grown steadily, but it still remains relatively small with less than 5,000 people. According to the 2011 census, roughly 70% of all Mexican-born people have arrived since 2001. Therefore, they are a relatively recent migrant population.
Mexicans that migrate to Australia are motivated to move for a number of reasons, but most come to enjoy a better quality of life. Others migrate seeking to obtain international experience, secure safe futures for their children and also to personally challenge themselves. Most Mexican-born people that arrive in Australia come with the initial intention of temporary settlement. However, the persisting insecure economic and social situation in Mexico has prompted many to seek permanent residence. It is estimated one-third of Mexicans living in Australia have an Australian-born partner or spouse.
It is important to recognise that the pattern of Mexican migration Australia receives has been very different to that in the United States. Australia’s immigration policy has a major effect on the demographic of Mexicans that arrive in the country. Migration pathways are generally only available to more privileged and cosmopolitan Mexicans (often from the middle class or upper class) that hold higher education qualifications. Most Mexicans that arrive in Australia come on skilled migrant visas or student visas. They tend to be selected for visas on the basis of strong English proficiency, education levels and their professional field of work. Almost all arrive from major cities.
Most Mexican-born people in Australia consider themselves ‘’ (a mixture of European and indigenous descent). However, Australia has a higher percentage of “white Mexicans” (people with full or mostly European heritage) than Mexico does. The 2016 Australian census reported that 28.7% did not identify with a religion, which is nearly 25% more than the percentage of non-affiliated in Mexico. Furthermore, 55.5% identified as Catholic, approximately 27% less than the percentage of Catholics in Mexico. Christianity (left undefined) was the next biggest religious affiliation (3.0%). A further 1.8% and 1.2% identified with Pentecostal Christianity and Baptist Christianity respectively.