The first Polish settler to arrive in Australia came in 1803 as a convict. Later arrivals throughout the 19th century were often people enticed by the gold rush. Several thousands Jewish Poles began arriving after the start of World War II, but the biggest influx of Polish immigration to Australia was during the post-war period. Between 1947 and 1954, the population grew by roughly 50,000 people as Australia accepted Polish refugees.
Over the next couple of decades, the Poland-born population sporadically grew. It peaked again in 1991 during the transition period from the Soviet-influenced one-party system to a market-based economy as the newly formed Republic of Poland. More than 25,000 people arrived, many as refugees. However, since then, Poland has become a member of the European Union, and its living conditions have improved, which has significantly reduced the amount of Polish migration to Australia. The Polish population has been in steady decline since the early 1990s due to some return migration, a lack of new arrivals and the aging of the population.
The majority of first-generation Polish migrants in Australia are well established and have been permanent residents for decades. However, most continue to speak Polish at home (71%) and maintain the practice of their traditions. Over 60% of the Poland-born population arrived prior to 1990. As such, it is an older migrant population, with the median age being 57 (compared to 45 years of age for all overseas-born). At the time of the 2011 Census, 73.1% of all Poland-born people were aged 45 or over. Meanwhile, less than 4% are under 25 years of age.