Portuguese Culture

Portuguese in Australia

Links between Portugal and Australia may extend as far back as 250 years before Captain Cook’s voyage to Australia. Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that Portugal was the first European country to visit Australia in the 16th century. Three hundred years later, a number of Portuguese were among some of the earliest settlers in Australia. In particular, two Portuguese families are known to have settled, with one family having been commissioned to grow grapes. The 1901 census recorded 311 Portugal-born in Australia.

The Portugal-born population in Australia began to grow in 1950 when immigrants from Madeira arrived in Western Australia and assisted in establishing a fishing community in Fremantle. In the 1970s, Portugal experienced a mass return of Portuguese troops after Portugal’s wars in Angola and Mozambique, as well as the return of Portuguese following the arrival of Indonesian troops in East Timor. This had significant impacts on Portugal’s economy, which led many to move abroad seeking a better life. In turn, Australia saw a large increase in its Portugal-born population during the late 1960s and 1970s.

Most of Australia’s current Portugal-born population are relative newcomers who have been in the country for less than 30 years. Many were once rural workers in the wine-growing, cork and fishing industries. Today, most people in the Portugal-born community work as tradespeople or in manufacturing and construction industries. Among the Portugal-born population, almost three-quarters (74.5%) speak Portuguese at home. The majority of the Portugal-born population identifies as Catholic (86.1%). The second largest affiliation is ‘no religion’ (6.3%) followed by a religion other than Catholicism (5.4%).

The present-day Portuguese community in Australia is diverse, including not only people from Portugal but also those from the former Portuguese colonies of Brazil, Goa, Macau, East Timor, Angola, Mozambique and Cape Verde. The Portuguese community is supported by various organisations such as the Portuguese Community Council in Australia. There are also various Portuguese language radio programs and sporting clubs in the community.

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