The history of Thai emigration to Australia is relatively small until recent decades. During the early 20th century, Australia developed connections with Thai royalty. For example, Butra Mahintra was sent by King Rama VI to purchase racehorses. Seven years later, Prince Purachatra arrived, which led to a group tour of Australia’s agriculture and infrastructure sectors.
There was a subtle increase of Thailand-born arrivals in Australia with the implementation of the Colombo Plan in the 1950s. In turn, many came as students with temporary residence. Over the following decades, the majority of new arrivals continued to be students, those sponsored under military traineeships and spouses of Australians. Simultaneously, Thailand was home to displaced persons from neighbouring countries such as Cambodia. During the 1970s and 1980s, a large number of Indochinese refugees were accommodated in border encampments in Thailand, many of whom Australia accepted for settlement.
In contemporary Australia, more than half of the Thailand-born population in Australia arrived in the past ten years. Many continue to be students, with more than 30,000 Thai-born studying in Australia in 2018.1 Many Thailand-born are also arriving under the family migration scheme. Much of the Thai community stay connected to their culture. For example, 69.2% of Thailand-born speak Thai at home and nearly three-quarters (72.9%) identify as Buddhist.
1 Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2018