There was very little Turkish migration to Australia before the 20th century. Following World War I, Turks in Australia could be interned as ‘enemy aliens’ due to their country’s alliance in the war. Theand 1920 Enemy Aliens Act limited further Turkish migration for many decades.
Significant migration formally began in 1967 after the Australian and Turkish governments made an agreement to assist migration of people from Turkey to live and work in Australia. This was the first instance Australia signed an Assisted Passage agreement with a country outside of Western Europe. Many of the Turks that took advantage of the opportunity to migrate to Australia intended to be non-permanent migrant workers and sentback to their families. However, many (if not most) of these workers ended up staying in Australia permanently and sought to move their families over as well. Family reunion has been the main reason for immigration since 1974, with arrivals remaining consistent since.
Today, the Turkish Australian community mostly consists of well-established families who have been living in Australia for longer than a decade. According to the 2016 census, 32,178 Australian residents were born in Turkey. However, the number of Australians that claim Turkish ancestry is roughly 73,000, reflecting the second-generation migrants born in Australia.1 Children of Turkish migrants are often raised speaking Turkish as a second language at home. More than half of all Turkish migrants in Australia reside in Victoria.
Experience in Australia
The settlement experience for many of the first generation of arrivals was complicated by the fact that they had originally viewed their migration to Australia as temporary and intended to eventually return to Turkey. Therefore, some did not learn the language or set deep roots in Australia (e.g. by buying property). As a result, some older Turks may not speak English well and may be more socially or culturally isolated than the younger generation.
As the first ‘Asian’, non-Christian and non-European immigrants to settle in Australia in large numbers, many Turks were met with hostility from the Australian public in the 1960s and '70s. Some Turks also report early friendships being tainted by Turkey and Australia's crossfire at Gallipoli during World War I. However, today the Turkish community reports broad social acceptance from the Australian community. Turkish culture is preserved and supported by many organisations in Australia, such as the Australian Turkish Cultural Association, soccer clubs, religious groups and political associations.