Venezuelans in Australia
The Venezuelan-born population in Australia (known as the ‘Bolivarian Diaspora’) has grown steadily over the past ten years. Prior to 2001, there were fewer than 1,000 Venezuelan residents in Australia.1 Due to its historical wealth and prosperity, Venezuela has often been a country that received migrants from the region (e.g. from Colombia and Peru), rather than being migrants themselves. However, significant numbers of Venezuelans began arriving in Australia after the Bolivarian Revolution of 1999, coinciding with social, economic and political unrest.
There have been consistent arrivals of migrants throughout the 21st century, likely encouraged by the continued instability in Venezuela. Between 2006 and 2011, Venezuelans became one of the fastest growing immigrant populations in Australia.2 According to the 2016 census, there were 5,460 Venezuelan-born residents living in Australia, 73% of whom arrived between 2006 and 2016. However, this total figure remains relatively small comparative to other migrant populations.
Migration pathways are most commonly available to Venezuelans from metropolitan areas who hold higher education qualifications, generally from the middle and upper classes. Most arrive on skilled migrant visas or student visas, sometimes for business, academic or diplomatic purposes. They tend to be selected for such visas on the basis of strong English proficiency, education levels and their professional field of work. However, it is now also becoming more common for lower-class Venezuelans to migrate due to the crisis and poor living conditions (see The Crisis in Core Concepts).
According to the 2016 census, the majority of Venezuelan-born people living in Australia tended to be young and well-educated. For example, 86.5% had higher non-school qualifications, compared to 60.1% in the wider Australian population.3 However, unemployment tends to be higher for Venezuelan-born residents than the Australian average (8.7% vs. 6.9% in 2016).
Experience in Australia
Many Venezuelans face difficulties finding employment that is appropriate to their skills, qualifications and prior work experience. This can be due to a range of factors, including visa status, language barriers, cultural differences in the job application processes, and the fact that many individuals’ qualifications and skills are not recognised overseas. Generally, it is easier for Venezuelan migrants to find jobs in the service industry (e.g. chefs and baristas).
Most Venezuelans report having positive experiences in Australia and describe Australians as being warm, welcoming and kind to Venezuelan migrants. When asked why they prefer to stay in Australia, they often talk about the relative safety and quality of life in comparison to Venezuela. Venezuelans also commonly form strong bonds with migrants from other countries and build thriving communities within Australia.
It is worth noting that almost every Venezuelan living in Australia has been affected by the crisis, either directly or indirectly (see The Crisis in Core Concepts). People often express sadness over the fact that some places and aspects of their culture have been changed or lost due to financial ruin. Many Venezuelan families have also been separated by the crisis. Indeed, most individuals living in Australia have family/friends remaining in Venezuela. This can be a major source of stress due to the uncertainty of current conditions. It is very common for people to send money back to those remaining in Venezuela as these are often crucial to helping people survive the crisis.
The Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection has reported that Australia is receiving an increase in visa applications from Venezuela.4 This reflects the mass numbers of Venezuelans leaving their country due to the political instability – with roughly 5,000 people leaving every day according to UNHCR’s 2018 estimates.5 At the time of writing, millions of people (equating to roughly 7% of the population) have fled the country.6 Due to this mass exodus, the Department of Home Affairs has identified an increasing likelihood for Venezuelans to overstay their visas and potentially claim asylum in Australia.7 It has been reported that the Australian government has responded by denying tourist visas to some Venezuelans as a preventative measure.8 This has posed a challenge for some Venezuelans living in Australia who genuinely wish for their family to be able to visit them.