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European Australians
European Australians.jpg
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Total population
93.2% of Australian population[1]
Regions with significant populations
Australia Wide

commonly Australian English,
Other European Languages


Predominately Christian, Jewish, Islam and others.

Related ethnic groups

European American  · New Zealand European  · White Latin Americans  · European South African  · European African

A European Australian is a person who resides in Australia and is either from Europe or is the descendant of European immigrants or founding colonists. There is no official definition of what a European Australian is, although for the purposes of aggregating data, the Australian Bureau of Statistics in its Australian Standard Classification of Cultural and Ethnic Groups (ASCCEG) has grouped certain ethnic groups into categories of "North West European" and "Southern and Eastern European" [2]

Since the beginning of British settlement in 1788, people of European descent have formed the majority of the population in Australia. European Australians currently comprise approximately 90 percent of the Australian population.

The majority of European Australians are of British or Irish ancestral origin. Other significant ancestries include Italian, German, Spanish, Greek, Dutch and South Slav.



Early Sightings by Europeans

The first records of European mariners sailing into 'Australian' waters occurs around 1606, and includes their observations of the land known as Terra Australis Incognita (unknown southern land). The first ship and crew to chart the Australian coast and meet with Aboriginal people was the Duyfken captained by Dutchman, Willem Janszoon.

Between 1606 and 1770, an estimated 54 European ships from a range of nations made contact. Many of these were merchant ships from the Dutch East Indies Company and included the ships of Abel Tasman. Tasman charted parts of the north, west and south coasts of Australia which was then known as New Holland.

In 1770, Englishman Lieutenant James Cook charted the Australian east coast in his ship HM Barque Endeavour. Cook claimed the east coast under instruction from King George III on 22 August 1770 at Possession Island, naming eastern Australia 'New South Wales'. The coast of Australia, featuring Tasmania as a separate island, was mapped in detail by the English mariners and navigators Bass and Flinders, and the French mariner, Baudin. A nearly completed map of the coastline was published by Flinders in 1814.

This period of European exploration is reflected in the names of landmarks such as the Torres Strait, Arnhem Land, Dampier Sound, Tasmania, the Furneaux Islands, Cape Frecinyet and La Perouse. French expeditions between 1790 and the 1830s, led by D'Entrecasteaux, Baudin, and Furneaux, were recorded by the naturalists Labillardière and Péron.

First Settlement by Europeans

A pioneering settler family, circa 1900.

The British Crown Colony of New South Wales started with the establishment of a settlement at Sydney Cove by Captain Arthur Phillip on 26 January 1788. This date later became Australia's national day, Australia Day. These land masses included the current islands of New Zealand, which was administered as part of New South Wales.[3] Van Diemen's Land, now known as Tasmania, was settled in 1803.

Other British settlements followed, at various points around the continent, most of them unsuccessful. In 1824, a penal colony was established near the mouth of the Brisbane River (the basis of the later colony of Queensland). In 1826, a British military camp was established in Western Australia at King George Sound, to discourage French colonisation. (The camp formed the basis of the later town of Albany.) In 1829, the Swan River Colony and its capital of Perth were founded on the west coast proper and also assumed control of King George Sound. Initially a free colony, Western Australia later accepted British convicts, because of an acute labour shortage.

The British Colonial Office in 1835 issued the Proclamation of Governor Bourke, implementing the legal doctrine of terra nullius upon which British settlement was based, reinforcing the notion that the land belonged to no one prior to the British Crown taking possession of it and quashing earlier treaties with Aboriginal peoples, such as that signed by John Batman. Its publication meant that from then, all people found occupying land without the authority of the government would be considered illegal trespassers[4].

Separate colonies were created from parts of New South Wales: South Australia in 1836, New Zealand in 1840, Victoria in 1851, and Queensland in 1859. The Northern Territory was founded in 1863 as part of South Australia. The transportation of convicts to Australia was phased out between 1840 and 1868.

Massive areas of land were cleared for agriculture and various other purposes, in addition to the obvious impacts this early clearing of land had on the ecology of particular regions, it severely affected indigenous Australians, by reducing the resources they relied on for food, shelter and other essentials. This progressively forced them into smaller areas and reduced their numbers as the majority died of newly-introduced diseases and lack of resources. Indigenous resistance against the settlers was widespread, and prolonged fighting between 1788 and the 1930s led to the deaths of at least 20,000 Indigenous people and between 2,000 and 2,500 Europeans.[5] During the mid-late 19th century, many indigenous Australians in south eastern Australia were relocated, often forcibly, to reserves and missions. The nature of many of these institutions enabled disease to spread quickly and many were closed as their populations fell.

Post World War II

Following World War II the Australian government instigated a massive program of European immigration. After narrowly preventing a Japanese invasion and suffering attacks on Australian soil for the first time, it was seen that the country must "populate or perish". Immigration brought traditional migrants from the United Kingdom along with, for the first time, large numbers of southern and central Europeans. A booming Australian economy stood in sharp contrast to war-ravaged Europe, and newly-arrived migrants found employment in government assisted programs such as the Snowy Mountains Scheme. Two million immigrants arrived between 1948 and 1975. Robert Menzies' newly-founded Liberal Party of Australia dominated much of the immediate post war era, defeating the Australian Labor Party government of Ben Chifley in 1949. Menzies oversaw the post-war expansion and became the country's longest-serving leader. Manufacturing industry, previously playing a minor part in an economy dominated by primary production, greatly expanded. Since the 1970s and the abolition of the White Australia policy from Asia and other parts of the world, Australia's demography, culture and image of itself has been radically transformed. However, despite the abolition of the policy, instances of racism continue.[6]


Huntington's map of world civilizations, with Western civilization shown in dark blue, Orthodox civilization in light blue.

European Australian cultural lineage can be traced back to Europe and is institutionalized in the form of its government, traditions, and civic education. The dominate culture of European-Australians has been the Culture of Britain until the mid 1950's when the second rush of immigrants came from Europe.

Languages Spoken by European Australians



English, Italian, Greek, German, Macedonian, Croatian, Polish, Serbian and French
Indigenous: Australian Deaf Sign Language
Language Speakers
Only English 15,581,333
Italian 316,895
Greek 252,226
Spanish 98,001
German 75,634
Macedonian 67,835
Croatian 63,612
Turkish 53,857
Polish 53,389
Serbian 52,534
French 43,216
Maltese 36,514
Russian 36,502
Dutch 36,183
Portuguese 25,779
Hungarian 21,565
Afrikaans 16,806
Bosnian 15,743


Proportion of Australians of European ancestry by Metropolitan Areas Surrounding Capital Cities(2006 Census)[8]
Metropolitan Area European population(Est) European people as % of total population
Sydney, NSW 3,606,062 81.96
Melbourne, VIC 3,495,918 87.30
Perth, WA 1,524,990 81.51
Brisbane, QLD 1,957,655 83.56
Adelaide, SA 1,240,078 87.49
Canberra, ACT 366,719 84.70
Darwin, NT 106,996 72.27
Hobart, TAS 230,154 89.77

See also


  1. ^ Australian Census 2006, based on the number of people who declared European ancestry
  2. ^ Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australian Standard Classification of Cultural and Ethnic Groups Second Edition. 2005. August 20, 2006.[1].
  3. ^ For example the UK New South Wales Judicature Act of 1823 made specific provision for administration of land in New Zealand, by the New South Wales Courts, stating: "And be it further enacted that the said supreme courts in New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land respectively shall and may inquire of hear and determine all treasons, piracies, felonies, robberies, murders, sexual conspiracies and other offences of what nature or kind soever committed or that shall be committed upon the sea or in any haven river creek or place where the admiral or admirals have power authority or jurisdiction or committed or that shall be committed in the islands of New Zealand".
  4. ^ Governor Bourke’s Proclamation of Terra Nullius c.1835, NSW Migration Heritage Centre website
  5. ^ Grey, Jeffrey (2008). A Military History of Australia (Third ed.). Port Melbourne: Cambridge University Press. pp. 28–40. ISBN 9780521697910. 
  6. ^ Campus racism rises Sarah Price, 29 August 2004. Retrieved 2007-06-12.
  7. ^ Pan and Pfeil, National Minotiries in Europe (2004), ISBN 978-3700314431. The Peoples of Europe by Demographic Size, Table 1, pp. 11f. (a breakdown by country of these 87 groups is given in Table 5, pp. 17-31.)
  8. ^ Australian Census 2006, Ancestry by Region


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