Historical Background

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The Belgium-born Community

Historical Background

The first Belgian settlers in Australia arrived in the early nineteenth century. In 1846, Belgian migrant Horatio Ellerman named his 130,000 acre rural grazing settlement in north eastern Victoria ‘Antwerp,’ after his birthplace in Belgium.

Many Belgians were also attracted to gold fields throughout Australia during the gold rush.

Belgians continued to migrate to Australia in small numbers until World War II. There was a relative increase in Belgium-born migrants after the war.

A number of Belgium-born people and those who identified as Belgian also migrated to Australia from the Congo, a former Belgian colony in Africa, following its independence in 1960.

Belgium-born people continue to migrate to Australia in small numbers.


Geographic Distribution

The latest Census in 2011 recorded 5,762 Belgium-born people in Australia, an increase of 13.9 per cent from the 2006 Census. The 2011 distribution by state and territory showed New South Wales had the largest number with 1,801 followed by Victoria (1,292), Queensland (1,201) and Western Australia (740).

Age and Sex

The median age of the Belgium-born in 2011 was 49 years compared with 45 years for all overseas-born and 37 years for the total Australian population. The age distribution showed 7 per cent were aged 0-14 years, 5.9 per cent were 15-24 years, 28.7 per cent were 25-44 years, 36.1 per cent were 45-64 years and 22.3 per cent were 65 years and over.

Of the Belgium-born in Australia, there were 2,840 males (49.3 per cent) and 2,922 females (50.7 per cent). The sex ratio was 97.2 males per 100 females.


In the 2011 Census, the top ancestry responses* that Belgium-born people reported were Belgian (3,643), English (411), French (321) and Dutch (320). In the 2011 Census, Australians reported around 300 different ancestries. Of the total ancestry responses*, 10,022 responses were towards Belgian ancestry.

*At the 2011 Census up to two responses per person were allowed for the Ancestry question; therefore providing the total responses and not persons count.


The main languages spoken at home by Belgium-born people in Australia were English (2,769), French (1,250) and Dutch (1,224). Of the 2996 Belgium-born who spoke a language other than English at home, 96.1 per cent spoke English very well or well, and 2.7 per cent spoke English not well or not at all.


At the 2011 Census the major religious affiliations amongst Belgium-born were Catholic (2,710) and Anglican (193).

Of the Belgium-born, 30.7 per cent stated 'No Religion' which was higher than that of the total Australian population (22.3 per cent), and 5.3 per cent did not state a religion.


Compared to 62 per cent of the total overseas-born population, 68.8 per cent of the Belgium-born people in Australia arrived in Australia prior to 2001.

Among the total Belgium-born in Australia at the 2011 Census, 11.6 per cent arrived between 2001 and 2006 and 16 per cent arrived between 2007 and 2011.

Median Income

At the time of the 2011 Census, the median individual weekly income for the Belgium-born in Australia aged 15 years and over was $630, compared with $538 for all overseas-born and $597 for all Australia-born. The total Australian population had a median individual weekly income of $577.


At the 2011 Census, 67 per cent of the Belgium-born aged 15 years and over had some form of higher non-school qualifications compared to 55.9 per cent of the Australian population.

Of the Belgium-born aged 15 years and over, 4.4 per cent were still attending an educational institution. The corresponding rate for the total Australian population was 8.6 per cent.


Among Belgium-born people aged 15 years and over, the participation rate in the labour force was 62.1 per cent and the unemployment rate was 5.8 per cent. The corresponding rates in the total Australian population were 65 per cent and 5.6 per cent respectively.

Of the 3,077 Belgium-born who were employed, 58.3 per cent were employed in either a skilled managerial, professional or trade occupation. The corresponding rate in the total Australian population was 48.4 per cent.

Produced by the Community Relations Section of DIAC All data used in this summary is sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics Census of Population and Housing. Sources for the Historical Background are available on our website.
© Commonwealth of Australia.

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