Croatian settlement in Australia began in the nineteenth century, prompted by strong hostility to Austro-Hungarian rule. By 1854 at least two Croatians were working in the Victorian goldfields. Another impetus for migration from Croatia was the phylloxera disease which ravaged the wine industry in Dalmatia. By 1900, a substantial number of Croatian migrants had arrived in Australia, mainly from Dalmatia. Chain migration significantly contributed to on-going early Croatian migration. The 1933 Census listed 2,830 Yugoslavia-born in Australia.
Immediately after World War II, the Yugoslavia-born population in Australian quadrupled from 5,870 in 1947 to 22,860 in 1954. Many migrated under the post war Displaced Persons Scheme and a significant number of those were ethnic Croatians. The migration of displaced persons peaked in 1958. However, unlike other displaced persons groups, the Yugoslavia-born (including Croatians) continued to increase in numbers through the next two decades.
In the 1960s, the Yugoslav Government opened its borders to allow its citizens to seek employment abroad. Between 1961 and 1976 almost 100,000 Yugoslavia-born people took advantage of this opportunity and migrated to Australia. Again many of these settlers were Croatians. The Yugoslavia-born population reached 129,620 by the 1971 Census and 160,480 by the 1991 Census.
Almost 30,000 settlers from the republics of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia have migrated to Australia since 1991 due to the conflicts following the breakup of Yugoslavia. Most of these new arrivals came under Australia's Humanitarian Program. Many were Croatians. Migration from Croatia has been in decline since the early 2000s.
The latest Census in 2011 recorded 48,828 Croatia-born people in Australia, a fall of 4.3 per cent from the 2006 Census. The 2011 distribution by state and territory showed New South Wales had the largest number with 17,698 followed by Victoria (17,249), Western Australia (5,149) and Queensland (3,808).
Age and Sex
The median age of the Croatia-born in 2011 was 61 years compared with 45 years for all overseas-born and 37 years for the total Australian population. The age distribution showed 0.4 per cent were aged 0-14 years, 3.9 per cent were 15-24 years, 14.5 per cent were 25-44 years, 40.9 per cent were 45-64 years and 40.3 per cent were 65 years and over. Of the Croatia-born in Australia, there were 24,599 males (50.4 per cent) and 24,230 females (49.6 per cent). The sex ratio was 101.5 males per 100 females.
In the 2011 Census, the top ancestry responses* that Croatia-born people reported were Croatian (38,309), Serbian (6,504) and South Eastern European, nfd (584). In the 2011 Census, Australians reported around 300 different ancestries. Of the total ancestry responses*, 126,270 responses were towards Croatian 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 Croatia-born people in Australia were Croatian (30,927), English (8,570) and Serbian (6,243). Of the 40,257 Croatia-born who spoke a language other than English at home, 78.2 per cent spoke English very well or well, and 20.5 per cent spoke English not well or not at all.
At the 2011 Census the major religious affiliations amongst Croatia-born were Catholic (36,531) and Eastern Orthodox (7,076). Of the Croatia-born, 4.6 per cent stated 'No Religion' which was lower than that of the total Australian population (22.3 per cent), and 2 per cent did not state a religion.
Compared to 62 per cent of the total overseas-born population, 90.8 per cent of the Croatia-born people in Australia arrived in Australia prior to 2001.
Among the total Croatia-born in Australia at the 2011 Census, 4.8 per cent arrived between 2001 and 2006 and 1 per cent arrived between 2007 and 2011.
At the time of the 2011 Census, the median individual weekly income for the Croatia-born in Australia aged 15 years and over was $370, 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, 46.8 per cent of the Croatia-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 Croatia-born aged 15 years and over, 2.3 per cent were still attending an educational institution. The corresponding rate for the total Australian population was 8.6 per cent.
Among Croatia-born people aged 15 years and over, the participation rate in the labour force was 43.4 per cent and the unemployment rate was 4.8 per cent. The corresponding rates in the total Australian population were 65 per cent and 5.6 per cent respectively.
Of the 19,425 Croatia-born who were employed, 44.9 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.