The Norway-born Community

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The Norway-born Community

Historical Background

There are some isolated records of Norwegians in the Australian colonies before the gold rushes of the 1850s.

One of the early Norwegians in Australia was seaman Thorkel Thorkelson, whose ship was wrecked off the Australian coast and claimed to be a native of the island of Heligoland in order to stay in Victoria. Other notable early Norwegians in Australia were the Archer brothers from Narvik who pioneered the Upper Burnett in Central Queensland. Others came to Australia in search of gold during the mid to late 1800s. The Victorian Census of 1871 recorded 395 Norwegians.

A number of Norwegians also migrated to Queensland in the 1870s as part of a government scheme of assisted migration. In 1901, there were about 300 Norwegians in Queensland and 3,000 in Australia.

In the first half of the twentieth century, the size of the Norwegian community in Australia declined due to slowing immigration. By 1947 there were only 2,024 Norway-born persons in Australia, with the Norway-born population steadily increasing in the following decades.


Geographic Distribution

The latest Census in 2011 recorded 3,710 Norway-born people in Australia, an increase of 2.2 per cent from the 2006 Census. The 2011 distribution by state and territory showed New South Wales had the largest number with 1,162 followed by Queensland (869), Victoria (714) and Western Australia (603).

Age and Sex

The median age of the Norway-born in 2011 was 35 years compared with 45 years for all overseas-born and 37 years for the total Australian population.

The age distribution showed 7.8 per cent were aged 0-14 years, 19.9 per cent were 15-24 years, 33.4 per cent were 25-44 years, 21 per cent were 45-64 years and 17.8 per cent were 65 years and over.

Of the Norway-born in Australia, there were 1,719 males (46.3 per cent) and 1,990 females (53.7 per cent). The sex ratio was 86.4 males per 100 females.


In the 2011 Census, the top ancestry responses* that Norway-born people reported were Norwegian (3,184), English (195) and Australian (180).

In the 2011 Census, Australians reported around 300 different ancestries. Of the total ancestry responses*, 23,037 responses were towards Norwegian 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 Norway-born people in Australia were Norwegian (1842), English (1,661) and Vietnamese (39).

Of the 2,047 Norway-born who spoke a language other than English at home, 97.4 per cent spoke English very well or well, and 1.7 per cent spoke English not well or not at all.


At the 2011 Census the major religious affiliations amongst Norway-born were Lutheran (1006) and Anglican (224).

Of the Norway-born, 39.3 per cent stated 'No Religion' which was higher than that of the total Australian population (22.3 per cent), and 6.1 per cent did not state a religion.


Compared to 62 per cent of the total overseas-born population, 49.5 per cent of the Norway-born people in Australia arrived in Australia prior to 2001.

Among the total Norway-born in Australia at the 2011 Census, 14.9 per cent arrived between 2001 and 2006 and 31.2 per cent arrived between 2007 and 2011.

Median Income

At the time of the 2011 Census, the median individual weekly income for the Norway-born in Australia aged 15 years and over was $554, 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, 63.7 per cent of the Norway-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 Norway-born aged 15 years and over, 17.1 per cent were still attending an educational institution. The corresponding rate for the total Australian population was 8.6 per cent.


Among Norway-born people aged 15 years and over, the participation rate in the labour force was 53.2 per cent and the unemployment rate was 7.9 per cent. The corresponding rates in the total Australian population were 65 per cent and 5.6 per cent respectively.

Of the 1,653 Norway-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.
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