Historical Background

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The Colombia-born Community

Historical Background

The first indication of Colombia-born presence in Australia was documented in the 1911 Census when four Colombians were counted.

Subsequent censuses included Colombians in the category of 'other countries in South America' making it impossible to determine the exact number. However, the entire Latin America-born community in Australia remained small.

Colombian migration to Australia remained negligible until the Australian Government's assisted passage migration program was extended to Latin America countries, including Colombia, in the late 1960s. Since then, small but steady numbers of Colombians have been migrating to Australia.

Like most Latin America-born Australians, the majority of Colombians are of Mestizo descent (ancestors of mixed Spanish and indigenous American Indian origin) and speak Spanish.


Geographic Distribution

The latest Census in 2011 recorded 11,318 Colombia-born people in Australia, an increase of 98.2 per cent from the 2006 Census. The 2011 distribution by state and territory showed New South Wales had the largest number with 4,512 followed by Victoria (2,837), Queensland (2,423) and Western Australia (921).

Age and Sex

The median age of the Colombia-born in 2011 was 32 years compared with 45 years for all overseas-born and 37 years for the total Australian population. The age distribution showed 4.9 per cent were aged 0-14 years, 12.5 per cent were 15-24 years, 62.6 per cent were 25-44 years, 16.6 per cent were 45-64 years and 3.3 per cent were 65 years and over. Of the Colombia-born in Australia, there were 5282 males (46.7 per cent) and 6035 females (53.3 per cent). The sex ratio was 87.5 males per 100 females.


In the 2011 Census, the top ancestry responses* that Colombia-born people reported were Colombian (7,709), Spanish (2,014) and South American, nfd, (507). In the 2011 Census, Australians reported around 300 different ancestries. Of the total ancestry responses*, 10,193 responses were towards Colombian 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 Colombia-born people in Australia were Spanish (9,761), English (1,309) and Italian (47). Of the 10,011 Colombia-born who spoke a language other than English at home, 87.1 per cent spoke English very well or well, and 11.2 per cent spoke English not well or not at all.


At the 2011 Census the major religious affiliations amongst Colombia-born were Catholic (8,385), Christian, nfd, (584) and Pentecostal (220). Of the Colombia-born, 11.1 per cent stated 'No Religion' which was lower than that of the total Australian population (22.3 per cent), and 1.9 per cent did not state a religion.


Compared to 62 per cent of the total overseas-born population, 29.6 per cent of the Colombia-born people in Australia arrived in Australia prior to 2001.

Among the total Colombia-born in Australia at the 2011 Census, 20 per cent arrived between 2001 and 2006 and 46.5 per cent arrived between 2007 and 2011.

Median Income

At the time of the 2011 Census, the median individual weekly income for the Colombia-born in Australia aged 15 years and over was $553, 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, 78.7 per cent of the Colombia-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 Colombia-born aged 15 years and over, 9.2 per cent were still attending an educational institution. The corresponding rate for the total Australian population was 8.6 per cent.


Among Colombia-born people aged 15 years and over, the participation rate in the labour force was 79.8 per cent and the unemployment rate was 6.8 per cent. The corresponding rates in the total Australian population were 65 per cent and 5.6 per cent respectively.

Of the 7,930 Colombia-born who were employed, 40.4 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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