The first group of Croatian immigrants
came to Victoria after the discovery of gold in 1851. After working on the goldfields with varying degrees of success, some became seamen, labourers, vignerons and caterers. Around one third eventually settled in Melbourne, and by 1890 there were over 450 Croatians living in Victoria.
During the 1920s, Croatians settled in Mildura and worked in the fruit growing industry. Mildura was soon known as ‘little Medjimurjie’, named after an agricultural region of Croatia where many of the workers had been born. Croatians were also amongst the large numbers of Displaced Persons
who arrived following World War II. Older settlers provided these newcomers with a great deal of social and organisational support.
A substantial number of Croatian immigrants
came to Victoria in the 1960s and 1970s due to high unemployment, deteriorating economic conditions and anti-Croatian sentiment in Yugoslavia. Immigrants
who settled here throughout the following decade primarily arrived under family reunion programs.
A number of Croatian refugees
came to Victoria during the 1990s, escaping ethnic conflict in Yugoslavia. Victoria’s Croatian community subsequently took part in celebrations when Croatian independence was recognised in 1992, and when Croatia became a member of the United Nations during that same year.
In 2006, the census
recorded 18,189 Croatia-born people in Victoria. Living predominantly in Melbourne and Geelong, most members of this community are Catholic; a large proportion speaks Croatian at home. Many are employed as tradespeople and related workers within the manufacturing and construction industries. Supporting the cultural traditions of the Croatian community in Victoria today, are a range of organisations including the Australian Croatian Association in Footscray.