Colombians are first recorded in the Victorian census
of 1911, when one Colombia-born male called Victoria home. For the next 65 years, Colombia was only counted in the census
as part of ‘other countries in South America’ making it impossible to determine their exact number. However, the entire Latin American community remained small.
Colombian migration began in earnest when Australia expanded its migration program in Latin America and offered assisted passages in the late 1960s. Migration to Australia has not been strongly motivated by political upheaval as with other South American communities; rather, Colombians largely chose to settle here under family visas and for personal reasons. These factors contributed to slow but steady growth in Colombian migration.
When Colombians were again recorded separately in the 1976 census
, their numbers had grown to 340 Colombia-born Victorians. Over the next two decades the Colombia-born population in Victoria rose to 511 in 1996, representing a 50% increase. Growth was even stronger in the next two decades with the population reaching 1,253 in 2006.
Today, the Colombia-born community is spread across Victoria with significant numbers in the local government areas of Melbourne, Casey, Moreland and Port Phillip. Almost all speak Spanish in the home and the majority, almost 60%, are under the age of 35. Of those employed, 42% are employed in managerial, professional or associated roles and a further 34% work as labourers. Catholics make up 80% of Colombia-born Victorians, mirroring the religious make-up in Colombia.
The Colombian community in Victoria is supported by a number of social and sporting clubs, including the Colombian Community of Victoria Inc. The annual fiesta is still celebrated on July 20, Colombia National Day, commemorating Colombia’s independence from Spain.