Hong Kong was the point of departure for thousands of Chinese during the Victorian gold rushes of the 1850s, and many people from Hong Kong also joined the departing ships. By 1871, 63 people born in Hong Kong were recorded in Victoria – only one of whom was female. Few settled in Victoria permanently, and within ten years the community had fallen to 20.
The 1901 White Australia Policy
significantly hindered the entry of non-Europeans into Australia, including those born in Hong Kong of Chinese descent. Residency conditions were also strictly controlled. By 1911, the number of Hong Kong-born Victorians had increased to 79 people, most probably of British descent. The Hong Kong-born community in Victoria continued to rise slowly during the first half of the 20th century.
In the 1960s increasing numbers of Hong Kong immigrants
settled in Victoria, and by 1966, 1,024 Victorians were of Hong Kong birth. Ten years later, after the White Australia Policy
had been officially abandoned, the population had grown to 2,099, with many more of Chinese descent. The growth continued through the ensuing decades. Many came to Australia as students and stayed; others came as skilled and business migrants attracted by the open spaces and quality of life.
Uncertainty about Hong Kong’s economic and political future leading up to the transfer of Hong Kong from British administration to the People’s Republic of China in 1997 also promoted many Hong Kong-born people to immigrate. By 2006, the Hong Kong-born community of Victoria had grown to 17,427.
Today Melbourne is the second-most popular Australian destination city for the Hong Kong-born community. The majority of the community is Cantonese speaking, ethnic Chinese. A third of the community is Christian; 11% is Buddhist. Half of those working occupy professional roles; many others work in trade, clerical, sales and service roles. The community is focussed in the local government areas of Manningham, Monash and Bundoora.