In the early 1800s Australia established an enduring trade relationship with Mauritius, based on the import of Mauritian sugar. Mauritian merchants, seamen and their families began to settle in Australia, and merchant vessels brought Mauritian convicts with their cargo. Ties between Mauritius and Australia were strengthened by the Catholic Church in Australia, which was administered from Mauritius between 1820 and 1834.
Early Mauritian settlers included Marie Emilie Blanchard, who arrived in 1829 and married Frederick Manton, builder of the first iron steamer in Melbourne.
The Victorian gold rushes of the 1850s saw the arrival of highly organised Mauritian companies. However, many of these gold-seekers soon returned home after little success on the goldfields. In the late 19th century, the weakening sugar industry in Mauritius saw Mauritian ‘sugar men’ settle in Australia and contribute significantly to the establishment of the sugar industry in Queensland. In Victoria, the population peaked at 288 in 1891.
After Federation in 1901, the Mauritian population in Australia declined, and by 1947 only 59 Victorians were Mauritius-born. The trend changed in the post-war period, with Mauritian immigration peaking during the late 1960s, coinciding with the country’s declaration of independence in 1968. By 1971, Victoria was home to the largest population of Mauritius-born immigrants
in Australia, with 3,791 people. Their population continued to grow until the early 1990s.
In 2006, Victoria still had the largest Mauritius-born community in Australia with 9,050 members. This mainly French-speaking, catholic population is based in Hampton Park, Noble Park, Endeavour Hills, Narre Warren and Dandenong. Of those employed 36% are engaged in clerical, sales and service roles while a further 25% work in professional roles. Although many Mauritians participate in the activities of the broader French community, they also have their own distinct identity, born out of a mix of African, Malagasy, Indian, Chinese and French cultures.