KEY CENSUS YEARS


1854 - the First Census

Immigrants disembark at Queen's Wharf,
Melbourne, 1863. Artist - Frederick Grosse.
Source - National Library of Australia

In 1854, when the first census of Victorians was conducted, 236,798 people lived in the colony. The largest community was English-born, with 97,943 people, followed by the Irish and Scottish communities.

The year 1854 marked a pivotal point in Victoria's history. Victoria had only been separated from New South Wales for three years, and the gold rushes saw thousands of prospectors from every continent arriving on ships each month. Melbourne became a significant thoroughfare and supply point. Temporary accommodation sprang up in places such as Canvas Town in South Melbourne and the Melbourne Immigrants' Home near the future site of Princes Bridge.

Several major institutions were founded in 1854, including the University of Melbourne, the State Library and the National Museum of Victoria. The Age newspaper was established, and a major international exhibition was held in Melbourne in a purpose-built hall at the corner of William and LaTrobe Streets. The first steam-powered passenger railway in Australia ran from Sandridge (South Melbourne) to Flinders Street, and Railway Pier, later to become Station Pier, commenced its role as the arrival point for many thousands of immigrants.

Immigration Policy

In the nineteenth century immigration policy was controlled primarily by the British Parliament. Legislation such as the 1855 Passengers Act attempted to establish uniform controls for migration throughout the British Empire and to ensure the safe passage of migrants.

In 1855 the Colony of Victoria passed Australia's first immigration act: the Act to Regulate the Residence of the Chinese Population in Victoria. This was the first of many acts to restrict immigrants from specific countries. The act was repealed when Chinese arrivals abated, although restrictions were reintroduced at the end of the nineteenth century.

Top 8 Countries of Origin

Country of OriginPopulation% of Victorian Population
England9794341.36%
Ireland3972816.77%
Scotland3604415.22%
Germany39551.67%
USA27611.16%
China23410.98%
Wales23260.98%
France9090.38%


© Museum Victoria Australia