Like many early migrants to Australia, the first Canadian immigrants
did not come here by choice, but were exiles transported in 1837 after political rebellion in their homeland. They found themselves imprisoned in New South Wales and Tasmania, with 15 dying in exile.
Later, during the 1850s and 60s, the lure of gold saw hundreds of Canadians hurry to the Ballarat goldfields. They certainly made an impact: ‘Canadian Gully’ was named after a successful goldminer; a large gold nugget was called ‘The Canadian’ and the designer of the famous Eureka flag, Charles Ross, was born in Canada. Ross was subsequently killed in the attack on the stockade.
Canadians also played significant roles in other areas of Victorian development. Samuel McGowan made history by establishing Australia’s first telegraph line from Melbourne to Williamstown in 1854; and George and William Chaffey implemented irrigation schemes along the Murray River - their work crucial to the emergence of the dried fruit industry in Victoria and South Australia.
Migration from Canada remained at low levels until after World War II, when romance changed the course of history! Many of the Australian aircrew who were based in Canada under the Empire Air Training Scheme brought brides home with them.
During the following decades the majority of Canadian immigrants
arrived under the skilled migration program or as employees of international businesses. Between 1961 and 1981 the Canadian-born population in Victoria more than doubled to over 3,000 people, and has since more than doubled again to 7,775 Victorian residents in 2011.
Today, organisations such as the Canada Club ensure that the Canadian community never miss celebrating their long-held traditions such as Canada Day on the 1st of July and Canadian Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October. They help Canadians in Victoria to maintain a strong sense of cultural identity.