Estonians in Australia

Culture historian Valdemar Vilder, who lives in Sydney, discovered that three Estonian sailors were on board one of the first European vessels to visit Australia back in 1697. Barent Jans from Tallinn and Martinus Stypen and Christian Clajus from Tartu served under Captain Willem de Valminagh.

Records show that the first Estonians settled in Australia in 1853. The first Estonian Society was established in Melbourne in 1914. People settled primarily around Sydney, where two Estonian societies (that later merged) were established in the 1920s. The first displaced persons of World War II arrived in 1947 (142 Estonians).

Number of persons born in Estonia residing in Australia

Census year Number
1933 997
1947 1102
1954 6549
1986 3895
1991 3381
(9322 Latvians, 4591 Lithuanians)
1996 2828
2001 2391
2006 8,232 (Estonian decent) + 1,933 (Estonia born)
2011 8,551 (Estonian decent) + 1,928 (Estonia-born)

According to the 1986 census, there were 6,334 residents of Estonian ancestry in Australia, in 1996 the number was 7,537, and 2006 census reported the number as 8,232. Australia has the sixth largest Estonian community after Finland, Russia, Sweden, Canada, and the USA. Sir Arvi Parbo, the mining magnate, is one of the most well-known Estonians in Australia.

The largest Estonian communities are in Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne, which also have Estonian community houses. In Thirlmere, which is located near Sydney, there is an Estonian village that was established in 1924. Estonian culture days have been held in Australia on 13 occasions during the period 1954-1986. In 1988, the world Estonian festival ESTO’88 was organised in Australia. “Forest universities” (“Metsaülikoolid”) have been held yearly since 1971. Estonians have one regularly published newspaper in Australia – “Meie Kodu” (“Our Home”). The Estonian Archives in Australia, located in Sydney, were established in 1952 and hold the vast majority of all printed Estonian works that were published outside of Estonia following World War II.