Know Your Diaspora: Australia

The Filipino community is one of the fastest growing immigrant communities in Australia. At the end of June 2011, there were 183,010 Filipinos, 31 percent more than June 30, 2006. Filipinos already make up the seventh largest immigrant community, equivalent to 3.0 percent of Australia’s overseas-born population and 0.8 percent of its total population.

The number of Filipinos immigrating to Australia increased rapidly in the 1980s. Early waves of immigration were comprised mostly of women arriving through the “Family Stream,” or family reunification. 

Since 2004, however, the majority of Filipino immigrants have come through the Skill Stream. Skilled visas now account for 70 percent of all permanent visas granted to Filipinos and, in absolute terms, the number of skilled visas issued is one and a half times the 2008–09 levels. Accountants, software and applications programmers and registered nurses were the main occupations among the primary applicants granted General Skilled Migration visas.

Filipinos’ labor force participation rate of 74 percent is well above the Australian national average of 65 percent.

Filipinos are attracted to Australia for economic reasons. The Philippines’ per capita gross domestic product is one tenth of Australia’s on a purchasing power parity basis. Australia ranks very high, second only to Norway, on the United Nation’s Human Development Index (HDI), a summary measure of wellbeing based on health, education and income. 

New South Wales in 2011 has the largest number of Filipinos with 70,388, followed by Victoria (38,002), Queensland (29,462) and Western Australia (17,231). New South Wales has 32 percent of family immigrants, while Western Australia is most popular among skilled immigrants, attracting 32 percent of Skill Stream primary applicants in 2011–12. 

Among temporary immigrants the situation is similar. Nearly half of all international students from the Philippines are enrolling in an academic institution based in New South Wales (47 percent).

Age and Sex

The median age of 39.8 years is 2.5 years above that of the general population. Females substantially outnumber males—63 percent compared with 37 percent.


Of the 108,195 Filipinos who are employed, 38.8 percent are employed in either a skilled managerial, professional or trade occupation. The corresponding rate in the total Australian population is 48.4 percent.

The unemployment rate at August 2012 is 5.0 percent—this is comparable to the national rate of 5.1 percent. 

Their labor force participation rate of 74 percent is well above the national average of 65 percent.

In Northern Australia, biologist Rocielie Valencia works with the aborigine community for her thesis in ethnobotany. (Source:


At the 2011 Census, 69 percent of Filipinos aged 15 years and over had some form of higher non-school qualifications compared with 55.9 percent of the Australian population. 

Of Filipinos aged 15 years and over, 7.1 percent were still attending an educational institution. The corresponding rate for the total Australian population is 8.6 percent.


At the time of the 2011 Census, the median individual weekly income for Filipinos in Australia aged 15 years and over was $673, compared with $538 for all overseas-born and $597 for all Australia-born. The total Australian population had a median individual weekly income of $577.

Historical Background

While most Philippines-born settlement in Australia is comparatively recent, records show that in 1872, Filipinos worked as divers in the pearling industry in Broome and Thursday Island. By the early 1900s, there were about 700 Philippine-born people in Australia, mainly in Western Australia and Queensland.

Immigration restrictions from 1901 led to the exclusion of non-Europeans from entry to Australia resulting in a decrease in Philippines-born settlers in Australia. By the 1947 Census, there were only 141 Philippine-born people in Australia. This increased in the 1950s, when Filipino students entered Australia under the Colombo Plan with many remaining after graduation.

The gradual easing of immigration restrictions from 1966 together with the 1972 declaration of martial law in the Philippines led to the rapid growth of the Philippine-born population in Australia. During the 1970s and ‘80s, many Filipino women came as spouses of Australian residents, under the then-Family Reunion Program. Over the last 20 years, many have immigrated as skilled immigrants.

A Filipino contingent at the Chinese New Year Parade in Melbourne (Photo by singapore_walker of

Facts on Australia

Australia has a population of 22,262,501 (July 2013 est.); 92 percent white, 7 percent Asian and 1 percent aboriginal and other. The per capita income is $43,300 (2012 est.)

It is a federal parliamentary democracy in a Commonwealth realm with its capital in Canberra. Queen Elizabeth II is the chief of state represented by the Governor General. The prime minister is the head of government. The legislature is a bicameral parliament. The High Court is at the top of the judicial system.

The Australian economy has experienced continuous growth and features low unemployment, contained inflation, very low public debt, and a strong and stable financial system. By 2012 Australia had experienced more than 20 years of continued economic growth, averaging 3.5 percent a year. 

Demand for resources and energy from Asia and especially China has grown rapidly, creating a channel for resources investments and growth in commodity exports. The high Australian dollar has hurt the manufacturing sector, while the services sector is the largest part of the Australian economy, accounting for about 70 percent of GDP and 75 percent of jobs. 

Australia was comparatively unaffected by the global financial crisis as the banking system has remained strong and inflation is under control. Australia has benefited from a dramatic surge in its terms of trade in recent years, stemming from rising global commodity prices. Australia is a significant exporter of natural resources, energy, and food. Australia's abundant and diverse natural resources attract high levels of foreign investment and include extensive reserves of coal, iron, copper, gold, natural gas, uranium, and renewable energy sources. 

A series of major investments, such as the US$40 billion Gorgon Liquid Natural Gas project, will significantly expand the resources sector. Australia is an open market with minimal restrictions on imports of goods and services.

Ambassador Belen F. Anota

Ambassador Belen F. Anota

Ambassador Belen F. Anota

Philippine Embassy, Canberra, Australia

1 Moonah Place

 ACT 2600


+61.262732535 / 36