Historical Background



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The Timor-Leste-born Community

Historical Background


The first migrants from the then Portuguese Timor arrived in Australia in 1943, during World War II when about 600 people were evacuated. All but 35 returned after the war.

Following a bloodless left-wing military coup in Portugal, which overthrew a dictatorship and restored democracy, the new government in Lisbon withdrew from its colonies and East Timor declared its independence in 1975. However, this was short-lived and East Timor was occupied by Indonesia. Civil and political unrest led thousands of East Timorese to flee, which included Hakka-speaking ethnic Chinese traders. About 2,581 people, mainly the educated elite and middle classes, many officials from the colonial administration, and Chinese business owners and their families arrived in Australia.

Between 1979 and 1986, nearly 5,000 arrived in Australia under the Special Humanitarian Program, most of them reuniting with family already in Australia. The majority were Chinese who fled from the Indonesian occupation. Around one third were Timorese who had fled to West Timor before they were evacuated to Portugal prior to migrating to Australia.

Between 1990 and 1997, a further 1,004 Timorese arrived in Australia under the Special Assistance Category. Some had also come from Portugal and were sponsored by family members in Australia.

In a referendum held in 1999, the majority of Timorese voted for full independence from Indonesia. This sparked violence by pro Indonesia militia resulting in another wave of Timorese seeking refuge in Australia. More than 4,000 Timorese were granted temporary protection in Australia and many were returned in 2000.

Small numbers of Timor-Leste born continue to migrate to Australia, mostly under the Family Migration Stream.


Today

Geographic Distribution


The latest Census in 2011 recorded 9,225 Timor Leste-born people in Australia, a fall of 1 per cent from the 2006 Census. The 2011 distribution by state and territory showed Victoria had the largest number with 4,966 followed by New South Wales (2,167), Northern Territory (988) and Queensland (514).

Age and Sex


The median age of the Timor-Leste-born in 2011 was 46 years compared with 45 years for all overseas-born and 37 years for the total Australian population.

The age distribution showed 1.2 per cent were aged 0-14 years, 5.2 per cent were 15-24 years, 38.3 per cent were 25-44 years, 42.1 per cent were 45-64 years and 13.3 per cent were 65 years and over.

Of the Timor Leste-born in Australia, there were 4,544 males (49.3 per cent) and 4,682 females (50.7 per cent). The sex ratio was 97.1 males per 100 females.

Ancestry


In the 2011 Census, the top ancestry responses* that Timor-Leste-born people reported were Chinese (5,522), Timorese (3,783) and Portuguese (857).

In the 2011 Census, Australians reported around 300 different ancestries. Of the total ancestry responses*, 7,085 responses were towards Timorese ancestry.

*At the 2011 Census up to two responses per person were allowed for the Ancestry question; therefore providing the total responses and not persons count.

Language


The main languages spoken at home by Timor-Leste-born people in Australia were Hakka (4,181), Portuguese (1,153) and Mandarin (1,005).

Of the 8,313 Timor-Leste-born who spoke a language other than English at home, 66.3 per cent spoke English very well or well, and 32.6 per cent spoke English not well or not at all.


Religion


At the 2011 Census the major religious affiliations amongst Timor-Leste-born were Catholic (4,989) and Buddhism (1,849).

Of the Timor-Leste-born, 14.5 per cent stated 'No Religion' which was lower than that of the total Australian population (22.3 per cent), and 4.1 per cent did not state a religion.


Arrival


Compared to 62 per cent of the total overseas-born population, 91.1 per cent of the Timor-Leste-born people in Australia arrived in Australia prior to 2001.

Among the total Timor-Leste-born in Australia at the 2011 Census, 2.7 per cent arrived between 2001 and 2006 and 2.6 per cent arrived between 2007 and 2011.


Median Income


At the time of the 2011 Census, the median individual weekly income for the Timor-Leste-born in Australia aged 15 years and over was $517, 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.

Qualifications


At the 2011 Census, 33.2 per cent of the Timor-Leste-born aged 15 years and over had some form of higher non-school qualifications compared to 55.9 per cent of the Australian population.

Of the Timor Leste-born aged 15 years and over, 4.3 per cent were still attending an educational institution. The corresponding rate for the total Australian population was 8.6 per cent.


Employment


Among Timor-Leste-born people aged 15 years and over, the participation rate in the labour force was 63.1 per cent and the unemployment rate was 6 per cent. The corresponding rates in the total Australian population were 65 per cent and 5.6 per cent respectively.

Of the 5,289 Timor-Leste-born who were employed, 30.8 per cent were employed in either a skilled managerial, professional or trade occupation. The corresponding rate in the total Australian population was 48.4 per cent.



Produced by the Community Relations Section of DIAC All data used in this summary is sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics Census of Population and Housing. Sources for the Historical Background are available on our website.
© Commonwealth of Australia.

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