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The Irish in Australia

by Familia Ulster Genealogical Review: No. 01, 1985


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by Patrick O'Farrell

“Australia without its Irish aspects is simply unthinkable. In no other British settlement were the Irish so central to the composition and character of a new nation than they were in the making of Australia: about a third of Australia’s present population of fifteen million have some Irish ancestry.

Moreover, unlike America, where the Irish were one of a number of nationalities that contributed to the melting pot, in Australia they were the sole significant element of ethnic diversity, the only major non-English culture.

So, since the foundation of settlement in 1788, it was the Irish minority alone that questioned and challenged the exclusive dominance of the majority’s English-oriented culture and religion. The resulting interaction moulded Australia’s history away from that of being a stagnant prison (and later, a respectable little Britain of the south) toward bcoming an open, tolerant, egalitarian and plural society.”

This article looks at history of the Irish in Australia and the profound effect that the Irish have had on Australia’s national character.