Anglo-Celtic Australian

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Anglo-Celtic Australians
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Total population
  • Up to 17,000,000
  • 45% (1996) [1]
  • 74% (2010) of the Australian population of partial British and Irish[2]
Regions with significant populations
All States and territories of Australia
Christian (Roman Catholic and Anglican) and Irreligious
Related ethnic groups

Anglo-Celtic Australians[3] are Australians who ancestrally originate wholly or partially in the countries of the British Isles (England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland).[4][5]


From the beginning of the colonial era until the mid-20th century, the vast majority of settlers to Australia were from the British Isles, with the English being the dominant group, followed by the Irish and Scottish. Among the leading ancestries, increases in Australian, Irish, and German ancestries and decreases in English, Scottish, and Welsh ancestries appear to reflect such shifts in perception or reporting. These reporting shifts at least partly resulted from changes in the design of the census question, in particular the introduction of a tick box format in 2001.[6]

Until 1859, 2.2 million (73%) of the free settlers who immigrated were British.[7]

The United Kingdom has been the largest overseas-born birthplace group in the Australian population for all of the 20th century. However, as a proportion of the total overseas-born, the United Kingdom born are in decline. The United Kingdom comprised 58 per cent of the total overseas-born in 1901 and only 27 per cent in 1996. An even greater decline has occurred for the Ireland-born. In 1901, the Ireland-born were the second largest overseas-born birthplace group at 22 per cent of all overseas-born. In 1996 the Ireland-born had decreased to 1 per cent of all overseas-born.

Number of Anglo-Celtic Australians[edit]

Anglo-Celtic population in Australia 1846 - 1988
Year Population % of Australia's population
1846[8] 57.2 57.2
1861[9] 78.1 78.1
1891[10] 86.8 86.8
1947[11] 89.7 89.7
1988[12] 74.6 74.6
1996[13] 13,082,700 71.45 71.45
1999[14] 69.9 69.9

Anglo-Celtic is not a category in the Australian census. At the 2006 Census of Australia[15] respondents could nominate up to two ancestries (although 65% of respondents nominated just one). Out of a total of 19,855,288 responses, 6,283,647 (31.6%) responses indicated English ancestry, 1,803,740 (9.1%) indicated Irish ancestry, 1,501,204 (7.6%) indicated Scottish ancestry, 113,242 (0.7%) indicated Welsh ancestry, 1,864 (0.01%) indicated Manx ancestry, and 5,686 (0.3%) indicated British ancestry.[16]

The United Kingdom remains the leading source of immigrants to Australia. In 2005–06 22,143 persons born in the United Kingdom settled in Australia, representing 21.4% of all migrants. At the 2006 Census (excluding overseas visitors)[17] 1,038,165 persons identified themselves as having been born in the United Kingdom (5.2% of the Australian population), while 50,251 identified themselves as Irish born. The Anglo-Celtic element in the population is expected to drop to 62 percent by 2025.[18]

Between 1987 and 1999, the Anglo-Celtic component of Australia's population declined from 75 per cent to 70 per cent.[19] In 1999, the Anglo-Celtic share of the Australian population was calculated as 69.9%.[20]

A 1996 study of the ethnic origins of the Australian people shows:[1]

  • 12,438,600 people had English origins.
  • 5,454,200 people had Irish origins.
  • 5,393,800 people had Scottish origins.
  • 768,100 people had Cornish origins.
  • 727,800 people had Welsh origins.
  • 46,600 people had Manx origins.

Just over three-quarters of the Australian ancestry group stated no other ancestries. Among the 24% who did report another ancestry, the ancestries most commonly stated were English (reported by 13% of the total Australian ancestry group), Irish (3%), Scottish (1%), German (1%) and Italian (1%). The number of people reporting Australian ancestry in 2001 was almost double the 3.4 million (24% of the population) who gave Australian as their ancestry in the 1986 Census. This reflected a shift to reporting Australian ancestry among Australian-born people with Australian-born parents. Among these people, the proportion stating Australian ancestry increased from 33% to 56%, making this the group most likely to state Australian ancestry in 2001. There was also a substantial increase in reporting of Australian ancestry among Australian-born people with one parent born in Australia and one born overseas. Of this group, 33% stated Australian ancestry in 1986 and 49% in 2001. The explicit inclusion of Australian as an ancestry response in the 2001 Census (through its inclusion among the tick box answers) seems likely to have influenced this change. However, a real change in cultural affiliations may also have contributed. Compared with 1986, some people may have placed more value or relevance on their Australian affiliations and less on historic ties to England.[6]

2011 census[edit]

Tasmania could have the nation's highest proportion of citizens of Anglo-Celtic origin, possibly as high as 85 percent. On the evidence of statistics of ethnic derivation Tasmania could also be considered more British than New Zealand (where the Anglo-Celtic majority has fallen below 75 percent).[21]

Controversy and criticism[edit]

Some have argued that the term is entirely a product of multiculturalism that ignores the history of sectarianism in Australia. For example, historian John Hirst wrote in 1994: "Mainstream Australian society was reduced to an ethnic group and given an ethnic name: Anglo-Celt."[22]

According to Hirst:

In the eyes of multiculturalists, Australian society of the 1940s, 150 years after first settlement, is adequately described as Anglo-Celtic. At least this acknowledges that the people of Australia were Irish and Scots as well as English, but it has nothing more substantial than a hyphen joining them. In fact a distinct new culture had been formed. English, Scots and Irish had formed a common identity - first of all British and then gradually Australian as well. In the 1930s the historian W.K. Hancock could aptly describe them as Independent Australian Britons.[23]

The Australian journalist Siobhan McHugh has argued that the term "Anglo-Celtic" is "an insidious distortion of our past and a galling denial of the struggle by an earlier minority group", Irish Australians, "against oppression and demonisation... In what we now cosily term "Anglo-Celtic" Australia, a virtual social apartheid existed at times between [Irish] Catholics and [British] Protestants", which did not end until the 1960s.

The term was also criticised by the historian Patrick O'Farrell as "a grossly misleading, false, and patronising convenience, one crassly present-oriented. Its use removes from consciousness and recognition a major conflict fundamental to any comprehension not only of Australian history but of our present core culture."[24]


In 1967, British migrants in Australia formed an association to represent their special interests: the United Kingdom Settlers' Association, which subsequently became the British Australian Community.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Jupp, James (2001), The Australian people: an encyclopedia of the nation, its people and their origins (2 ed.), Cambridge University Press, pp. 83–85, ISBN 978-0-521-80789-0 
  2. ^ A. Babacan, S. Singh, Migration, Belonging and the Nation State, Cambridge Scholars Pub., 2010, p. 16
  3. ^ J. Hirst, The Australians: Insiders and Outsiders on the National Character Since 1770, p. 15
  4. ^ 1301.0 – Year Book Australia, 1995
  5. ^ Ireland was historically a part of Britain. See: Ireland: Union with Great Britain
  6. ^ a b!OpenDocument Australia Bureau of Statistics
  8. ^ Ethnic Composition of the Australian People (per cent) - Australia today
  9. ^ Ethnic Composition of the Australian People (per cent) - Australia today
  10. ^ Ethnic Composition of the Australian People (per cent) - Australia today
  11. ^ Ethnic Composition of the Australian People (per cent) - Australia today
  12. ^ Ethnic Composition of the Australian People (per cent) - Australia today
  13. ^ The Australian People: An Encyclopedia of the Nation, Its People and Their ... By James Jupp
  14. ^ The Transformation of Australia's Population: 1970-2030 (Page 166) edited by Siew-An Khoo, Peter F. McDonald, Siew-Ean Khoo
  15. ^ 1301.0 – Year Book Australia, 2008
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ B. Yeoh, M. Charney, T. Kiong, Approaching Transnationalisms: Studies on Transnational Societies, Multicultural Contacts, and Imaginings of Home, 2003, p. 108
  19. ^ Khoo, Siew-An, Peter McDonald, and Siew-Ean Khoo, eds. The Transformation of Australia's Population: 1970-2030. UNSW Press, 2003, p. 165.
  20. ^ [1]
  21. ^ Britishness – University of Tasmania
  22. ^ "Multiculturalism becomes poison for social capital". The Australian. 26 September 2007. 
  23. ^ John Hirst, Sense and Nonsense in Australian History, Black Inc. Agenda, Melbourne (ISBN 978-0-9775949-3-1), page 12
  24. ^ "How the Irish rose above Australia's social apartheid – The Sydney Morning Herald". The Sydney Morning Herald. 14 October 2009.