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Austrians first came to Victoria lured by gold. Eugène von Guérard (1811-1901), for example, arrived in 1852, made for the goldfields, then, in 1854, settled in Melbourne. In 1859 a visiting scientist described him as 'a highly respected man, as a painter probably the most important in Victoria', while also noting other Austrians and Germans in Melbourne, and their networks. Austrians regarded Germans as 'fellow countrymen', having a common language, though Austrians tended to be Catholic and Germans Lutheran. Father Aloysius Kranewitter (1817-80), an Austrian Jesuit who had been in South Australia, transferred to Richmond in 1870, to serve German-speaking Catholics.

Austrians were first listed separately in the census in 1871, with 30 males and four females recorded in Melbourne, compared with 584 males and 196 females from Germany. The most prominent Austrian in 19th-century Melbourne was Carl Ludwig Pinschof (1855-1926), who represented Austrian firms at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition, then settled in Melbourne. He was an astute businessman and, together with his wife, the opera singer Elise Wiedermann (1851-1922), an outstanding patron of the arts. From 1885 to 1908 he was Honorary Consul for Austria-Hungary.

During World War I Austrians, like Germans, were subjected to harassment. When the Republic of Austria, created after that war, was annexed by Hitler in 1938 a painful exodus, particularly of Jews and part-Jews, occurred. Melbourne's gain can be indicated by listing names like Gustav Nossal (born 1931), medical biologist; Karl Duldig (1902-86), sculptor; and Peter Singer (born 1946), philosopher. Their numbers were reinforced through postwar immigration. The Friends of Democratic Austria (formed in 1944) became the Austrian Club Melbourne, and in 1984 moved to West Heidelberg. The Austrian Choir was formed in 1981. The 2001 census recorded 4131 Austrians in Melbourne: 2140 males and 1991 females.

Walter Struve