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The peak of Latvian immigration to Melbourne occurred from 1947 to 1951 following the second Soviet invasion of Latvia in 1944. After spending a short period at Bonegilla Migrant Hostel, most of these refugees from displaced persons' camps in Germany settled in Melbourne. Census records in 1996 showed a total of 2136 Latvian-born Australians, with 32% of the total Australian-Latvian community resident in Melbourne. Their number, including second-generation Australian-Latvians, is estimated at 6000.

The Melbourne Latvian Association was founded in 1949, the Latvian Federation of Australia in 1951. A property to be used for community activities (Latvian House) was acquired in Elwood in the mid-1950s, and substantially extended ten years later. It has served as a convenient venue for plays, concerts, meetings, public lectures, and Saturday school at both primary and secondary levels. The largest of the three Lutheran congregations erected its church in Surrey Hills in 1972.

Australijas Latvietis, the first quality Latvian newspaper, has been published weekly since 1949. Latvian programs on Radio SBS are broadcast regularly. The continuing tradition of an annual Latvian Arts festival, rotating between Australia's major cities, started in 1951. Other events on a national scale have included theatre festivals (since 1960) and writers' forums (until 1980s). The community has played a role in introducing Latvian at the University of Melbourne, as well as in a number of Saturday schools.

Fears about the second generation intermarrying with the broader Australia community and consequent eventual loss of language are not without foundation. The churches may have become less of a bastion of Latvian ethnic identity. Nevertheless, they played a role alongside the newspaper and various secular organisations in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Latvian community in Australia.

Abe W. Ata