Kate Bevan   26 January 2018


Australian X Factor star Kelebek is half Filipino. Photo: Chris Phutully / Flickr

With some 2.4m Filipinos working abroad, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority, it’s no wonder that Australia, with its opportunities, lively cities and amazing landscapes, is a top destination for Filipinos seeking new horizons.

About 10% of OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) have headed to Australia, and that number has been growing. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2017, the number of overseas-born Filipinos had risen from 171,233 in 2011 to 232,386 in 2016.

But did you know that Filipinos have been living and working in Australia for nearly 150 years? We’ve dug up some amazing facts and figures about the Australian Pinoy community.

Dive in

The first migrant Filipino workers recorded in Australia were divers who worked for the Broome pearling industry, arriving as early as 1872, according to the Aussie Department of Immigration and Citizenship. This diaspora is thought to have been driven by the political conditions under the Spanish occupation of the Philippines.


Australia's pearling industry in WA and Queensland was an early draw for Filipinos. Photo: Aussie~mobs / Flickr

Known as “Manillamen”, the pearl divers were described as “responsible, daring and fatalistically brave” and “venturesome, fearless and reliable”, reportedly diving up to 35 fathoms (64 metres). By the early part of the 20th century, there were some 700 Filipinos living in Australia.

Retreat and return

The Filipino community declined from that high point when the 1901 Immigration Restriction Act came into law – the start of the “White Australia” policy that not only restricted immigration but also provided for the deportation of “undesirable” people who had settled in Australia before federation.

By 1947, there were only 141 Philippines-born people in Australia, but the end of the “White Australia” policy in 1966, together with the declaration of martial law in the Philippines in 1972, meant that increasing numbers of Filipinos came to live and work in Australia.

Fast-forward to 2018, and the Filipino community is one of the fastest-growing in the country, and includes more than 10,000 Filipino students enrolled in Australian universities.

Home, sweet home

According to the 2016 census, New South Wales is home to the biggest number of Filipinos – in 2011, 70,388 Filipinos lived there.

Victoria was home to 38,002 Filipinos in 2011, while 29,462 lived in Queensland, 17,231 in Western Australia, 8,858 in South Australia, 3,587 in the Northern Territory, 1,268 in the ACT and 1,268 in Tasmania.

Rooty Hill

Rooty Hill in Sydney's west is home to many Filipinos. Photo: Jason Flores / Flickr

Suburb, sweet suburb

Broadcaster SBS mined the March 2017 data to discover not only which cities Filipinos choose to call home, but which suburbs are the most popular with the community.

Turns out that west of Australia’s two biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, are where Filipinos choose to live, with the top six suburbs – all close to each other – being Blacktown, Rooty Hill, Mount Druitt, Quakers Hill, Plumpton and Woodcroft in Sydney’s west.

Numbers seven and eight are Caroline Springs and Tarneit, west of Melbourne, with numbers nine and 10 respectively Doonside, again in Sydney’s west, and St Albans, west of Melbourne.

Men and women

There’s a surprising imbalance between male and female Filipino expats in Australia, the statistics reveal: there are more Filipino girls and women than boys and men, with females making up 61% of the Filipino migrant population and males comprising just 39%.

That imbalance of men and women is partly explained by the wave of Filipino women coming to Australia from the late 1970s to marry non-Filipino men, particularly in remote, heavily male mining towns in the Northern Territory.

age and sex breakdown

Women outnumber men among Filipinos living in Australia. Graphic: Australian Government, Department of Immigration and Citizenship

That’s reflected in the age breakdown: the 2011 census shows that while the balance between the sexes is pretty even in the younger age groups, the shift towards women rises sharply in the 24-29 age group and by the time you get to the 50-plus age groups, Filipino hugely women outnumber the men.

Sending money home

With some 10% of Filipinos living and working abroad, sending money home is important, and it’s no surprise that the Philippines receives the third largest amount of money from its diaspora. According to the World Bank, in 2016, OFWs sent home $29.9bn, behind only India and China, contributing about 10% of the country’s GDP – and according to the Philippines Statistics Authority, Filipinos in Australia accounted for 2.2% of all remittances in 2016.

Life Down Under

If you’re new to Australia from the Philippines, there are lots of resources to help you settle in your new home – community sites like the Pinoy Australia Information Forum, for example, have OFWs sharing information about homes to rent, getting jobs – and on tricky cultural differences like when to go for lunch.

Are you an OFW living in Australia? We’d love to hear about your experiences – tell us in the comments below!