The historian Charles Meyer wrote:
"We know that Germans were with the First Fleet, opened the earliest hotels, financed the first businesses, gained some of the earliest land grants, were among the first to explore the unknown areas, and occupied high positions in law, culture and science."
- Meyer, Charles (1982) 'The Germans in Victoria (1849-1900)'. In: Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Vol.68, June 1982, pp.18-36, Sydney.
Eric Bana - at the premiere of the film Lucky You in May 2007 in New York City.
Wikimedia Commons / David Shankbone.
A significant presence
German-speakers have played a role in significant developments in Australia, including:
- The discovery of gold in Victoria and the Eureka rebellion on the Ballarat goldfield (1850s);
- The Burke and Wills Victorian Exploring Expedition (Burke and Wills) (1860-61);
- The deeds of the bushranger Ned Kelly in the late 1870s;
- The leadership and planning of Australian military successes on the battlefields of France and Belgium during the First World War (General John Monash);
- The deposing of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull by members of his political party in 2018 (decisions made by the German-speaking Finance Minister Mathias Cormann had an influence).
Descendants of German-speaking immigrants have been prominent in many social, economic and cultural areas of Australian life, ranging from entertainment to politics to science to sport, for example:
politicians include the former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer, former cabinet minister Eric Abetz, former President of the Australian Senate Condor Laucke, Greens politician Adam Bandt, the longest-serving Premier of Victoria (17 years) Henry Bolte, former Chief Opposition Whip in the House of Representatives Warren Entsch;
cricketers Carl Rackemann, Darren Lehmann, Ben Hilfenhaus and Shane Warne (German mother);
footballers Mark Schwarzer and Robbie Kruse;
rugby players Andrew Ettingshausen, Brad Fittler and Anthony Seibold;
AFL-footballers Luke Breust (a goal-kicking record-holder), John Schulz (1960 Brownlow medallist) and Nick Riewoldt;
swimmers Emily Seebohm and Jon Sieben;
scientists Ernst Johannes Hartung, Basil Hetzel, Bernard Katz and Gustav Nossal;
entertainers Geoffrey Rush (mother of German descent), Eric Bana (German mother), Ben Mendelsohn, Isabel Lucas, Ed Kuepper (of the bands The Saints and The Laughing Clowns), Olivia Newton-John (German mother - her father was a professor of German), Baz Luhrmann, David Koch (television presenter).
Main phases of immigration
There have been five main phases of German-speaking immigration in Australia:
||Settlement by groups (especially in the colony
of South Australia) in the early-mid 19th century
(See a photo of a passenger ticket for a passage
to Port Adelaide from 1846.)
||The Gold Rush era in the mid-19th century
||The arrival of large numbers of settlers in
the colony of Queensland from the 1860s up to 1914
||The arrival of refugees (including German and
Austrian Jews fleeing Nazi persecution) in the late 1930s and the 1940s
||The planned migration (promoted by the Australian
government) of the 1950s and 1960s
(Based on: Germans in South Australia. A Migration Museum
Education Program for Students in Years 8-12. Migration Museum Adelaide
Emigrants embarking in Hamburg, circa 1850. (Museum für
Hamburgische Geschichte) |Population:
In 1861 (the first year in which the census
recorded nationality) the colonies NSW, Victoria, Queensland and S.A. had
26,872 people who were born in Germany.
In 1891 there were 45,000 German-born people
in Australia. The two World Wars had a big effect on German immigration.
In 1947 there were 14,567 German-born people
in Australia. Then masses of Germans were part of the Australian Government's
big immigration program in the 1950s and 1960s.
In 1961 Australia had 109,315 German-born people.
In 1981 there were 110,758 people in Australia
born in Germany.
Young German emigrant Leon on the Castel Felice
in 1956 with Mrs Margaret Dietiker, an escort officer for the Intergovernmental
Committee for European Migration.
(Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs photograph, Cat.
In reference to the Australian Census statistics of 1921, Professor Augustin Lodewyckx (University of Melbourne) wrote in 1932: that the figures allowed the conclusion that about 80% of the Germans in Australia were farmers and property owners or at least associated with farming. He found this interesting considering that at least about half of Australia's population was living in the six capital cities of the six states.
The academic Jürgen Tampke concluded in 2006 that about 75% of the Germans who arrived in Australia in the second half of the 20th century settled in the capital cities of the various states.
Although the early German settlers were found in all parts of Australian society,
some settlements (especially in S.A. and Queensland) developed in which German
customs and traditions were very strong in the community. In these settlements
the Germans' membership of the Lutheran Church strengthened their community
German immigrants have made a large contribution to Australia's economic and
Australians of German descent: sport
In all walks of life you can find high-profile Australians with German surnames.
Aussies love sport, and German surnames are there too, e.g.:
Jason Arnberger, Michael Klinger (Victoria),
Andy Bichel, Carl Rackemann, Scott Muller, Ashley Noffke (Queensland), Darren Lehmann (South
Australia), Ben Hilfenhaus ["Bradman Young Cricketer of the Year" Award, 2007] (Tasmania)
Australia's national cricket team celebrates a great achievement by the Tasmanian Ben Hilfenhaus in a Test match against South Africa, and a newspaper makes a word pun with his German name in the caption.
- from St Kilda FC: Stewart Loewe [Stewart's father left East Berlin in 1961 a few weeks before the Berlin Wall was built, reached West Germany via West Berlin, then went to Switzerland to his uncle and aunt, and emigrated to Australia as a 19-year-old. Later on Stewart visited the east of Germany with his family.], Fraser Gehrig
[Gehrigs were among the many German arrivals in the area around Albury, New South Wales, in the middle of the 19th century], Nick Riewoldt, Troy
Schwarze, Adam Schneider, Carl Ditterich;
- Richmond: Jack Riewoldt (cousin of Nick from St Kilda FC; their grandparents arrived in Tasmania in the early 1950s), Jay Schulz, Trent Knobel,
- Brisbane Lions: Michael Voss [Brownlow Medal 1996], Matthew Leuenberger (his father arrived from Switzerland in 1986);
- Adelaide Crows: Simon Goodwin [Simon is a descendant of the Herbig family, the family with the famous tree in the Eden Valley, South Australia], Brian Beinke, Martin Mattner, Trent Hentschel, Nathan Bock, Matthew
Bode, Darren Pfeiffer, Daniel Schell, Jacob Schuback, Matthew Jaensch [grew up in Hahndorf and played originally for the Hahndorf Football Club];
- Melbourne: Bayley Fritsch [Fritsch was a member of the premiership-winning team of the Melbourne Demons on 25/09/2021. He kicked six goals in that Grand Final, the first time that any player had kicked six goals in a Grand Final since Darren Jarman in 1997. A Demons fan in the crowd at the 2021 Grand Final displayed a very German homemade banner - it read "Fritsch Blitz".], David Schwarz, Ross Funcke, David Neitz, Jace Bode;
- Sydney Swans: Andrew Schauble, Tim Schmidt;
- North Melbourne: Jack Ziebell [Jack is a descendant of the German settlers of Westgarthtown (1850) in the north of Melbourne];
- West Coast Eagles: Tyson Stenglein, Michael Braun;
- Fremantle: Byron Schammer, Andrew Siegert;
- Geelong: David Mensch, Daniel Menzel;
- Carlton: Matthew Kreuzer [#1 draft pick 2008], Trent Sporn;
- Hawthorn: Shaun Rehn, Luke Breust, Nick Ries;
- Port Adelaide: Brett Ebert, Justin Westhoff, Matthew Lobbe;
- Essendon: Kyle Reimers, Jason Winderlich, Darryl Gerlach [premiership team 1965];
- Footscray / Western Bulldogs: John Schultz [Brownlow Medal 1960], Luke Dahlhaus, Mitch Hahn, Josh Schache;
- Collingwood: Murray Weideman [AFL Hall of Fame, 2007 - the Weidemann family arrived in Adelaide in 1849 and changed the spelling of their family name during World War Two], Matthew Scharenberg;
- Greater Western Sydney: Harrison Himmelberg
Australian football commentators have even noticed the number of German-descended players in the Australian Football League (AFL). On 18th May 2014 during the second quarter of the game between St Kilda FC and the Gold Coast Suns FC, ABC Radio sports broadcaster Adam White commented that if Adam Schneider of St Kilda FC had not marked the ball, then his teammate Nick Riewoldt had been well-placed to mark the ball instead. Adam White’s co-commentator then said: “It’s like a German front-line: Riewoldt, Schneider!!”
Football cards from the Australian Football League (AFL). They show some of the AFL players whose family names bear witness to their German-language family background/descent:
Fraser Gehrig, Michael Voss, Michael Braun, Nick Riewoldt, Jay Schulz, Luke Breust, Mitch Hahn, Jack Riewoldt (cousin of Nick), Jack Hombsch, Justin Westhoff, Luke Dahlhaus and Matthew Kreuzer.
Mark Schwarzer (Socceroos)
Road bicycle racing:
- Katrin Garfoot (from Queensland, but born in Eggenfelden, Germany):
- champion for 2013 in the Subaru National Road Series);
- UCI Road World Championships: 2016 und 2017 Bronze Medal in the time trial; 2017 Silver Medal in the Road race;
- Commonwealth Games: 2018 Gold Medal in the time trial.
- Peter Herzig (from New South Wales, winner of the 'Grafton to Inverell Cycling Classic' 2012);
- Heinrich Haussler (from New South Wales, individual stage winner at Tour de France 2009 - German father, Australian mother)
Matthew Glaetzer - UCI Track Cycling World Championships: 2012 Gold Medal in the team sprint; 2018 Gold Medal in the sprint; 2016 Silver Medal in the sprint; 2018 Silver Medal in the 1-km time trial.
Jamie Stauffer (Australian Superbike Series champion, 2006 and 2007)
- Laura Geitz (played for the Australian Netball Diamonds [the national team] 2008-2018, including as captain) - Laura grew up on a grain and cattle farm on the Darling Downs in southern Queensland. The Darling Downs, a farming region of rolling hills, attracted many German settlers in the 19th century and in the year 1900 around 1500 German families lived there.
- Susan Fuhrmann (played for the Australian Netball Diamonds for several years, and played for the clubs West Coast Fever, Perth Orioles, AIS Canberra Darters) - nickname "the Fuhrmannator".
- Jane Altschwager (Australian Netball Diamonds 2000-2005, and played for the clubs Sydney Swifts, Hunter Jaegers, Adelaide Thunderbirds, Central Pulse)
- Kristen Heinrich (Australian Netball Diamonds 2004-2007, and played for the clubs Adelaide Thunderbirds, AIS Canberra Darters)
- Natalie von Bertouch (Australian Netball Diamonds 2004–2012, including as captain from 2010 to 2013, and played for the club Adelaide Thunderbirds)
- Laura von Bertouch (Australian Netball Diamonds 2006–2007, and played for the club Adelaide Thunderbirds). Sister of Natalie.
Sydney Fischer - "Sydney (Syd) Fischer is arguably Australia's most successful offshore sailor." He won "two of the world’s major ocean racing events - the Sydney to Hobart and the Fastnet race." (Source: Australian Sailing Hall of Fame)
- Jon Sieben - at the Olympic Games in 1984 in Los Angeles he won the gold medal with a new world record in the 200 m butterfly, and the bronze medal with the 4x100 m medley relay team. He was also a member of the swimming team at the 1988 and 1992 Olympics.
- Lauren Arndt - she won the bronze medal in the 10 km race at the Open Water Swimming World Championships in 2004 in Dubai.
- Emily Seebohm - in 2008 at age 15 she made a new world record for the 50 m backstroke at the Australian Olympic selection trials (on the next day another Australian broke Emily's record!). In the 100 m backstroke she created a new Commonwealth record (just 0.38 sec behind the world record) and was included in the team for the Beijing Olympics. At Beijing she won a gold medal in the 4 x 100 m medley relay. In 2015 she was world champion in both the 100 m and the 200 m backstroke, and in 2017 for the 200 m backstroke. In 2021 she won the bronze medal in the women's 200 m backstroke at the Olympic Games in Tokyo - her fourth Olympic Games.
- Christian Sprenger - in February 2008 he set a new Australian record in the 100 m breaststroke and at the selection trials won a place on the swim team for the Beijing Olympics.
- Nick Sprenger - he won a silver medal with the 4x200 m freestyle relay team at the Athens Olympics in 2004.
The Australian swimming team for the 2008 Beijing Olympics included the following German (sur-)names: Emily Seebohm, Nick Sprenger, Christian Sprenger, Andrew Lauterstein, Hayden Stoeckel, Melanie Schlanger.
- Marieke Guehrer - world record holder for women's 50 m butterfly [short course / 25 m], 2008-2009; world record holder for 50 m backstroke [short course], 2009
Maybe you can think of other sportsmen and sportswomen...
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