Scottish Australians

Scottish Australians
Total population
(1,792,600-2,000,000 (by ancestry)[1][2]
130,204 (by birth, 2006).[3]
8.3% of total Australian population.)
English, Scots, Scottish Gaelic
Presbyterianism, Roman Catholic
Related ethnic groups
Scottish people, Anglo-Celtic Australians, Irish Australians, English Australians, Welsh Australians, Manx Australians[4]

Scottish Australians are residents of Australia who are fully or partially of Scottish descent.

According to the 2011 Australian census 130,204 Australian residents were born in Scotland,[3] while 1,792,600 claimed Scottish ancestry, either alone or in combination with another ancestry.[2] This is the fourth most commonly nominated ancestry and represents over 8.3% of the total population of Australia.


The links between Scotland and Australia stretch back to the first British expedition of the Endeavour under command of Lieutenant James Cook who was himself the son of a Scottish ploughman. Cook navigated and charted the east coast of Australia, making first landfall at Botany Bay on 29 April 1770. His discoveries and reports by Cook's expedition would lead to British settlement of the continent, and during the voyage Cook also named two groups of Pacific islands in honour of Scotland: New Caledonia and the New Hebrides.[5] The first European to die on Australian soil was a Scot; Forbey Sutherland from Orkney, an able seaman died on 30 April 1770 of consumption and was the first to be buried on the colony by Captain Cook, who named Sutherland Point at Botany Bay in his honour.

Colonial period

Scotland-born population 2006 - 2011
Year Population % of total Australian pop. Ref
2006 130,205 [6]
2011 133,432 0.6% [6]

The first Scottish settlers arrived in Australia with the First Fleet in 1788,[7] including three of the first six Governors of New South Wales John Hunter, Lachlan Macquarie (often referred to as the father of Australia) [5][7] and Thomas Brisbane. The majority of Scots arriving in the early colonial period were convicts: 8,207 Scottish convicts, of the total 150,000 transported to Australia, made up about 5% of the convict population. The Scottish courts were unwilling to punish crimes deemed to be lesser offences in Scots Law by deportation to Australia. Scottish law was considered more humane for lesser offences than the English and Irish legal systems.[5]

From 1793-1795, a group of political prisoners later called the 'Scottish Martyrs', were transported to the colonies. They were not all Scots, but had been tried in Scotland. Their plight as victims of oppression was widely reported and the subsequent escape of one of them, Thomas Muir, in 1796 caused a sensation and inspired the poetry of Robert Burns.[5] The majority of immigrants, 'free settlers', in the late 18th century were Lowlanders from prominent wealthy families. Engineers like Andrew McDougall and John Bowman arrived with experience in building corn mills, while others were drawn to Australia by the prospects of trade. William Douglas Campbell, Robert Campbell, Charles Hook, Alexander Berry Laird of the Shoalhaven, were some of the first merchants drawn to the colonies.

19th century

Prior to 1830, most Scottish immigrants were farmers and landholders who chose to emigrate willingly due to the Scottish economic recessions of the 1820s. Economic disruption and riots caused by the Agrarian revolution resulted in a second group of Scottish radicals being deported to the colonies in 1820. All of them were educated and were esteemed by the free colonists. In the coming years Australia was one of many countries to benefit from the Scottish population exodus of the late 18th century. The majority of immigrants were predominantly from Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen, which encouraged strong commercial and financial links between the Scottish east coast and Western Australia.

At this time, several Scottish regiments were recorded in the colonies: Macquarie's unit or the 73rd Regiment, the Royal North British Fusiliers, and the King's Own Scottish Borderers. Three of the Deputy Commissaries-General (the highest rank in the colony) from 1813 to 1835 were Scots: David Allan, William Lithgow, Stewart. By the 1830s a growing number of Scots from the poorer working classes joined the diaspora. Immigrants included skilled builders, tradesmen, engineers, tool-makers and printers. They settled in commercial and industrial cities, Sydney, Adelaide, Hobart and Melbourne. The migration of skilled workers increased, including bricklayers, carpenters, joiners, and stonemasons. They settled in the colonies of Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania.

By 1830 15.11% of the colonies' total population were Scots, which increased by the middle of the century to 25,000, or 20-25% of the total population. The Australian Gold Rush of the 1850s provided a further impetus for Scottish migration: in the 1850s 90,000 Scots immigrated, far higher than other British or Irish populations at the time.[7] Literacy rates of the Scottish immigrants ran at 90-95%. By 1860 Scots made up 50% of the ethnic composition of Western Victoria, Adelaide, Penola and Naracoorte. Other settlements in New south Wales included New England, the Hunter Valley and the Illawarra.

Much settlement followed the Highland Potato Famine, Highland Clearances and the Lowland Clearances of the mid-19th century.

Anzac Day parade in Melbourne, 25 April 2013

In the 1840s, Scots-born immigrants constituted 12 percent of the Australian population. Out of the 1.3 million migrants from Britain to Australia in the period from 1861-1914, 13.5 percent were Scots. Just 5.3 percent of the convicts transported to Eastern Australia between 1789 and 1852 were Scots.[8]

20th century

A steady rate of Scottish immigration continued into the 20th century, with substantial numbers of Scots continued to arrive after 1945.[5] From 1900 until the 1950s, Scots favoured New South Wales, as well as Western Australia and Southern Australia. A strong cultural Scottish presence is evident in the Highland games, dance, Tartan day celebrations, Clan and Gaelic speaking societies found throughout modern Australia.


Scottish ancestry in Australia 1986–2011 (Census)
Year Ethnic group Population Percent of pop. Ref
1947 Anglo-Celtic 89.8% [9]
1986 Scottish 740,522 4.7% [10]
2001 Scottish 540,046 2.9% [10]
2006 Scottish 1,501,200 7.6% [11][12]
2011 Scottish 1,792,622 8.3% [12][13]
People with Scottish ancestry as a percentage of the population in Australia divided geographically by statistical local area, as of the 2011 census

2011 Census

According to the 2011 Australian census 133,432 Australian residents were born in Scotland, which was 0.6% of the Australian population. This is the fourth most commonly nominated ancestry and represents over 8.3% of the total population of Australia.[12]

2006 Census

At the 2006 Census 130,205 Australian residents stated that they were born in Scotland.[14] Of these 80,604 had Australian citizenship.[15] The majority of residents, 83,503, had arrived in Australia in 1979 or earlier.[15]


The Western Australia Police Pipe Band at Bridge of Allan Highland Games in Scotland

Some aspects of Scottish culture can be found in Australia:

Highland gatherings

Highland gatherings are popular in Australia. Notable gatherings include:

Scottish schools

The Scots in Australia started a number of schools, some of which are state run, and some of which are private:

Scottish placenames

The Perth skyline viewed from the Swan River
The Balconies (formerly known as the 'Jaws of Death') - Grampians National Park, Victoria, Australia

There are Scottish placenames all over Australia.

Notable Scottish placenames in Australia include:

Places named after Lachlan Macquarie

Many places in Australia have been named in Macquarie's honour (some of these were named by Macquarie himself). They include:

At the time of his governorship or shortly thereafter:

Many years after his governorship:

Notable Australians of Scottish descent

Name Born - DiedNotable forConnection with Australia Connection with Scotland
Isla Fisher 1976–Present Holywood Actress Emigrated to Australia from Scotland in 1982 with her family and was raised in Perth, Western Australia Born to Scottish parents in Muscat, Oman and spent her early childhood years in Bathgate, Scotland.
Jordan Smith 1989–presentactorArrived in 2003Born and raised in Fife, Scotland. He emigrated to Australia from Scotland at age 14 with his family, where he later became an actor, best known for playing Andrew Robinson in the Australian soap opera Neighbours.
Captain James Cook 1728–1779cartographer, navigator and Captain of the Endeavour who made first land fall at Botany Bay and named New South Wales.arrived on the Endeavour in 1770Son of a Scottish ploughman
Air Chief Marshal Allan Grant "Angus" Houston, AC, AFCborn 9 June 1947A retired senior officer of the Royal Australian Air Force. He served as Chief of Air Force (CAF) from 20 June 2001 and then as the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF) from 4 July 2005. He retired from the military on 3 July 2011. Since then Houston has been appointed to a number of positions, including chairman of Airservices Australia. In March 2014 he was appointed to head the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) during the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Houston was born on 9 June 1947 in Ayrshire, Scotland and educated at Strathallan School in Forgandenny, Perthshire, Scotland. He emigrated to Australia in 1968 at age 21.
James Boag I1804 - 1890Founder of Boag's Brewery in Tasmania Emigrated 1853, settled in Tasmania after some time on the Victorian Gold Fields. Founder and proprietor of J. Boag & Sons, owner of the Boag's Brewery in Launceston, Tasmania, Australia. Born Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland.
Robert McCracken1813 - 1885Brewer and founder of the Essendon Football Club in 1873 Emigrated from Ardwell Farm near Girvan in Ayrshire, Scotland in 1840. The Essendon Club was formed at a meeting at his family home "Ailsa" at Ascot Vale . Born Ayrshire, Scotland.
Keith Ross Miller1919-2004Legendary Australian Test cricketer and St Kilda and Victoria, Australian Rules Footballer A member of Bradmans 1948 Australian cricket 'Invincibles' touring team to England His paternal and maternal grandparents were Scottish.
Dave Bryden1928–2013Australian Rules Footballer A member of the 1954 Footscray now Western Bulldogs premiership team His father was Scottish.
Andrew McLeod1976- Australian Rules Footballer A champion player with the Adelaide Crows Football Club, Andrew played in their 1997 and 1998 AFL Premiership teams, winning two Norm Smith Medals The pride he feels for his Indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander as well as his Scottish heritage is reflected in Jamie Cooper's oil painting of him in action, during a game. Indigenous Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islands and Scottish flags proudly wave amongst the crowd.
Roy Cazaly1893–1963 Australian Rules Footballer Roy Cazaly was a champion ruckman who played for St Kilda (1909–1920) and then South Melbourne (1921–1926). His team-mate's constant cry of 'Up there Cazaly' entered the Australian idiom and became part of folk-lore'. His mother was Elizabeth Jemima, née McNee from Scotland.
Thomas Brisbane1773–1860 sixth governor of New South Wales appointed governor in 1821 born near Largs in Ayrshire; educated at University of Edinburgh
John Hunter 1737–1821second governor of New South Walesarrived with the First Fleet in 1788born in Leith
Rt Hon. Andrew Fisher 1862–1928 Prime Minister three times, the most successful of Australia’s early politicians and started the Commonwealth Bank.arrived in Queensland 1885born at Crosshouse, Ayrshire, Scotland.
Rt Hon. John Malcolm Fraser 1930–2015 Prime Minister.Born AustraliaFather was Scottish
Forby Sutherland Unknown-1770 The first British born national to be buried in Australia by Captain Cook on his voyage on the Endeavour.arrived on the Endeavour in 1770born Orkney Islands Scotland
James Busby 1801–1871 Grew up in Australia and was key to the peace treaty and negotiations between the British and the united tribes of the Maori in New Zealand.arrived in 1824born Edinburgh
James Grant 1772–1833 British Royal Navy officer who was the first to sail through Bass Strait from west to east, charting the then unknown coastline and the first European to land on Phillip Island where the south west point is named after him, and Churchill Island. Arrived in Australia 1800Born Morayshire Scotland
William Balmain 1762–1803 Naval surgeon who sailed as an assistant surgeon with the First Fleet to establish the first European settlement in Australia, and later became its principal surgeon. arrived Port Jackson in January 1788From Rhynd Perthshire Scotland
Peter Miller Cunningham 1789–1864 Scottish naval surgeon and pioneer in Australia. Arrived in 1819from Dumfriesshire Scotland
Robert Campbell 1982–Present Australian Rules footballer.Born in Australia Ancestors were Scottish.
Elle Macpherson 1964–Present Australian supermodel, actress and business woman. Born in Australiaancestors from Scotland.
Sir Francis Forbes 1784–1841 The first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales.Arrived 1820Parents were Scottish
William Lithgow 1784–1864 The Auditor General of the colony of Sydney in Australia. The city of Lithgow in New South Wales was named in honour.arrived in Sydney 1824Born Scotland
Colonel William Paterson 1755–1810 A Scottish soldier, explorer, and botanist best known for leading early settlement in Tasmania.Arrived to Australia 1789born Montrose Scotland
Charles Frazer 1788–1831 The colonial Botanist of New South Wales who collected and catalogued numerous Australian plant species, and participated in a number of exploring expeditions.arrived in 1815from Blair Atholl Perthshire Scotland
Andrew McDougall 1983–Present Australian Rules footballer.born Australiaancestors were Scottish
Rod Wishart 1968–Present An Australian former rugby league footballer who played for Illawarra Steelers, St. George Illwarra Dragons, New South Wales and Australia. born Australiaancestors were Scottish
James Alpin McPherson 1842–1895 explorer and bush ranger, best known as the 'Wild Scotchman'.arrived in 1855born Inverness-shire Scotland
Paul McGregor 1967–Present A former Australian rugby league player, he played for the Illawarra Steelers and, St George Illawarra Dragons and has represented New South Wales in the State of Origin and the Australian national rugby league team.Born Australiaancestors were Scottish
George Reid 1845–1918Prime Minister of Australiaarrived Victoria 1852born Renfrewshire
Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell 1792–1855 Surveyor-General and explorer.Arrived 1811from Stirlingshire Scotland
Andrew Petrie 1798–1872 An Engineer who made important contributions as a private builder and was the first white Australian to climb Mount Beerwah.Arrived 1831born Fife Scotland
Alexander McLeay 1767–1848 Appointed Colonial Secretary for New South Wales and was the foundation president of the Australian Club.arrived with family in 1826born Ross-shire Scotland
Campbell Drummond Riddell 1796–1858 Public servant who served as Colonial Treasurer. Arrived Sydney 1830born Argyllshire, Scotland
John Murray 1775–1807 Scottish naval officer, seaman and explorer, who also made a marked contribution to medicine.arrived 1800born Edinburgh
Sir Charles Menzies 1783–1866 Officer of marines who became the first commandant at Newcastle secondary Penal establishment. arrived 1810born at Bal Freike, Perthshire, Scotland
Patrick Logan 1791–1830 The first Commandant at Moreton Bay and regarded by many historians as the true founder of Queensland arrived Sydney 1825from Berwickshire Scotland
John Stephen 1771–1833 The first Puisne Judge of New South Wales who also became the first Solicitor-General. arrived 1824born Aberdeen Scotland
Robert Brown 1773–1858 A botanist who made extensive collections during Flinders' coastal surveys. Held in high regard by his contemporaries, he received numerous academic honours and made several major discoveries in his subject, including molecular agitation now called 'Brownian movement'.arrived 1800from Aberdeen Scotland
Francis Melville 1822–1857 Francis McCallum, calling himself Captain Francis Melville and posing as a gentleman, he reached Victoria about October 1851. He became a bushranger and claimed leadership of the Mount Macedon gang. arrived in the 1830sborn Inverness-shire
James Macpherson Grant 1822–1885 A politician and prosperous Melbourne solicitor, who became vice-president of the land and works board and commissioner of railways and roads in 1864. arrived 1850born Scotland
John Flynn (minister) 1880–1951 Presbyterian minister and aviator who founded the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the world's first air ambulance. Appears on the Australian $20 dollar noteBorn Melbourne, Victoria. Minister of the Church of Scotland
Catherine Helen Spence 1825–1910 Author, teacher, journalist, politician (Australia's first female political candidate) and leading suffragette. Appears on the Australian $5 dollar noteEmigrated to South Australia in 1839Born Melrose Scotland
John Dunmore Lang 1799–1878 Presbyterian clergyman, writer, politician and activistarrived Australia 1823 and lived there since that timeborn Scotland
Mary Gilmore 1865–1962 A prominent Australian socialist, poet and journalist. Appears on the Australian $10 dollar noteborn New South WalesFamily were from Scotland
Andrew Barton Paterson 1864–1941 Composer of Australia's most widely known country folk song, Waltzing Matilda features on the Australian $10 dollar note born Orange, New South WalesFather was Andrew Bogle Paterson, a Scottish immigrant from Lanarkshire.
Lachlan Macquarie1762–1824 fifth governor of New South Wales appointed governor in 1809 (often referred to as the Father of Australia) born on the island of Ulva off the coast of the Isle of Mull; buried on the Isle of Mull
Thomas Mitchell 1792–1855surveyor and explorerarrived Australia 1827born Scotland
Nellie Melba 1861–1931legendary Australian opera soprano and one of the most famous sopranos, and the first Australian to achieve international recognition in the form. Appears on the Australian $100 dollar noteBorn in Melbourne VictoriaFather was a Scottish building contractor
John McDouall Stuart 1815–1866 surveyor and the most accomplished and most famous of all Australia's inland explorersarrived Australia 1845born Dysart, Fife Scotland
David Lennox 1788–1873 Australian bridge builder, responsible for the construction of historic Lansdowne Bridge over Prospect Creek, Lennox Bridge over the Parramatta River and Lennox Bridge over Brookside Creek at Lapstone as well as a further fifty-three bridges in Victoriaarrived 1832 in New South Walesborn Ayr Scotland
Peter Dodds McCormick ?1834-1916composer of the Australian national anthem Advance Australia Fairarrived Australia 1855 born Port Glasgow
Bill Dundee 1943–PresentProfessional Wrestlerarrived Australia 1959born Dundee
Bon Scott 1946–1980AC/DC vocalistarrived Australia 1952born Kirriemuir
Angus Young 1955–PresentAC/DC guitaristarrived Australia 1963 born Glasgow
Malcolm Young 1953–PresentAC/DC guitaristarrived Australia 1963 born Glasgow
George Young (rock musician) 1947–PresentEasybeats guitaristarrived Australia 1963 born Glasgow
Sean Wight 1964–PresentAustralian rules footballerarrived Australia mid-1980s born in Scotland
Roseanna Cunningham 1951–PresentSNP MSPRaised in Perth, Australia born in Glasgow
Mary MacKillop 1842–1909Roman Catholic nun only Australian to be beatifiedBorn Fitzroy, Victoria Daughter of Scottish immigrants
Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark 1972–PresentCrown Princess of DenmarkBorn Hobart, Tasmania Scottish father. Née Mary Donaldson.
Robert Menzies 1894–1978Prime Minister of AustraliaBorn Jeparit, Victoria Scottish grandparents.
Ralph Abercrombie 1881–1957 public servant who became auditor-general for the Commonwealth.born Mount Duneed VictoriaFather was Scottish
Kaiya Jones 1996–presentactressarrived in 2004born Glasgow, Scotland
Jamie Young 1985–presentFootballerBorn in BrisbaneOf Scottish descent[22]

See also


  1. Censuses Highlight Hardship and Change in Scottish Fortunes
  2. 1 2 "ABS Ancestry". 2012.
  3. 1 2 "20680-Country of Birth of Person (full classification list) by Sex — Australia" (Microsoft Excel download). 2006 Census. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 2008-11-02.
  4. Scots - Dictionary of Sydney
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 The Scots in Australia (2008) M. Prentis UNSW Press.
  6. 1 2 The people of Australia.The People of Australia Statistics from the 2011 Census
  7. 1 2 3 The Australian People: An Encyclopedia of the Nation, Its People and Their Origins. (2001) James Jupp p650 Cambridge University Press.
  8. history essay - Queensland Migration Heritage Hub
  9. An Australian Context.
  10. 1 2 The Transformation of Australia's Population: 1970-2030 edited by Siew-An Khoo, Peter F. McDonald, Siew-Ean Khoo.(Page 164).
  11. The People of Australia - Statistics from the 2006 Census(Page 50)
  12. 1 2 3 The people of Australia.The People of Australia - Statistics from the 2011 Census (Page:55)
  13. 2011 Census data shows more than 300 ancestries reported in Australia.
  14. "20680-Ancestry (full classification list) by Sex — Australia" (Microsoft Excel download). 2006 Census. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 2008-11-02.
  15. 1 2 "2914.0.55.002 2006 Census Ethnic Media Package" (Excel download). Census Dictionary, 2006 ( 2901.0). Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2007-06-27. Retrieved 2008-11-02.
  19. Burke's Peerage and Gentry - INTERNATIONAL TARTAN DAY
  20. Maryborough Highland Gathering
  21. Lachlan
  22. "Jamie Young". Aldershot Town F.C. Retrieved 23 October 2013.

Further reading

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