Croatian Australians

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Croatian Australians
Total population
133,268 (Croatian ancestry in 2016)[1]
43,688 (Croatian-born in 2016)[2]
Regions with significant populations
Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Wollongong, Perth, Geelong
Australian English, Croatian
predominantly Roman Catholic, Protestant with some Greek Catholic

Croatian Australians (Croatian: Australski Hrvati) are Australian citizens of Croatian descent. Croatia has been a source of migrants to Australia, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s. In 2016, 133,268 persons resident in Australia (0.6%) identified themselves as having Croatian ancestry.


Croats were first noticeable in Australia during the gold rushes of the 1850s in the province of Victoria. At this time, Croats were coded as "Austrians" because most of Croatia was a part of the Habsburg Empire. By Australian federation in 1901, there were many Croats—mainly from Dalmatia—in Australia, counted with Czechs, Hungarians, Serbs, Slovaks and others as "Austro-Hungarians". The establishment of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes from Austria-Hungary after the First World War — renamed as Yugoslavia shortly afterwards —continued to make it difficult to separate out Croats from other ethnicities in Australia. Croats were not recorded separately until the 1996 Census. The Australian Department of Immigration believes many Croats holding old (and now long out of date) Yugoslav passports still record themselves as Yugoslavs in Australian censuses, over a decade after the disintegration of Yugoslavia.

There is also a community of Croats who follow Islam, the descendants of those who converted after the 16th century, after the conquest of much of Croatia and Bosnia by the Ottomans. They established their Croatian Islamic Centre in 36 Studley St Maidstone, Victoria.[3][4][5][6] with a masjid.[7] Croatian Seventh-Day adventists meet in St. Albans

Nevertheless, it is known that Croats formed a large proportion of those Yugoslavs who settled in Australia the 1960s and 1970s under Australian Government migration schemes.[citation needed] The Yugoslavia-born population reached 129,616 by the 1971 Census and 160,479 by the 1991 Census. The greatest number settled in Sydney and Melbourne, though Croats are well represented in every Australian city and region.

During the 1960s and 1970s, many Croatians were constantly under ASIO surveillance for alleged terrorist activities organised by the Yugoslav secret service, several of whom were named in the media. Some of the longest running and most expensive court cases in Australian history involved Croatians charged with terrorism-related charges that were proven falsified, including the 'Croatian Six' who were convicted on tainted evidence. Federal Attorney-General Lionel Murphy created a media sensation when he led a raid on ASIO Headquarters looking for files on Croatian terrorist activities and not finding any at all, spurred on by claims of non-surveillance by ASIO and that ASIO focused too much of its time on student anti-war groups instead of terrorist groups, though there may have been no terrorist activities for ASIO to investigate.[8]

Croatian Embassy in Canberra

In November 1977, an unofficial Croatian embassy was opened in Canberra, causing a legal and diplomatic difficulty for both the Australian and Yugoslav governments.[9] The embassy, aimed at raising awareness of Croatia as a nation and the Croatian people separate from Yugoslavia, remained open for 2 years closing in 1979. Its ambassador Mario Despoja is the father of former Democrats leader Natasha Stott Despoja.

Since the independence of Croatia in the 1990s, an official embassy has been opened in Canberra and consulates have been opened in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.


People of Croatian ancestry according to the 2011 census results
one dot denotes 100 Croatian-born Sydney residents
one dot denotes 100 Croatian-born Melbourne residents

At the 2006 Census 50,993 persons resident in Australia identified themselves as having been born in Croatia, representing about 0.25% of the Australian population.[2] The Census also noted 118,046 persons identified themselves as having Croatian ancestry, either alone or in combination with another ancestry.[1]

Croatian Australians are more likely to be resident in Victoria than any other state. As at 2006, 35.7% of Croats live in Victoria (where only 25% of the total Australian population reside[10]). A further 36.2% of Croatian Australians reside in New South Wales (compared with 33% of the total Australian population[10]).[11]

As the level of immigration from Croatia has dropped significantly from the 1980s (70% of Australian residents born in Croatia arrived before 1980[11] ), the Croatian-born population is ageing: 43% of the Croatian-born population was aged sixty years old or older at the time of the 2006 Census.[11]

As at the 2006 census 33,012 Croatian-born Australians (65%) speak Croatian at home; 17% of Croatian-born Australians speak English at home.[11] Proficiency in English was self-described by census respondents as very well by 31%, well by 32%, 17% not well, 2.3% not at all (18% didn't state or said not applicable).[11] In 2001, the Croatian language was spoken at home by 69,900 persons in Australia.[citation needed] Croatian is the tenth most widely spoken language in the country after English, Chinese, Italian, Greek, Arabic, Vietnamese, Spanish, Tagalog, German, and Macedonian.[citation needed]

Of the Australian residents who were born in Croatia, 48,271 or 95% were Australian citizens at the time of the 2006 census.[11]

According to 2006 census data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 94% of Croatian born Australians recorded their religion as Christian.[11] 2001 census data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2004, showed denominational affiliation by Croatian Australians was: 85.6% Catholic, 0.9% Anglican, 4.5% Other Christian, 1.4% claiming other Religions, and 7.6% claiming no religious affiliation.[citation needed]

Croatian Australians have an exceptionally low rate of return migration to Croatia. In December 2001, the Department of Foreign Affairs estimated that there were 1,000 Australian citizens resident in Croatia, mainly in Zagreb.[12]

In Western Australia there are numerous large suburbs with Croatian/Slavic descent Fremantle, Spearwood, Cockburn, Dianella, Osborne Park, Gwelup, Stirling, Balcatta.

Croatian Australians and Soccer[edit]

Croats in Australia and their Croatian Australian offspring are notable for their commitment to soccer, with numerous clubs established throughout the country,[13] the most notable and successful being Sydney Croatia and Melbourne Croatia. These clubs nurtured the soccer talents of a large number of Croatian Australians, many of whom now play professionally overseas. Croatian Australians have played for both Croatia and Australia. In the 2006 World Cup, there were seven Croatian Australians playing for Australia and three playing for Croatia. A total of 47 Croatian Australians have gone on to play for the Australian national soccer team, including 7 who captained the national team. The Australian-Croatian Soccer Tournament is the oldest running soccer competition in Australia.

Croatian Australian Socceroos[edit]

Croatian Australian Matildas[edit]

Croatian Australians in Croatian national team[edit]

List of Notable Croatian Australians[edit]

Entertainment and the arts[edit]


  • Alison Wonderland – electronic dance music producer, DJ and singer.
  • Russell Baricevic - bass guitar - Bored, Pray TV, The Gas Babies, Macho Clowns, Unclean Spirits
  • Peter "Blackie" Black – (Croatian mother) – musician, founding member of The Hard-Ons.
  • Philip Bračanin – composer and musicologist.
  • Mikelangelo (Michael Simic) aka The Balkan Elvis - singer (solo, Johnny Presley and the Zagreb Allstars, Mikelangelo and the Tin Star). Father is Croatian from Tucepti, Croatia.
  • Steve Pavlovic – music entrepreneur
  • Roddy Radalj – musician, founding member of the Hoodoo Gurus, the Dubrovniks and Roddy Ray'Da & the Surfin' Caesars.
  • Rex Radonich (1950-1986) - Banjo player in Australian Bluegrass band Bullamakanka. Was regarded as the best at picker at the time. Grandson of Mate Radonic (born Podgora Croatia) of New Zealand.
  • Natalie D-Napoleon - (Croatian father and mother) - Australian singer-songwriter and poet.
  • Adalita, born Adalita Srsen, solo performer and member of Magic Dirt. Her father is Croatian.
  • Boris Sujdovic – (Croatian mother) – musician, founding member of The Scientists, the Dubrovniks, Beasts of Bourbon.
  • Simone Young - (Croatian mother) - Australian conductor


  • David Andrich – academic
  • Luka Budak – author, Head of Croatian Studies, Macquarie University.
  • Val Colic-Peisker – associate professor, sociologist and author.
  • Vesna Drapac – Associate Professor of History at University of Adelaide, author ("Constructing Yugoslavia: A Transnational History" 2010).
  • Roman Krznaric – social philosopher, author ("The Wonderbox: Curious histories of how to live" 2011, "How to Find Fulfilling Work (The School of Life)" 2013 , "How Should We Live?: Great Ideas from the Past for Everyday Life" 2015, "Empathy: Why It Matters, and How to Get It" 2015, "The First Beautiful Game: Stories of Obsession in Real Tennis" 2015, "Carpe Diem: Seizing the Day in a Distracted World" 2017) and founder of the Empathy Museum.
  • Ralph Pervan (1938–1980) – academic and author ("Tito and the students : the university and the university in self-managing Yugoslavia" 1978), namesake of the "Ralph Pervan scholarship", University Hall, Western Australia.

Science and Medicine[edit]

  • Vlado Perkovic – physician
  • Ralph Sarich – Inventor of the revolutionary Orbital Engine, and at one stage, in the 1970s, Australia's richest person.
  • Dr John Yovich – In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) pioneer.
  • Milan Balaban - MSc Hydrogeologist.

Business and Work[edit]

  • Jim Bosnjak – former owner of Westbus, the biggest bus company in Australia
  • Katarina Carroll (nee Bošnjak) – first female Police Commissioner, for the State of Queensland. Her parents are from Ljubuški, Hercegovina.
  • Tony Cobanov, owner Windy creek Estate Wines (formerly Cobanov Wines), Swan Valley, Western Australia whose grandfather, Ante Cobanov, came to Australia in 1924 and commenced the winery in 1937.
  • Kirk, Adam, and Tony Dundo, owners Katgully Winery, Swan Valley, Western Australia, whose grandfather came from Blato and Cara on the island of Korcula.
  • Juli Grbac, fashion designer who was the first winner of Project Runway Australia.
  • John Kosovich, owner John Kosovich Wines, Swan Valley, Western Australia, a third generation winemaker whose grandfather migrated to Australia before World War One and wo established a winery in 1922.
  • Steve Lubiana owner of Stefano Lubiana Wines, Derwent Valley, Tasmania, a fifth generation winemaker with ancestors from Croatia and Friuli, Italy.
  • Tony Šantić – Millionaire tuna fisherman, horsebreeder and owner of Makybe Diva
  • Tony and Ron Perich – brothers, property development, on Forbes Australia's 20 Richest people 2019.
  • Zeljko Ranogajec – businessman and professional gambler.
  • John Setka - Australian Trade Union leader
  • Sumich family farms – large scale market gardening, Western Australia and Tasmania.
  • Jim Talijancich – founder of Talijancich Wines, Swan Valley, Western Australia.
  • Jack Tomich – winemaker – arrived Australia 1903, founded Tomich Wines, Mildura, Victoria.
  • Nikolas Kraljevic - founder of Pleme the global Croatian social network, New South Wales




  • Mate Alac - (Born Drašnice, Croatia 1908 - 1997)- Miner (in Western Australia) and author of memoir "Into The World" (1992).
  • Vincent Abbott – gold hunter, pioneer of the Murchison Goldfields and who had the town of Abbotts, Western Australia named after him. He was born Vincent Vranjican in the town of Starigrad, Island of Hvar, Dalmatia, Croatia.
  • Blaž Kraljević – Croatian and Bosnian general
  • Ivan Milat – notorious serial killer
  • Vincent Serventy – a noted Australian author, ornithologist and conservationist.
  • Tom Starcevich – World War 2 Victoria Cross recipient
  • Frank Vitkovic - perpetrator of the Queen Street Massacre, half-Croat through his father


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "20680-Ancestry (full classification list) by Sex – Australia". 2006 Census. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Archived from the original (Microsoft Excel download) on 10 March 2008. Retrieved 2 June 2008. Total responses: 25,451,383 for total count of persons: 19,855,288.
  2. ^ a b "20680-Country of Birth of Person (full classification list) by Sex – Australia" (Microsoft Excel download). 2006 Census. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 2 June 2008. Total count of persons: 19,855,288.
  3. ^ Islamic Finder Croatian Islamic Centre
  4. ^ Google Books The South Slav journal: Opseg 6, Dositey Obradovich Circle – 1983
  5. ^ Google Books James Jupp: The Australian people: an encyclopedia of the nation, its people and their origins, 2001, Cambridge University Press, p. 250
  6. ^ Hrvatski islamski centar – Croatian Islamic Centre Archived 26 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Islamic Finder – Croatian Mosque – 36 Studley Street , Maidstone, Victoria 3012, Australia
  8. ^ David McKnight. Australia's Spies and Their Secrets. Allen & Unwin. St Leonards, N.S.W. 1994.
  9. ^ Croatian Embassy in Canberra – 1977–1978
  10. ^ a b "3101.0 – Australian Demographic Statistics, Dec 2006 (rebased on 2006 Census results)". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 19 June 2007. Retrieved 21 July 2008. Estimated resident population, preliminary – 30 June 2006 in '000s were NSW 6 817.2 Vic 5 128.3 Qld 4 091.5 SA 1 568.2 WA 2 059.0 Tas 489.9 NT 210.7 ACT 334.2 Australia 20 701.5
  11. ^ a b c d e f g "2914.0.55.002 2006 Census Ethnic Media Package" (Excel download). Census Dictionary, 2006 ( 2901.0). Australian Bureau of Statistics. 27 June 2007. Retrieved 14 July 2008.
  12. ^ "Estimates of Australian Citizens Living Overseas as at December 2001" (PDF). Southern Cross Group (DFAT data). 14 February 2001. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 July 2008. Retrieved 15 July 2008.
  13. ^ "Football gives Australia's Croatian community heart and home". The Guardian. 14 October 2013. Retrieved 9 January 2016.
  14. ^ "Snags high on Mark Bresciano's menu". Herald Sun. 23 November 2009. Retrieved 21 January 2014. dad Prospero is Italian and mum Grace is Croatian

Further reading[edit]

  • Colic-Peisker, Val.(2000) Croatian and Bosnian migration to Australia in the 1990s. Studies in Western Australian history, No.21, (Being Australian women), p. 117–136.
  • Colic-Peisker, Val.(2004) Split lives : Croatian Australian stories North Fremantle, W. Aust. : Fremantle Arts Centre Press. ISBN 1-920731-08-3

External links[edit]