Wednesday, November 20, 2013


As we say auf wiedersehen to Oktoberfest for another year, Kerri visits some Australian regions with Germanic roots. Urban Excursions October 2012 brought to you the Oktoberfestonomics, the price of a pint of beer in Australia relative to other countries as we saluted our love of German beer, German sausage and all things Oktoberfest. This year, we explore our Germanic demographic roots, Oktoberfestographics if you like. Well you cannot have a surname like Meulman without laying some claim to Germanic origins and all things Oktoberfest. Whilst my ancestors claim to be Dutch, there is some very small question mark over whether or not there is actually some German descent in my blood, and like many towns across Australia that changed their names at the time of World War I, did my ancestors deny their German heritage? It will remain a mystery, but in any event I am happy to claim some German heritage and this October 2013 edition of Urban Excursions explores Australia’s Germanic roots and ancestry.

Whilst a number of towns with German names or of German origin did indeed change their names around the time of the Great War, others survived or did not change. Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills is perhaps the first that comes to mind when we think about German settlements and concentrations in Australia. The town of Hahndorf lays claim to being Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement and now has a significant tourist and day tripper function, but it too did not survive the anti-German sentiment at the time of the Great War and was renamed Ambleside, not reverting to its original name until the State’s Centenary celebrations in 1935. The original German Lutheran settlers in the Hahndorf area came to Australia fleeing religious persecution from the King of Prussia at the time. Sound familiar?

Establishing crops, the area became an important fruit and vegetable supplier for Adelaide and South Australia. The town and surrounding Adelaide Hills area retain strong linkages with their German heritage, with 11.5% of the residents of Hahndorf identifying as having German ancestry (compared with only 3.2% for Australia as a whole) and a significant 14.2% identified with the Lutheran religion, compared with only 1.2% Australia wide. Similarly, the Barossa Valley, famed for its wineries and vineyards, was originally settled by German Lutherans, with almost one quarter of residents of the Barossa-Tanunda SA2 identifying German ancestry and a significant 40% of residents were Lutheran at the time of the 2011 Census. Many of the now famous Australian wineries were established in the Barossa during this period; Seppelt, Penfolds, Tolleys, Jacob’s to name a few.

Another of Australia’s prominent fruit and vegetable growing regions, the Lockyer Valley, also claims strong German heritage. Almost 12% of residents of Gatton and 10% of the Lockyer Valley Regional Council area overall, identifying with German ancestry. The wave of German immigrants to Queensland was again effectively forced migration fleeing famine and poor agricultural conditions, in search of employment – again familiar? German migrants were recruited to the Darling Downs to work as shepherds to assist large pastoralists care for their flocks. The Eastern Darling Downs (excluding Toowoomba) including areas such as Oakey and Dalby also represents higher incidences of those of German ancestry (9.5%) Other towns such as Kalbar (formerly Englesburg but changed its name in the lead up to the Great War) and Marburg also represent significant concentrations of those with German ancestry compared with the national average (12.1% and 9.2% compared with 3.2%).

Both Queensland and South Australia have more prominent incidences of those of German ancestry than the other states and the Australian average, established by waves of effectively forced migration and laying claim to much of the development of the renowned food bowl areas of the Adelaide Hills and Barossa, the Lockyer Valley and Darling Downs. It may have been the original British settlers who brought beer to Australia, but as we come to the end of another Oktoberfest, we raise a glass to our German ancestors and shout “Prost!” or Cheers guys, until next month. Now……Ein Bier, bitte!!

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