Australia’s First Refugees – The Lutherans, 1830’s

German Settlement on Torrens RiverRefugee Week 2022 is from Sunday 19 June – Saturday 25 June, 2022. The theme for Refugee Week is Healing. Here, we give an account of the first refugees to Australia in the 1830’s – the Lutherans.

The first refugees to come to Australia arrived in 1839. A group of Christians, known as Lutherans, left countries such as Germany and Prussia, trying to escape religious persecution that had begun some two hundred years earlier.

In 16th century Germany, the Catholic Church decided to sell ‘tickets’ to Heaven, also known as Indulgences. These tickets were a way someone could reduce the punishment they would receive for all the sins they had committed, but they were expensive and only rich people could afford them. Understandably, poor people were upset by this and there was increasing anger against the Catholic Church.

In 1517, a monk named Martin Luther marched up to the local cathedral in Wittenberg, Germany, and nailed a letter with 95 things he thought wrong with the Church on the door. Luther faced trouble from the Church, but he started a movement — a protest movement. What happened next was called the Reformation, where people who thought the same way as Luther, as part of their ‘protest’, formed a new branch of Christianity called Protestantism.

The ideas of the Protestants became popular but the Catholic Church did not like this new competition and many Protestants were forced to leave their country, as many were being tortured or even killed! Many of them fled to America, some to South Africa, trying to find a place where they could practice their religion and worship in peace.

Those first Protestants (who called themselves Lutherans after Martin Luther) were the first refugees to come to Australia.

Many towns in the Barossa Valley, South Australia, where they chose to live, now have very German sounding names e.g. Hahndorf. Those first Protestants brought their wine-making skills with them and after many years, this part of Australia is now known to be one of the best wine making regions in the world.


Hindley Street Adelaide
Hindley Street Adelaide – the first German settlement in Australia


Source: Refugees, Jason K. Foster, p10

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Adelaide Economic Development Agency


451 Total Views 1 Views Today