Australians and New Zealanders have been including London on their travel itinerary since the 1950s. Many young people fly from this part of the world to stay and work temporarily in the city, often as part of a trip around Europe.
Australasia’s great distance from Britain meant that visitors from this region to London were relatively few prior to the 20th century.
Among the first to arrive in the 18th century were Prince Lee Boo of the Palau Islands and the Aboriginal people Bennelong and Yemmerrawanyea, who accompanied Governor Philip to the capital.
Yemmerrawanyea died and was buried in Eltham churchyard, where his gravestone still stands today.
Used as a penal colony from the 18th century, Australia became a land to which the British emigrated during the 19th century, as did New Zealand.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, Australians and New Zealanders travelled to London on board ship to make the most of the professional and artistic opportunities offered by the metropolis. The ‘British-Australasian’ weekly newspaper was established in 1884 to meet the needs of this community.
After her discovery in Paris, the Australian opera singer Nellie Melba became one of London’s biggest stars, performing at Covent Garden Opera House between the 1880s and the 1920s.
The artist Will Dyson emigrated from Australia to London in 1910, to work as a leading cartoonist for the ‘Daily Herald’ newspaper.
Following World War I, both Australia and New Zealand achieved increasing independence from Britain, while remaining members of the Commonwealth.
As air travel became affordable from the 1950s, many young Australians and New Zealanders visited London. The centre of Australasian life in London was traditionally Earl’s Court with its cheap hotels and bedsits and proximity to the centre.
Increasing rents have since led young people to live further west in large shared houses in Shepherd’s Bush or Putney. Since the 1970s, short stay visas have become the norm for Australasians without family members resident in Britain.
Nowadays some come to gain a couple of years of professional experience of full-time work. Others take short term jobs as office temps, in retail or in pubs and bars. They enjoy London’s vibrant social scene and use it as a base for travelling around the rest of Europe.
Australasians in London are a transient population, mostly in their twenties, and numbered 41,488 in 2001.
Australasians, even those who had never visited Britain, once felt such a bond with the country that they referred to it as ‘home’. This is no longer the case since Australia and New Zealand have increasingly developed their own distinct cultural identities.
Young Australasians now often prefer to travel around south east Asia or the United States instead of coming to Europe.
Like the US, Australia exports popular culture to Britain in the form of television programmes such as ‘The Dame Edna Experience’ and ‘Neighbours’.
Germaine Greer and Clive James are just two of the Australians who have made their names in Britain.