History of immigration from Uruguay
The first migrants from La Republica Oriental del Uruguay arrived in Australia during the 1960s, when Uruguay was experiencing a period of economic deterioration and increasing political instability. The beginning of the Tupamaros guerrilla campaign in 1967 exacerbated political tensions and led to the introduction of new security laws that were later used to justify civil rights abuses. The 1970s saw rising unemployment and government repression of opponents. After the military seized power in 1973, an estimated 400,000 people fled Uruguay, some of whom eventually settled in Australia.
The number of Uruguay-born Victorians grew dramatically from just 39 in 1971 to 1,068 in 1976, with a further 500 arriving by 1981. Most of those who arrived between 1973 and 1977 were assisted immigrants. Even after Uruguay returned to democracy in 1984, the Uruguay-born community in Victoria continued to grow, reaching its peak in 1991 with 1,779 people.
In 2001 the Uruguay-born community of Victoria comprised 1,643 people, the majority of European descent. Many Uruguayans live in Sunshine and Keilor, with smaller communities in Berwick and Dandenong. Predominantly working as tradespersons and labourers within the manufacturing industry, 75% of the community is Christian, mostly Catholic. Over 83% of the community speaks Spanish at home, and many are involved in Latin American organisations. The Latin American Press provides the community with Uruguayan language newspapers and radio programs. Other organisations such as the Australian-Uruguayan Chamber of Commerce and the Uruguayan Club further support Uruguayan culture, celebrated through folk-dancing, music, food and theatre.