Multicultural community profiles


Over 300 years of Spanish colonial rule has influenced the religion, language, music, architecture, dance and many aspects of the lives of the people of the Philippines.

The Philippine uprising and revolution led to a declaration of independence from Spain on 12 June 1898. However, Philippine independence did not become a reality as the Americans, involved in a war with the Spanish, took over to govern the Philippines for 48 years.

Following the end of World War 2 and a period of Japanese occupation, the Philippines finally achieved its independence. These events, as well as the influence of Malay, Chinese and Arabic traditions and culture have impacted on the culture and traditions of Filipinos today.

The desire to seek greener pastures has enabled the Filipinos to migrate to many parts of the world.

Settlement in the NT

Filipino migration to the Northern Territory (NT) started more than 100 years ago. There were three main waves of Filipino migration to the NT.

The first wave began in 1895. A small group from the central and southern Philippines came to the NT and were employed as divers and processors of shells in the local pearling industry.

The Manilamen, as they were called, were culturally isolated from the mainstream community at that time, but in maintaining their customs and traditions, particularly their music, they soon found themselves performing at social gatherings and actively participating in sporting activities such as boxing and football. The Immigration Act of 1901, commonly known as the White Australia Policy, excluded non-Europeans from settling in Australia, resulting in a decrease in Filipino migration until the 1950s.

The Colombo Plan paved the way for Filipino students and other professionals into Australia.

Following modifications to the White Australia policy in the 1960s, and the demise of the policy in the early 1970s, the next wave of Filipinos arrived in Darwin. The deteriorating political situation in the Philippines, with the declaration of martial law in 1972, led professional and well-qualified Filipinos to seek better opportunities and improve their standard of living overseas.

At that time the NT was administered by the South Australian Government. Many Filipino teachers found opportunities through the attractive packages provided by the Commonwealth Teaching Service and undertook teaching positions in Darwin, Katherine and Alice Springs. Most of these posts were taken up in Darwin.

In the 1970s, the younger Filipinos used the English language over their own to gain acceptance into the wider community.

The third wave of Filipino migrants came to the NT in the 1980s through the Australian Government’s Family Reunion and Marriage Visa Scheme. This paved the way for the migration of the Filipino community’s extended family and spouses. Filipinos with trade skills as well as students studying at the former Northern Territory University taking up permanent residency contributed to this influx into the 1990s. The Filipinos were one of the top non-European migrants in the NT during this time.

Migration continues through the Australian Government’s 457 visa for business and skilled migrants - in jobs ranging from mechanics to civil engineers - and is part of the solution to a skills shortage in the NT. Spouses and children have accompanied many of these migrants, many of whom have obtained permanent resident status.

With a history of over 100 years of settlement in the NT, the practice of customs and traditions, particularly a love for music, continues in the Filipino community today.

Languages, ethnicity and religion

According to the 2011 Census, there were 171,233 Philippines-born people in Australia, an increase of 42.1% from the 2006 Census, with 3,587 of this group residing in the NT.

It is estimated that there are 7,000 Filipino community members in the NT. As English is widely spoken in the Philippines most migrants are proficient in that language. Tagalog is also used.

While the Filipino community is predominantly Roman Catholic, some members also belong to other Christian denominations.

Community organisations

Filipino community organisations in the NT include:

The Filipino Australian Association of the NT

Established in 1973, the Filipino Australian Association of the NT plays an important role in organising community events such as the Barrio Fiesta, Harmony Day Youth Concert and the anniversary celebration of Philippine Independence.

It manages the Filipino Community Centre at Batten Road. It provides support services to its members and is active in promoting social and recreational activities for the community such as its very own basketball league.

The Pinoy Aussie Society

The Pinoy Aussie Society, formed in 1990, provides services to members ranging from driving lessons, computer classes, recreational activities including chess games, musical arts - instruments, voice and song-writing - as well as outreach support for members in times of need.

Filipiniana Senior Citizens Association

The Filipiniana Senior Citizens Association provides outreach services to its community members, as well as social activities like mini-golf, excursions and weekly get-togethers.

The group also gets together for fun-filled activities for Valentine’s Day, Easter bonnet parties and seniors’ camping trips.

The Katherine Filipino Australia Association

The Katherine Filipino Australia Association organises annual Harmony Day events, fundraising activities and community celebrations such as the Philippine Independence Day and Christmas celebrations.

The Filipino community also gets together for birthday celebrations. Some of these events are held at the association's premises, Mabuhay Hall.

The Filipino Social Club of Gove

The Filipino Social Club of Gove was officially formed in 1990 and is made up of about 20-30 families. Apart from some long-time residents, the Gove Filipino community has a transient population attracted by employment opportunities.

As its name indicates, the club is active in organising social events for its members such as four-wheel driving, camping, fishing, collecting seashells and big cook outs. The club also brings the community together through celebrations such as Philippine Independence Day, Christmas and New Year.

The Mabuhay Multicultural Association

The Mabuhay Multicultural Association is an Alice Springs-based Filipino group. Membership extends beyond to Yulara, Tennant Creek, Renner’s Springs, Waite River Station and other areas around Alice Springs.

The main goal of the association is to bring together Filipinos for social occasions, as well as to share heritage and traditions with the Alice Springs community. The association is active in welcoming new Filipino arrivals and introducing them to the community.

Community events celebrated in the NT

One of the highlights of community events celebrated in August by the Filipino community is the Barrio Fiesta, which first started in 1996. This annual festival showcases traditional dance, music, food and the many aspects of Filipino culture.

Other events include Philippines Independence Day on 12 June. The 110th anniversary of independence from colonial Spanish rule was celebrated in 2008. The Filipino community observes and celebrates the religious occasions of Easter and Christmas, as well as christenings and weddings.


For more information, contact Emcille Wills, president of the Filipino-Australia Association NT on 0417 619 898 or go to their Facebook page.

Sources and acknowledgements

  • John Rivas - former president Filipino Australian Association of the NT
  • Rose Hewitt - president Katherine Filipino Australia Association
  • Mario Aisa - president Pinoy Aussie Society
  • Christine Black and Angelita Minoy - Filipiniana Senior Citizens Association
  • Gil Avila - president Filipino Social Club of Gove
  • Grace Valdon - secretary Mabuhay Multicultural Association
  • History of the Settlement of Filipino Families in the Northern Territory (1895-2003), Filipino Australian Association of the NT Inc, Uni Print NT October 2003.

This information was partly sourced from the Australian Government's Department of Home Affairs website.

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Last updated: 31 August 2020

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