By courtesy of Migration Museum, Adelaide, South Australia

Suomi tietoutta Adelaiden Migration-museon tietokannasta.
Information om emigrationen från Finland till Australien.







The Republic of Finland is in northern Europe. It is bordered by the Gulf of Bothnia and Sweden to the west, Norway to the north, the Russian Federated Republics to the east and by the Gulf of Finland to the south.

Sweden conquered Finland between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. From the sixteenth century Sweden and Russia fought a series of wars for control of Finland. Sweden occupied all of Finland between 1741 and 1743. In 1809 Russia conquered the country.

Finland declared its independence from Russia on December 6, 1917. Two years later Finland became a republic. In 1921 Finland gained control of the Aland Islans.

After World War II Finland lost southern Karelia, Porkkala and some other territories to the USSR. In 1955 the USSR returned Porkkala to Finland.






































The first Finn visited Australia in 1770. Herman Dietrich Sporing was a naturalist and draughtsman who belonged to Joseph Bank´s scientific staff aboard the Endeavour.

The first Finns to arrive in South Australia were seamen who ‘jumped’ or deserted their ships during the nineteenth century. Little is known about these men because South Australian lists of deserting seamen did not record nationality until 1874. The first Finn recorded on these lists is John Mikkelson who deserted ship in January 1874.

Gustaf Wilhelm Salberg was the first naturalised Finnish South Australian. He arrived in South Australia from Turku, Finland 1862. He was working as a cobbler and shoe repairer in North Adelaide when he received British citizenship in 1866.

Stephen Hacklin was an even earlier Finnish immigrant. He arrived in Australia in 1858. Hacklin was working as a farmer in Spalding when he was naturalised in 1894. By the early 1890s 57 male Finnish South Australians and one female Finnish South Australian had been naturalised. It has been estimated that a further 42 Finnish immigrants resided in the colony at this time. Most of these people arrived in South Australian from the Finnish provinces of Turku, Pori, Vaasa, Oulu and Raahe in the early 1870s. Many of them settled in Adelaide and in South Australian ports.

Erik Nyholm was another early Finnish South Australin. He was a seaman from Ostrobothnia who is known to have deserted his ship in 1872. Nyholm was naturalised in 1881 when he was 30 years old. It is likely that he was involved in the immigration of a group of 10 Finns who departed Hamburg for Adelaide aboard the Pracida on October 24, 1883. Another seven Finns arrived in Adelaide in 1884. This total of 17 arrivals included nine women. At this time there were more Finnish women in South Australia than in any of the other Australian colonies.

Erik Nyholm was listed in the 1886 South Australian Directory as a Googwood Park coppersmith. Nyholm died in Burwood in New South Wales in 1935.

It appears that a group of itinerant Finnish labourers worked throughout South Australia in the years before World War I. A group of 20 Finnish navvies were among the men who constructed the Kapunda railway.

Before the 1921 Australian Census Finns were included in the Russian birthplace category because the country was part of Russian empire until 1917. In 1921 there were 160 Finnish South Australians.

A considerable number of Finnish seamen jumped ship in Wallaroo, Pt Pirie, Pt Lincoln and Pt Victoria during the 1920s while their ships were in port loading grain. Axel Stenross and Frank Laakso were among the Finnish seamen who were ‘paid off’ in South Australian ports.

Axel Alfred Stenross was born in the village of Finby in Finland on September 23, 1895. After serving an apprenticeship in his father’s boat building yard Axel moved to the Aland Islands where he lived and worked for about five years. He then worked as a cook on ships in the Baltic Sea during the summer months.

On October 23, 1924 in Cardiff, Wales, Axel signed on the Olivebank as ship’s carpenter. The Olivebank was a four-masted berque under Captain Karl Troberg. Axel had dublicates of his shipwright tools in case they were lost overboard. Some of his tools had belonged to his grandfather.

On September 28, 1925 Frank Laakso joined the Olivebank. He was born on the island of Little Nagu, Finland, on January 5, 1900. Axel and Frank were paid off in Pt Lincoln on March 18, 1927.

Axel and Frank initially set up camp at Kirton Point and worked on the construction of Pt Lincoln’s railway station. On January 6, 1928 Axel and Frank bought the Gulf Docking Slip and began building fishing boats and dinghies and undertaking repair and salvage work.

In 1933 there were 133 Finnish South Australians including only one woman. Fifteen Finnish South Australians lived in Pt Lincoln in 1936. After Adelaide this was the largest concentration of Finnish South Australians. Most of these people were fishermen. Some of them worked in Axel Stenross’ boatyard.

On April 1, 1940 Axel and Frank moved to the Happy Valley slipway on Pt Lincoln’s north shore, the current site of the Axel Stenross Maritime Museum which was opened after his death in 1980.

The exact number of boats built by A.A. Stenross and Co. is uncertain. It is thought that the company built at least 44 boats between 20 and 45 feet in length (between 6 and 13.7 metres) and 250 20-foot (6 metre) boats.

An unusual instance of seamen jumping ship occured at Pt Victoria in the late 1940s. A group of Finns deserted the windjammer they were enlisted on while it was loading wheat. They were afraid that the USSR was going to take control of Finland in the aftermath of World War II. Some of these men were caught by police and returned to their ship. Four of them found Pastor Freund-Zinnbauer, a Lutheran clergyman who helped many European immigrants in the post-war period.

Pastor Zinnbauer took the four men to the Immigration Department and paid the amount of one hundred pounds guarantee for them. The pastor also found somewhere for the men to stay. They later repaid his kind loan.

By 1947 there were only 102 Finnish South Australians, still including only one woman.

Following World War II approximately 500 Finns resettled in South Australia. Most arrived after 1957 due to economic problems in Finland. Many gained employment in the forestry industry in the South-East towns of Millicent, Mt Gambier and Nangwarry. Some Finns settled in Adelaide and Whyalla. In 1961 there were 614 Finnish South Australians.

The number of Finnish South Australians declined during the 1960s. Some returned to Finland while others immigrated to the United States. In 1966 there were 534 Finnish South Australians.

A group of Finns resettled in South Australia during 1968 and 1969. They immigrated in search of employment opportunities.

Finnish South Australians have settled throughout the metropolitan area, the South-East and in regional centres such as Whyalla. They are employed in the range of occupations.


The early settlements of Finnish South Australians were small and widely scattered. As a result no distinct community seems to have developed. There is no evidence of Finnish community life in Adelaide or Pt Lincoln, even though a considerable number of Finnish South Australians had settled in these places. Curiously enough it is known that Axel Stenross was an associate member of the Pt Lincoln Caledonian Society and that he jokingly sometimes called himself Axel Angus McStenross!

The Adelaide Finnish Lutheran Church traces its origins back to 1953 when a Finnish pastor from Melbourne began holding Finnish-language church services at St Stephan’s Lutheran Church, Wakefield Street. The rest of the time the Finnish Lutheran community was cared for by Pastor Freund-Zinnbauer. After 1960 Finnish Lutheran South Australians were visited from time to time by Pastors Kokkonen and Levanen from Melbourne who held services at a former Congregational church in Baliol Street, College Park. During the 1960s Mr Havukainen, who was studying to be a pastor, assisted the Finnish Lutheran community of Adelaide.

On July 23, 1966 Finnish Lutheran South Australians held a meeting and decided to arrange for a permanent Finnish Lutheran pastor to reside in Adelaide. Pastor Voitto Pokela arrived in Adelaide as a result on January 31, 1971. At the time the Finnish Lutheran congregation was using a church in Archer Street, North Adelaide. The Adelaide Finnish Lutheran Church opened its own permanent church in Goward Street, Northfield on October 17, 1976. In 1993 Reverend Jorma J. Jormakka presided over the congregation.

The Finnish Society of Adelaide was founded in 1959 to help Finns to resettle in South Australia. Initially it met in private homes and hired halls. It opened its own hall in Fleet Street, Hillcrest in 1973.

The Finnish Society of Adelaide has approximately 70 members. Its library is open three times monthly and its senior citizens’ group meets twice a month. The society holds communal meals, dances and barbecues throughout the year to celebrate: Easter; Vappu, May Day; Midsummer’s Day and Independence Day.

Easter is often marked with a traditional meal of cream of spinach soup, roast lamb and cucumber salad at the society’s hall.

Vappu is on May 1. In Finland this is the time of tertiary graduations. Student wear white hats and celebrate the end of their studies. The Finnish Society of Adelaide holds a party to mark the day.

Midsummer’s Day is on June 24. In Finland it is light for nearly 24 hours on this day. Members of the Finnish Society of Adelaide celebrate Midsummer’s Day with a party on nearest Saturday. They decorate the society’s hall with greenery, flowers and a Finnish flag. Many of them wear national costume for the accasion. Members of the society build a mock bonfire in the middle of the hall and sometimes crown a Midsummer Queen from among the assembled throng.

Independence Day is on December 6. It was on this day in 1917 that Finland declared its autonomy from Russia. It is usually celebrated with a church service at the Adelaide Finnish Lutheran Church and a social gathering.

The Finnish Federation of Australia organises an annual Finnish Festival in one of the Australian capital cities over the Easter long weekend. In 1974 and 1984 Adelaide hosted the festival which includes seminars, sporting events and cultural exhibitions.

Although Finland is a Nordic rather than a Scandinavian country a small number of Finnish South Australians belong to the Scandinavian Association of South Australia. Consult SWEDISH, DANISH or NORWEGIAN entries for further details.


Finnish Federation of Australia Inc.

Finnish Society of Adelaide Inc.

Adelaide Finnish Lutheran Church

Publishes Seurakuntalainen, a monthly newsletter

Finnish Pentocostal Church

5EBI-FM Radio Program

7.30 — 8.30 p.m. Mondays.


According to the 1981 Census there were 723 Finnish-born South Australians.

The 1986 Census recorded 707. 1,111 South Australians stated they were of Finnish descent.

The 1991 Census recorded 655 Finnish-born South Australians. 974 people stated their mothers were born in Finland. 1,095 South Australians stated their fathers were Finnish-born.


DENNIS, B. Ethnic Development in South Australia, Good Neighbour Council, Adelaide, 1971.

HOLLAND, C. E. A Man of Tall Ships and Small Boats, booklet published by the author, Pt Lincoln, 1985.

JUPP, J. (ed) The Australian People: An Encyclopedia of the Nation, Its People and Their Origins, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1988.

KOIVUKANGAS, O. Sea, Gold and Sugarcane: the Finns in Australia 1851 — 1947, Finnish Institute of Migration, Turku, 1986.

RILETT, M. And You Took Me In: Alfred and Helga Freund-Zinnbauer: A Biography, Lutheran Publishing House, Adelaide, 1992.

The Migration Museum gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Finnish South Australians.


COPYRIGHT August 1993

Migration Museum, Adelaide






















































Axel Stenross Maritime Museum



Web editing Staffan Storteir