Indian-born Community in Australia

Indians were brought to Australia between 1800 and 1860 initially to work as labourers and domestics. Between the years 1860 and 1901 more Indians arrived and worked as agricultural labourers and as hawkers in country towns. A number of Indians also worked in the gold fields. The Indians were mainly Sikhs and Muslims from the Punjab region in northwest India and the majority settled in Woolgoolga in New South Wales.

Today, the Sikh settlement in Woolgoolga is one of the largest Indian rural communities in Australia. Migration from India was curtailed after the Australian Government introduced the Immigration Restriction Act 1901. Following India’s Independence from Britain in 1947, the number of Anglo-Indians and India-born British citizens immigrating to Australia increased.

In 1966, the Australian Government changed its policies to permit non-European Indians to emigrate to Australia. By 1981, the India-born population numbered 41,657 and the new arrivals included many professionals, such as doctors, teachers, computer programmers and engineers. Unlike the earlier settlers, those arriving after the 1950s came from many parts of India and belonged to various religious linguistic and cultural groups.

While the majority of Indians are Hindus, some are followers of other religious faiths, such as Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism.

The latest Census in 2001 recorded 95,460 India-born persons in Australia, an increase of 23% from the 1996 Census. The 2001 distribution by State and Territory showed New South Wales had the largest number with 37,930 followed by Victoria (30,690), Western Australia (13,120) and Queensland (7,190). The median age of the India-born in 2001 was 40.4 years.

Of the India-born in Australia, there were 50,410 males (52.8%) and 45,050 females (47.2%). The sex ratio was 111.9 males per 100 females.

The main languages spoken at home by India-born people in Australia were English (47.7%), Hindi (15.6%), and Punjabi (9.2%). Of the 49,690 India-born who spoke a language other than English at home, 93.4% spoke English very well or well and 5.8% spoke English not well or not at all.


At the 2001 Census the major religions amongst India-born were Hinduism (31,920 persons), Western Catholic (29,540 persons) and Sikhism (9,740 persons). Of the India-born, 2.7 % stated 'No Religion'.

In the 2001 Census, the top three ancestries that India-born persons reported were, Indian (61,650), English (9,690) and Anglo-Indian (6,200).

(source: Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils' of Australia)

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