Albanian Australians

Albanian Australians
Shqiptarë Australian
Total population
4,041 (by birth, 2016)[1]
15,901 (by ancestry, 2016)[2]
Regions with significant populations
Melbourne · Shepparton · Mareeba · Sydney · Adelaide
Albanian · Australian English · Greek
Related ethnic groups
Albanian diaspora

Albanian Australians (Albanian: Shqiptarë Australian) are residents of Australia who are of Albanian heritage or descent, often from Albania and Kosovo but also Montenegro and Macedonia.

According to the 2006 Australian census 2,014 Albanians were born in Australia[3] while 11,315 claimed Albanian ancestry, either alone or with another ancestry.[4]

According to the 2011 Australian census 2,398 Albanians were born in Australia[2] while 13,142 claimed Albanian ancestry, either alone or with another ancestry.[2] According to the 2016 census, 4,041 people were born in Albania or Kosovo.


Early Albanian Immigration

The first recorded Albanian to settle in Australia was Naum Konxha who arrived in Brisbane in 1885 with his English wife and decided to stay permanently.[5] The second Albanian, Spiro Jani from Himara, arrived in Queensland in 1908. Then Kristo Zafiri arrived from the Labëria region and Dhimitër Ikonomi from Dropull. They disembarked in 1913 from an English ship at Townsville. In 1914 Jan Konomi arrived and in 1920 Vasil and Thomas Kasneci.

Interwar Period

As with others from the Balkans, the first major period of emigration to Australia followed the United States quota restrictions on Southern Europeans of 1924.[5] Due to the White Australia Policy, many Muslims during the interwar period were precluded from migrating, while Albanian Muslims were accepted in Australia due to having a lighter European complexion.[6] The Albanians arrival revived the Australian Muslim community whose aging demographics were until that time in decline. [7] The Australian census did not record Albanians separately until 1933 when there were 770, the largest number living in Queensland. That number doubled by 1947 with the balance shifting to Victoria where it has remained. Albanians who arrived in the 1920s settled in rural areas and engaged in agriculture related employment, mainly fruit growing. As with other Southern European migrants, most Albanians who came to Australia in the 1920s were men.[8] They became market gardeners, sugar cane workers, tobacco farmers and horticulturalists. The largest number arrived in 1928. Early settlements were made in Northam in Western Australia by Ismail Birangi and Sabri Sali, who later moved to Shepparton where they established their families with their friends Reshit Mehmet and Fethi Haxhi.[5] Other Albanians from Western Australia moved to the goldfields in search of work, while others in the 1930s went mainly to Queensland and Victoria as they were economically hit hard by the 1929 Great Depression.[9] Albanians also settled in Cairns, Melbourne, Brisbane and York.[5] During this time some Albanians who had adequate finances sponsored family members from Albania to come to Australia.[9]

The 1933 Australian Census recorded 770 Albania-born individuals living in Australia, mostly in Queensland and Victoria.[9] Many Albanians settled around Mareeba in northern Queensland and in Brisbane.[5] In Victoria, most Albanians settled on rural properties around Shepparton in the Goulburn Valley.[5] In the 1920s, most came from southern Albania, around the city of Korçë, and engaged in agriculture, especially fruit growing. A much smaller number were from Gjirokastër, also in the south and similarly belonging to the Tosk dialect group rather than the Gheg dialect spoken in northern Albania and Kosovo.[5] While the majority were Muslims, it was estimated that about 40% were Orthodox Christians.[5]

World War Two

Albanians in Australia were defined as "enemy aliens" due to Italy's annexation of Albania during World War Two, as they were thought by Australian authorities to pose a fascist threat and some individuals were arrested and interned.[10] The Albanians of Queensland were adversely most affected by those state actions.[10] Those government policies in Victoria were more lenient with Albanians reporting weekly to the authorities and in Western Australia they were given certain labour and farming jobs to do.[10] Naturalised Albanians were exempted from those measures and others applied for naturalisation.[10] Some other Albanians also fought in the Australian army during the Second World War.[10]

Mid to late 20th century Albanian Immigration to Australia

After the war, the Shepparton community was joined by post war refugees escaping the communist takeover of Albania[11] between 1949 and 1955. Only 235 Albanian Displaced Persons arrived and was enough to raise the overall total of the Albania-born individuals in Australia to its highest level until 1976. Post war, there was a much larger displaced ethnic Albanian population in Australia, however refugees were registered as Yugoslav due to their country of origin. The Shepparton mosque was built in 1960 as the religious focal point for the most prosperous and well established rural Albanian community in Australia.[5] Political differences of royalists and democrats among the Albanian community existed in the immediate post war era reflecting political divisions of interwar Albania that was at times expressed as separate gatherings or cultural events of the two groups.[11] Over time those political differences have subsided.[11]

Restrictions on emigration from Albania lasted until the early 1990s which thereafter some 100 estimated families migrated to Shepparton and joined the older Albanian community there who gave them support networks and often employment.[12] Most recent Albanian-speaking migrants in Australia however came from former Yugoslavia.[5] From the 1960s-1970s the majority of these migrants were from the Lake Prespa region and the villages of Kišava and Ostrec of Bitola municipality which are all located in south-western Macedonia.[13] As these migrants were from the same Tosk dialect group, they were able to integrate with earlier immigrants from the Korçë region.[13] This was due to previous shared historical socio-cultural connections that allowed the forming of strong bonds of community in Australia.[13] The Albanian Prespa community and those Albanians from the Bitola region form the majority of the Albanian community in Victoria and Australia.[11][13] Most of these Prespa and Bitola Albanians reside in Melbourne's industrial working class suburbs of Dandenong, Yarraville, St Albans, Altona, Preston, Lalor and Thomastown.[13] Within the context of migration, maintaining identity and adapting to a new homeland, Albanians from the lake Prespa region refer to Australia as Australia shqiptare (Albanian Australia) or Australia prespane (Prespan Australia).[14]

In 1996, there were 6212 who spoke Albanian at home, or more than five times the number of people born in Albania. Of these, 1299 were born in Macedonia and only 60 in Serbia and Montenegro. The political situation since then has increased this latter component and includes people from Kosovo. Apart from smaller numbers of Albanians from Montenegro, Greece, Italy, Turkey and Bosnia the rest were either born in Albania, the former Yugoslavia (Serbia and mainly Macedonia) or Australia.[5][11]


Unlike some other Eastern European languages, Albanian was spoken over a large age range from infancy to old age and is surviving into second generation as well as being added to by recent arrivals. The number using the language rose by one-quarter between 1986 and 1996. A substantial majority of the recent Albanian arrivals have settled in Victoria, both in Melbourne and around Shepparton. Albanian of the Tosk and Gheg dialect is both widely used by Albanian Australians.[5]


As in Albania and Kosovo, 57% of Albanian speakers in Australia subscribe to Islam despite its officials outlawing under the Albanian communists. Over 400 were Catholic, the religion of the most famous Albanian, Mother Teresa, some of whose relatives settled in Melbourne.[5] Only 114 were Orthodox.[5] The predominance of Islam gave the Albanian population a degree of unity and the ability to build their own mosques, as in rural Mareeba, Shepparton and Melbourne metropolitan Carlton North.[5]

The Shepparton Mosque was the first mosque built in Victoria[15] and the Carlton Mosque was the first mosque built in Melbourne. Other mosques in metropolitan Melbourne are the Albanian Mosque in Dandenong[15] and the Albanian Prespa Mosque in Reservoir.

Albanians of Catholic and Orthodox, found an established network of religious institutions available to them in the places they settled with their Muslim compatriots. However, in the absence of Albanian churches and Albanian-speaking ministers, Christian Albanians struggle to maintain their unique heritage.[16] Religious differences have not been a significant factor for in Albanian community relations.[11]


The major Albanian community organisation is the Albania Australia Community Association Inc (AACA) located in North Carlton and chaired by Bashkim Bekiri. It was previously chaired by Erik Lloga, who took an active role in settling Kosovar refugees, including acting as an interpreter for the Prime Minister. The AACA shares premises with the Albanian Australian Islamic Society. Other Groups include the Albanian Australian Islamic Society and there are also Albanian Islamic societies in Dandenong and Shepparton and the Albanian Catholic Community in St Albans. Other Victorian associations have included the Albanian Teachers’ Association and a branch of the Balli Kombëtar political party based on anti-communist post-war refugees.[5] In Queensland there is an Albanian Association of Brisbane and an Albanian Australian Moslem Society in the long established community in Mareeba.[17] There is also an Albanian Australian Association in Adelaide. All these associations cater for Albanians from Macedonia and Kosovo as well as those from Albania and some took an active role in providing support for the Kosovar refugees in 1999.[5][18] Albanians belonging to various generations, religions, affiliations and origins gather associate and freely at community cultural events.[11] Albanians in Australia celebrate Albanian Independence Day (28 November).[11] The Albanian community has other events and functions involving Albanian music and dance such as the annual Albanian festival held at the Dandenong Ranges in east Melbourne, where many Albanians from Macedonia reside.[11] The festival date falls every second Sunday in December hosted by the Albanian Australian Community Association Inc and at times it also has been held in Melbourne's inner western suburbs.

Over time the people from the Albanian community have become more involved in community affairs by forming associations such as the Australian Albanian Women's Association and a more recent youth directed group Albanians Connect.


Musical traditions

Various musical genres and dances exist among Albanians in Australia reflecting the regions within the Balkans from where they migrated and stylistic differences exist that typify traditional music from northern and southern Balkan Albanian areas.[11] Polyphonic singing, associated with southern Albanian musical traditions of where a singer begins a song followed by a second singer entering at a different melodic line with others maintaining a drone (iso) is mainly performed by elderly Prespa Albanians of both genders, though separately, at weddings.[11] Northern Albanian musical traditions of solo singing are performed by Albanians from Kosovo. The repertoire of songs often involve love songs and narrative ballads about historic or legendary events played on a stringed musical instrument like the çifteli or laut/lahutë.[11] There also exist a variety of local Albanian music bands that have a vocalist and often accompanied by other members playing a clarinet, drums, electric guitar and piano accordion which has increasingly been substituted for an electric keyboard.[19] These bands perform at weddings or other gatherings and their music repertoire often reflects the influences from their place of origin in the Balkans with some creating new musical compositions in Australia.[19] Bands who reflect a Kosovo Albanian origin often sing about patriotic or political themes alongside traditional songs and their music contains Turkish influences dating from the Ottoman era.[11] Traditional dances are also performed of which some of the most popular being the Shota for Kosovo Albanians, the Ulqin for Montenegro Albanians and the Devollice for Southern Albanians.[11] Some dances which were performed by only one gender are increasingly being danced together by both males and females and many younger members of the Albanian community also partake in traditional dancing.[11]

Albanian sport clubs

Notable people

See also



  1. 1 2 3
  2. "20680-Country of Birth of Person (full classification list) by Sex - Australia" (Microsoft Excel download). 2006 census. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 2008-06-02. Total count of persons: 19,855,288.
  3. "20680-Ancestry (full classification list) by Sex - Australia" (Microsoft Excel download). 2006 census. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 2008-06-02. Total responses: 25,451,383 for total count of persons: 19,855,288.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 Jupp 2001, p. 166.
  5. Pratt 2011, p. 744. "However, during much of the first half or more of the 20th century the White Australia Policy precluded the immigration of many Muslims, although during the inter-war period ‘‘Albanian Muslims were accepted due to their lighter European complexion’’ (Saeed 2004, p. 7). Albanians were also among some of the mid-20th century Muslim immigrants to New Zealand. However, for both Australia and New Zealand Islam was effectively invisible and Muslims a negligible minority, until the middle of the 20th century."
  6. Aslan 2009, pp. 37-38. "The dying Muslim community began to revive with the arrival of Muslim migrants from Albania who came to Australia in the 1920s and 1930s to work as labourers in Western Australia, Queensland and Victoria along With other migrants from central and southern Europe. After the First World War, the Australian government believed that having only a small population exposed the country to the risk of invasion by other countries. Moreover, there was a big demand for labour in the countryside. Thus, the Australian government decided to accept non-British migrants from Europe. Albanians, generally young single males from villages, first arrived in Fremantle in Western Australia, and worked as casual labourers. Later on, they moved to Queensland and Victoria for better job opportunities, and worked on farms and in orchards. Immigration ceased during the Second World War."
  7. Barjaba & King 2005, p. 8. "There are some similarities to the US case in the patterning and evolution of Albanian emigration to Australia, although this movement started later and the scale of the migration has been much smaller. The key period of migration was the 1920s, when around 1,000 Albanians arrived in Australia, nearly all of them men. One mechanism, noted by Price (1963: 96), was the migration to Australia during 1925-6 of Albanians who had returned from the United States but who could not go back to the US because of that country’s quota laws set in place in 1922-4. Like the US, the first migrants to Australia were single men who wanted to work, earn money and then return home to improve their family properties in Albania. In the later 1920s and early 1930s, friends and relatives were brought over, changing somewhat the character of the migration. Nevertheless the sex ratio remained highly imbalanced: only 10 per cent of Albanians in Australia in 1947 were women, rising to 16 per cent in 1954 (Price 1963:96). Chain migration was a fundamental driving force behind this migration; once again the Korçe area was the dominant district of origin. Korçe migrants settled above all in Shepperton (Victoria) and Moora (Western Australia), specialising in various farming and agriculture-related jobs. By contrast, migrants from Gjirokastër (figure 1.1) tended to settle in urban Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, Perth) where they opened small catering establishments (Hall 1994: 51, summarising Price 1963: 110-11, 150-1, 175-6). Since 1990 these chains linking southern Albania with specific destinations in Australia have become active again."
  8. 1 2 3 Kabir 2005, p. 560. "According to the 1933 Census, there were 770 Albanians in Australia, 766 male and four female. The states with the biggest Albanian populations were, in order, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia, while New South Wales and South Australia had conspicuously fewer."; p. 561-562. "Albanians usually married within their own community. Men wishing to marry sometimes went back to Albania to find a wife, or sent money back home so that a bride could be shipped out."; p. 561. "Most Albanians were adversely affected by the 1929 Depression, as work became increasingly difficult to obtain, especially for aliens. The Depression affected the rural sector more than any other, and resulted in much geographic movement amongst the labouring classes. As the Depression deepened, many men moved to the goldfields for work. Unemployed Australians and Southern Europeans (including Albanians) also turned to the goldfields and some antagonism arose between the two groups of men over jobs in the mines. The death of an Australian on the Australia Day weekend in 1934 provoked several days of rioting in Kalgoorlie and Boulder. Some of the premises of aliens were even looted or burnt down. As a result of both the Depression and the increased hostility shown by the British and Australians, many Albanians left Western Australia during the 1930s and settled in Queensland and Victoria. ; p. 561. "Albanians were keen to sponsor relatives from their home country."; p. 562. "From these cases it appears that one had to be financially solvent to sponsor relatives from Albania, and that the question of supply and demand regulated the flow of labour from overseas."; p. 562. "During World War II, when Italy invaded Albania and declared war on the Allies, Albanians were classified as ‘enemy aliens’. Under the National regulations, aliens in Western Australia were required to register at the Police Library in James Street, Perth. An advisory committee was set up in each state to hear appeals against internment. The record of those interned in Western Australia lists only two Albanians, Zalo Hajrulla and Nezer Hodo. Both registered on 15 April 1942 at the York Police Station and both claimed exemption from internment because they were market gardeners. Their labour was much needed during wartime."; p. 562. "Under the National Security (Alien Control Regulation) Act (1939), Albanians who were naturalised British subjects were not subjected to certain specified jobs assigned by the Allied Works Council. For example, on 21 April 1943, the Allied Works Council instructed that Demir Fehim, ‘Shall perform the service of cutting and handling of firewood, general farming and agricultural work and such other work incidental thereto as is directed by the Conservator of Forests, Western Australia, and its officers.’ Later, these tasks were not assigned to him because the Council found that he was a British subject. Demir Femin had become naturalised on 15 February 1943, which shows that a few Albanians also became naturalised during War World II. Overall the Albanians who engaged in market gardening in York led a peaceful life. As no British or Australian people were engaged in market gardening in York, the special treatment afforded the Albanians caused no obvious resentment. Similarly, Malays, Afghans and Indians, in spite of their single marital status and exploited lives, benefited economically. Some Malays extended their contracts, while some Afghans and Indians lived here for many years. Since the Albanians were European by race and the nature of their work less competitive they encountered fewer social problems. During World War II, some of them encountered restrictions because they appeared to pose a political threat. Therefore, it appears that the underlying reason behind any conflict was perceived threat – racial, economic or political. Although encountering restrictions and resistance on the course of their stay in the earlier years, eventually Muslims benefited economically by working in this State and their contributions to Western Australia’s development."
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 Kabir 2006, p. 200. "During the Second World War, when Italy invaded Albania and declared war on the Allies, Albanians were classified as ‘enemy aliens’. Under the National regulations, all enemy aliens were required to register at the police station. Many of them were thought to pose a fascist threat. The Albanians in Queensland were most adversely affected. An Albanian woman in Queensland recalled that when the soldiers came to take her father, he hid in the bush. But the soldiers took her father’s youngest brother instead."; p. 201. "Policies were much more relaxed in other states. In Victoria, some Albanians worked for the Allied Works Council reconstructing roads, while others had to report to the police station every week. In Western Australia, certain jobs such as cutting and handling of firewood, general farming and agricultural work were assigned to the Albanians by the Allied Works Council. However, naturalised Albanians were exempted from such impositions… On the other hand, some Albanians were exempted from internment because their labour was much needed at that time. For instance, Zalo Hajrulla and Nezer Hodo both registered on 15 April 1942 at the York Police Station and both claimed exemption from internment because they were market gardeners. These cases show that not all Albanians posed a potential threat during the Second War World. Of those who were not interned many decided to clarify their status and become British subjects. However, applications were held up, while the authorities tried to decide whether the applicants were engaged in any unlawful acts. For example, Xhafer Kodra applied for naturalisation in 1943, and in the Report on Application for Naturalisation form the applicant was asked whether he was of European (white) race or descent and whether he could read or write reasonably fluently or understand English. Were there any records of his conduct during the war and why did he desire naturalisation? The comment on the applicant’s conduct was that he was a ‘Hard working, quiet, citizen’, that he ‘Has complied with regulations’, and that he desired naturalisation for ‘Permanent residence and full citizen rights’."; pp. 201-202. "On the other hand, a few Albanian Muslims who had shown loyalty to Australia were permitted to join the army. In his interview Sami Osman recalled that about six Albanians went to war. Some of them were not naturalised. Archival records reveal that Kurt Ali Raman of the Australian Infantry died in Papua New Guinea at the age of 35 in December 1942 and was buried in the Port Moresby Bomana War Cemetery, Papua New Guinea. Thus, though some Muslims in Australia may have been different in race and colour, their involvement in the war put them on an equal footing with ordinary Australians. Islam was never a criterion for discrimination during the Second World War."
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Scott-Maxwell 2003, p. 45.
  11. Carswell 2005, pp. 28-29."The first main wave of Albanian migrants to Australia begin in the late 1920s with young men seeking work, many of whom ended up working in the sugar industry in Queensland. These young men were from rural backgrounds and were following in the tradition of sons going overseas to earn money so they could return to Albania and buy their own land. Those interviewed said that the sons in a family would rotate these sojourns, with someone staying at home to look after the parents. Albanian migrants were attracted to the Goulburn Valley by the availability of farm work, as are many migrant groups today. These early immigrants were also involved in fishing, mining, road works and clearing scrub and some went on to establish market gardens and orchards in the Shepparton area. The first Albanian migrants spread the word about work opportunities among their family and friends and thus an Albanian community was established in the Shepparton area, now estimated to be the largest in Australia. The flow of migrants from Albania and the migrating back and forth was interrupted by the Second World War and then by the communist regime after the war. The communist regime, like many ‘Eastern Bloc’ countries, had a non-emigration policy, with often tragic consequences, as families were torn apart. After the fall of the communists in 1990, Albania experienced massive emigration, including people who were able to claim Australian citizenship by descent and migrate to Australia. This resulted in a new wave of Albanian immigration to Shepparton, estimated to be over 100 new families since the early 1990s. The Albanian community in Shepparton, now with fourth-generation descendants, has been able to provide support to the newcomers and these networks have been invaluable in helping new migrants to settle. The existence of an established community with many people from the same region in Albania has been a major factor in determining why new migrants have gone to Shepparton... New migrants who do not speak English have found this a major barrier to employment. Opportunities for work in the horticultural industry, such as fruit picking and packing, and social networks to assist settlement were good reasons to move to a regional town like Shepparton. Some of the participants in this study said they also considered living in a rural area would be more ‘comfortable’ than going to the city."
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 "After World War II". Immigration Museum. Retrieved 30 November 2015. "Albanian migration in the wake of World War II is intimately connected with the turbulent political, social and economic conditions of the homelands: Albania, Kosova, Macedonia and Montenegro. Following the war, the establishment of a Stalinist dictatorship in Albania and a centralised communist regime in former Yugoslavia had profound and deeply tragic consequences. A small number of refugees from Albania, and especially Albanians from the Prespa region in south-western Macedonia, were resettled in Australia. Sharing a common dialect – Toskë, one of the major southern Albanian dialects – and a long history of intermarriage and cultural exchange with Albanians from the Korçë region, they found a ready sense of community and solidarity with the early kurbetxhi in Victoria and elsewhere in Australia. With mass migration to Australia during the 1960s and 1970s, the Prespa Albanians and those from the nearby villages of Këshavë and Ostrec formed a large proportion of the Albanian community in Australia, numbering 5,401 in 1991. The majority of these mostly Muslim Albanians settled in Victoria, principally in Melbourne’s industrial, working-class suburbs of Dandenong, Footscray, Yarraville, Altona, St Albans, Preston, Thomastown and Lalor."
  13. Pistrick 2015, p. 106.
  14. 1 2 Akbarzadeh 2001, p. 24. "Other Muslims, further to the vest of Istanbul, were a little more acceptable. Adventurous young Albanian men, some only 18, were coming to Australia to earn enough money to return home and buy a farm. After voyages of up to seven weeks they arrived in Freemantle looking for casual work. Their travel documents and personal declarations, which are held in the National Archives of Australia, reveal that they were mainly under 30 years of age with unskilled occupations, such as ploughman and farmer. Like the Afghans, they left their women at home because they intended to remain for only a few years. Although they could enter Australia, for they were white and therefore racially acceptable, they were not really the type of migrant the Government wanted. British migrants, safely Christian, were preferred. To make it harder for them, a quota for non-British migrants was introduced in 1928. They were also required to produce either a letter from a sponsor or 40 pounds as insurance. British settlers under the United Kingdom Assisted Passage Scheme were only expected to pay three pounds. Most Albanians found work in the cane fields of Queensland. Cane cutting was extremely hard work but even this was subjected to racial tests in the Depression of the 1930s. British Preference Leagues demanded that all sugar-industry employees should be Anglo-Celtic Australians. The Albanian Mosque in Shepparton, one of the original members of the Australian Federation of Islamic Societies, was established to serve the men who moved there in the mid-1920s, leaving behind the cane fields and tobacco farms of Queensland. Many of them became orchardists and market gardeners, building a prosperous community in the countryside."; pp.65-66. "An interesting example of Islamic multiculturalism is occurring at the Albanian Mosque in Dandenong. While Albanians control the administrative functions, the premises are also used by the Islamic Association of Australia whose membership embraces all ethnic groups."
  15. "Faith". Museum Victoria. Immigration Museum. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
  16. "The Peace of Mareeba".,au. Australian Broadcast Corporation. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
  17. Taylor 2000, p. 80.
  18. 1 2 Scott-Maxwell 2003, p. 45-46.
  19. Groom 2014, p. 601.


Further reading

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