Sri Lankan Australians

Sri Lankan Australians
Total population
109,853 by ancestry (2016)[1][2]
86,412 born in Sri Lanka (2011)[3]
Over 0.48% of the population
Regions with significant populations
 Victoria 55,8351
 New South Wales 28,7131
 Queensland 9,7561
 Western Australia 7,8001
 South Australia 3,7851
 Australian Capital Territory 2,7741
 Northern Territory 4471
 Tasmania 7751
English, Sinhala, Tamil
Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Roman Catholic and Islam
Related ethnic groups
Sri Lankans

1 Populations based on Sri Lankan born population only, 2016 census.[1]

Sri Lankan Australians refers to people of Sri Lankan heritage living in Australia; this includes Sri Lankans by birth and by ancestry. Sri Lankan Australians constitute one of the largest groups of Overseas Sri Lankan communities and are the largest diasporic Sri Lankan community in Oceania. Sri Lankan Australians consist of people with Sinhalese, Tamil, Moor, Burgher, Malay and Chinese origins among others.[4]


Historical population
1816 2    
1876 ~500    
1901 609    
1911 611+0.3%
1921 637+4.3%
1933 638+0.2%
1947 *    
1954 1,961    
1961 3,433+75.1%
1966 5,562+62.0%
1971 9,091+63.4%
1976 14,866+63.5%
1981 16,966+14.1%
1986 22,513+32.7%
1991 37,283+65.6%
1996 64,068+71.8%
2001 53,461−16.6%
2006 62,256+16.5%
2011 86,412+38.8%
2016 109,853+27.1%
Data is based on population born in Sri Lanka, Australian Government Census.[3]
*Included in Indian population

Early arrivals

Recorded Sri Lankan immigration to Australia started in 1816, with the transportation of Drum Major William O'Dean (a Sri Lankan Malay) and his wife Eve (a Sinhalese). Early immigrants from Sri Lanka (at that time known as Ceylon) were generally (unlike the O'Deans) absorbed into the Aboriginal population. Other early references of Sri Lankan migration date back to the 1870s when authorities in South Australia sought out the possibility of importing labour from Ceylon.[5] The first Sinhalese from Sri Lanka arrived in 1870 to work in sugarcane plantations in Queensland. A community was believed to exist on Thursday Island in 1876. In 1882, a group of 500 left Colombo for Queensland, mostly in Mackay.[5]

20th century

Under the White Australia policy, immigration was negligible. It resumed after the Second World War primarily involving migration of Burghers, who fulfilled the then criteria that they should be of predominantly European ancestry and that their appearance should be European. By 1954 around 2000 Sri Lankans had been accepted. Sinhalese migration began in the 1960s but it was after the mid-1970s that large groups arrived, which also included Christians and Buddhists. During the 1970s intake restrictions loosened and Sri Lankan students undertook courses in Australia as part of the Colombo Plan prior to the formal dismantling of the White Australia policy, and after 1973 and from the early 1980s Sinhalese, Tamil and Moor migration resumed and increased.[5][6]


In The Australian People, S. Pinnawala writes that "social interaction between the various Sri Lankan migrant groups has often been influenced by factors originating in their home country".

In the 1980s, on a reflection of ethnic unrest in Sri Lanka, tensions between the Sinhalese and Tamil communities grew. However, in Pinnawala's opinion, more recently a Sri Lankan identity has developed among the various religious and ethnic migrants.

This has led to many new community organisations being established to promote Sri Lankan culture and traditions. There have also been strong links formed between Sinhalese Buddhists now living in Australia and their co-religionists from Burma, Thailand and Cambodia. Similar trends can be traced between Christian migrants from Sri Lanka who now live in Australia.[5]


Sri Lankan Australians are the 12th largest ethnic group in Australia, numbering 86,412. The city of Melbourne contains just under half of the Sri Lankan Australians. Fewer than 20% are estimated to live outside New South Wales and Victoria.

The number of Sri Lankan Australians counted in 1996, including the second-generation, was 64,068. The 2011 census recorded 86,412 Sri Lanka born in Australia,

The rate of assimilation among Sri Lankan Australians is fairly high: among second-generation immigrants, the 'in-marriage' rate was extremely low – 5.6% for brides and 3.0% for grooms.

Sinhalese Australians have an exceptionally low rate of return migration to Sri Lanka. In December 2001, the Department of Foreign Affairs estimated that there were 800 Australian citizens resident in Sri Lanka. It is unclear whether these were returning Sri Lankan emigrants with Australian citizenship, their Sri Lankan Australian children, or other Australians present on business or for some other reason.

Tamils in Australia numbered 19,426 in the 2011 Census.[2] The majority of Tamils born in Sri Lanka came to Australia after 1983 when Sri Lanka faced ethnic turmoil and unrest (Black July). The Western suburbs of Sydney and the South Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne have a relatively high number of Tamil speaking people. Homebush in Sydney's west has the highest percentage with 11.5% of the population speaking Tamil at home. Numerous Tamil schools and Hindu Temples have been established in all main cities to cater for the growing Sri Lankan Tamil population.

Analysis of 2011 census by language and ancestry[7]
Ancestry Language (first ancestry) Language (second ancestry)
Indian Tamil406504315478211200-132
Sri Lankan Tamil4,15370210227415,0256283608159
Sub-total Tamil15,9661,8091918820518,2597333522213551,175
Sri Lankan8,53423,79227,8624421,55162,18130011,5416794738912,956
Not stated856391,451913979,843102,1671,475,23047,98410,434,94145,7101,060,7593,465,64515,055,039


In 2006, there were 29,055 Australians who spoke Sinhalese at home.[8] SBS Radio is available in Sinhalese,[9] and Melbourne television channel Channel 31 runs the Sri Lankan Morning show, which has sections in Sinhalese.[10]


Most Sinhalese in Australia are Theravada Buddhists, and a small percentage of Sinhalese follow branches of Christianity. Sri Lankans have established many Theravada Buddhist temples across Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia including the Dhamma Sarana Buddhist Temple of Melbourne's eastern suburbs.[11]

The majority of Sri Lankan Tamils are Hindu. The Sydney Murugan Temple was constructed for the needs of the high Tamil population in Western Sydney. Smaller temples have been built in the greater Sydney area. The Siva Vishnu Temple in Carrum Downs south east of Melbourne is also a temple built by Sri Lankan Tamils. The Sunshine Murugan Temple in western Melbourne also caters to the Tamil community. In other cities such as Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth, Townsville, Darwin, Canberra and Hobart, Hindu temples have also been built.


Popularly celebrated community festivals include Sri Lankan Independence Day (4 February) and Sri Lankan New Year (14 April). Sri Lankan restaurants are becoming a popular feature of shopping strips in Melbourne, Hawthorn, Brunswick, Northcote, Glen Waverley and Dandenong, while Sri Lankan Australian media is also growing with newspapers, television and radio stations broadcasting cultural programs.[6]


Suburb[N 1]Percentage of
Sri Lankans
Pendle Hill, New South Wales9.4%[12]
Homebush, New South Wales8.5%[13]
Homebush West, New South Wales5.4%[14]
Endeavour Hills, Victoria5.3%[15]
Dandenong, Victoria4.8%[16]
Strathfield South, New South Wales4.8%[17]
Lynbrook, Victoria4.5%[18]
Hallam, Victoria4.3%[19]
Lyndhurst, Victoria4.2%[20]
Dandenong North, Victoria3.7%[21]
Hampton Park, Victoria3.7%[22]
Noble Park, Victoria3.6%[23]
Glen Waverley, Victoria3.6%[24]
Clayton South, Victoria3.4%[25]
Clayton, Victoria3.3%[26]
Oakleigh East, Victoria3.2%[27]
Keysborough, Victoria3.1%[28]
Lidcombe, New South Wales3.1%[29]


  • Lankan Fest - Sri Lankan cultural show in Melbourne[30]
  • Global Sri Lankan Forum
  • Sri Lankan Study Centre for the Advancement of Technology & Social Welfare Inc (SCATS), Australia (1992)[31]
  • Australia Sri Lanka Council (1994)
  • Committee for Sri Lanka (1993)
  • United Sri Lankan Muslim Association[32] (1990)


  • Sri Lanka Dhamma Vihara Association of Canberra[33]
  • Lankans Canberra Foundation
  • Sri Lanka High Commissions

New South Wales

  • Austra-Lanka Muslims Association (ALMA)[34]
  • Sinhala Association of NSW
  • Sinhalese Cultural Forum of NSW
  • Sri Lankan Australian Malay Association (SLAMA)
  • The Sri Lanka Association of NSW
  • University of Colombo Alumni Association NSW Inc.


  • Lankan Fest - Sri Lankan cultural show in Melbourne[30]
  • Association of Sri Lankan Muslims in Australia (ASLAMA)
  • Black & Gold of Victoria - D.S. Senanayake College Old Boys Association[36]
  • Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia
  • Good Shepherd Convent Colombo Past Pupils' Association[37]
  • Katherine Keegel Children's Fund (KKCF)[38]
  • Northern Melbourne Sri Lankan Senior's Association Inc.[39]
  • Royal College Old Boys Association[40]
  • Sinhalese Cultural and Community Service Foundation
  • Society for Peace Unity and Human Rights for Sri Lanka (SPUR)
  • Sri Lankan Association of Victoria (formerly the Ceylon Club of Australia)
  • Sri Lankan Study Centre for the Advancement of Technology and Social Welfare
  • St. Joseph's College Old Boys Union,[41] the biggest alumni association based on a Sri Lankan school in Australia
  • Trinity College Old Boys Association
  • United Sri Lankan Muslim Association of Australia (USMAA)[42]
  • Visakha Vidyalaya Past Pupils Association (VVPPA)
  • Kelaniya University Alumni Association Australia

South Australia (Adelaide)

  • Adelaide Sri Lanka Buddhist Vihara[43]
  • Adelaide Sri Lankan Community[44]

Western Australia

  • AusLanka Charity Foundation
  • Sri Lanka Buddhist Vihara Perth Western Australia[45]
  • Sri Lankan Cultural Society of Western Australia
  • Sri Lankan Muslim Society of Western Australia Inc.[46]

Northern Territory

  • The Buddhist Society of the N.T.[47]
  • Sri Lanka Australia Friendship Association[48]

Notable Sri Lankan Australians

See also


  1. Areas with a high concentration of Sri Lankans in Australia, according to the 2006 Census.


  1. 1 2 "Community Information Summary Sri Lanka-born" (PDF). Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
  2. 1 2 "Ancestry – Sri Lankan /Sinhalese/Tamil". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  3. 1 2 "People in Australia who were born in Sri Lanka". Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 10 January 2014.
  4. "People of Sri Lanka" (PDF). The Ministry of National Coexistence, Dialogue and Official Languages. March 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Archived 3 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. 1 2 "Sri Lankans". eMelbourne. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
  7. "2011 Census of Population and Housing". Table Builder. Australian Bureau of Statistics.
  8. "2006 Census - Australia - Language". Retrieved 22 March 2010.
  9. "SBS Schedule". Retrieved 22 March 2010.
  10. "Channel 31 - Sri Lanka Morning Show". Retrieved 22 March 2010.
  11. "Dhamma Sarana Buddhist Temple". Retrieved 22 March 2010.
  12. "2011 Census QuickStats : Pendle Hill (State Suburb)". Retrieved 2014-03-10.
  13. "2006 Census QuickStats : Homebush (State Suburb)". Retrieved 2013-07-27.
  14. "2006 Census QuickStats : Homebush West (State Suburb)". Retrieved 2013-07-27.
  15. "2006 Census QuickStats : Endeavour Hills (State Suburb)". Retrieved 2013-07-27.
  16. "2006 Census QuickStats : Dandenong (State Suburb)". Retrieved 2013-07-27.
  17. "2006 Census QuickStats : Strathfield South (State Suburb)". Retrieved 2013-07-27.
  18. "2006 Census QuickStats : Lynbrook (State Suburb)". Retrieved 2013-07-27.
  19. "2006 Census QuickStats : Hallam (State Suburb)". Retrieved 2013-07-27.
  20. "2006 Census QuickStats : Lyndhurst (State Suburb)". Retrieved 2013-07-27.
  21. "2006 Census QuickStats : Dandenong North (State Suburb)". Retrieved 2013-07-27.
  22. "2006 Census QuickStats : Hampton Park (State Suburb)". Retrieved 2013-07-27.
  23. "2006 Census QuickStats : Noble Park (State Suburb)". Retrieved 2013-07-27.
  24. "2006 Census QuickStats : Glen Waverley (State Suburb)". Retrieved 2013-07-27.
  25. "2006 Census QuickStats : Clayton South (State Suburb)". Retrieved 2013-07-27.
  26. "2006 Census QuickStats : Clayton (State Suburb)". Retrieved 2013-07-27.
  27. "2006 Census QuickStats : Oakleigh East (State Suburb)". Retrieved 2013-07-27.
  28. "2006 Census QuickStats : Keysborough (State Suburb)". Retrieved 2013-07-27.
  29. "2006 Census QuickStats : Lidcombe (State Suburb)". Retrieved 2013-07-27.
  30. 1 2 Lankan Fest
  32. "". Retrieved 2013-07-27.
  33. "The Sri Lanka Dhamma Vihara Association of Canberra(SLDVAC) Inc". Retrieved 2013-07-27.
  34. "". Retrieved 2013-07-27.
  35. 1 2 Archived 1 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  36. Black & Gold of Victoria - D.S. Senanayake College Old Boys Association
  37. Good Shepherd Convent Colombo Past Pupils' Association
  38. Katherine Keegel Children's Fund (KKCF)
  40. Royal College Old Boys Association
  41. St. Joseph's College Old Boys Union
  42. "". Retrieved 2013-07-27.
  43. Adelaide Sri Lanka Buddhist Vihara
  44. Adelaide Sri Lankan Community
  45. Sri Lanka Buddhist Vihara Perth Western Australia
  46. Sri Lankan Muslim Society of Western Australia Inc.
  47. The Buddhist Society of the N.T.
  48. Sri Lanka Australia Friendship Association

Further reading

Information about Sri Lankans in Australia can be obtained from the following publications.

  • Gamage, S. 'Curtains of culture, ethnicity, and class: changing composition of the Sri Lankan community in Australia, Journal of intercultural studies, vol 19(1), 1998,pp. 37–56.
  • Gamage, S. 2001. Sinhalese in Australia, in The Australian people – An Encyclopedia of the nation, its people and their origins(ed) James Jupp, 2nd edition, Cambridge University Press,Cambridge, pp, 684–685.
  • Gamage, S. 2002. Adaptation Experiences of Sri Lankan Immigrants and their Children in Australia in the Context of Multiculturalism and Anglo-Conformity, in Annette Richardson and Michael Wyness (eds) Exploring Cultural Perspectives: Integration and Globalization, International Cultural Research Network (ICRN) Press, Edmonton, pp. 3–29.
  • Gamage, S. 2014. Life of Sri Lankans in Australia: identity,lifestyle and dilemmas of living between two cultures, Island (29.01.2014), Colombo.
  • Reeves, P. 2014. The Encyclopedia of the Sri Lankan Diaspora, Editions Didier Millet Pty Ltd. Singapore.
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