The Serbia-born Community

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The Serbia-born Community

Historical Background

The Republic of Serbia was in a state union with Montenegro until June 2006, when, following a referendum, Montenegro declared its independence. Prior to the separation of Serbia and Montenegro, it was part of Yugoslavia which was dissolved in 2003.

After World War II, the former Yugoslavia was the third largest source of migration to Australia from continental Europe, after Italy and Greece.

There were four principal periods of migration: the period leading up to World War II; 1948-54; 1960s and 1970s and post 1991.

In the first period, small numbers settled in Australia prior to the two world wars. In the second period, about 25,000 Yugoslav nationals arrived in Australia as displaced persons. Also between 1953 and 1960 there was a steady stream of several thousand refugees annually leaving Yugoslavia or permitted to join families or sponsored by relatives in Australia. During this period Croatians were the majority, however, there were increased numbers of Serbians and Slovenes. There were also Bosnians and members of national minority groups in Yugoslavia, including Hungarians, Germans and Italians.

In the third period from the 1960s migration increased for mainly economic reasons. It reached a peak of more than 50,000 between 1969 and 1971. The majority were Macedonians with significant numbers of Croatians, Bosnians and Albanians.

The fourth period followed the 1991 civil war which saw the independence of a number of republics from the remnant Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.


Geographic Distribution

The latest Census in 2011 recorded 20,267 Serbia-born people in Australia, an increase of 17 per cent from the 2006 Census. The 2011 distribution by state and territory showed Victoria had the largest number with 7,381 followed by New South Wales (7,248), Queensland (1,971) and Western Australia (1,660).

Age and Sex

The median age of the Serbia-born in 2011 was 51 years compared with 45 years for all overseas-born and 37 years for the total Australian population.

The age distribution showed 3.2 per cent were aged 0-14 years, 7.6 per cent were 15-24 years, 25.3 per cent were 25-44 years, 40 per cent were 45-64 years and 24 per cent were 65 years and over.

Of the Serbia-born in Australia, there were 10,004 males (49.4 per cent) and 10,263 females (50.6 per cent). The sex ratio was 97.5 males per 100 females.


In the 2011 Census, the top ancestry responses* that Serbia-born people reported were Serbian (16,857), Hungarian (1,086) and South Eastern European, nfd (396).

In the 2011 Census, Australians reported around 300 different ancestries. Of the total ancestry responses*, 69,544 responses were towards Serbian ancestry.

*At the 2011 Census up to two responses per person were allowed for the Ancestry question; therefore providing the total responses and not persons count.


The main languages spoken at home by Serbia-born people in Australia were Serbian (15,739), English (2,231) and Hungarian (678).

Of the 18,035 Serbia-born who spoke a language other than English at home, 81.7 per cent spoke English very well or well, and 17.2 per cent spoke English not well or not at all.


At the 2011 Census the major religious affiliations amongst Serbia-born were Eastern Orthodox (15,242) and Catholic (1,612).

Of the Serbia-born, 6.8 per cent stated 'No Religion' which was lower than that of the total Australian population (22.3 per cent), and 2.1 per cent did not state a religion.


Compared to 62 per cent of the total overseas-born population, 83.3 per cent of the Serbia-born people in Australia arrived in Australia prior to 2001.

Among the total Serbia-born in Australia at the 2011 Census, 8.4 per cent arrived between 2001 and 2006 and 5.3 per cent arrived between 2007 and 2011.

Median Income

At the time of the 2011 Census, the median individual weekly income for the Serbia-born in Australia aged 15 years and over was $405, compared with $538 for all overseas-born and $597 for all Australia-born. The total Australian population had a median individual weekly income of $577.


At the 2011 Census, 54 per cent of the Serbia-born aged 15 years and over had some form of higher non-school qualifications compared to 55.9 per cent of the Australian population.

Of the Serbia-born aged 15 years and over, 5.1 per cent were still attending an educational institution. The corresponding rate for the total Australian population was 8.6 per cent.


Among Serbia-born people aged 15 years and over, the participation rate in the labour force was 53.6 per cent and the unemployment rate was 6.3 per cent. The corresponding rates in the total Australian population were 65 per cent and 5.6 per cent respectively.

Of the 9,585 Serbia-born who were employed, 44.9 per cent were employed in either a skilled managerial, professional or trade occupation. The corresponding rate in the total Australian population was 48.4 per cent.

Produced by the Community Relations Section of DIAC All data used in this summary is sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics Census of Population and Housing. Sources for the Historical Background are available on our website.
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