Historical Background

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The Bangladesh-born Community

Historical Background

During the British partition of Bengal in 1947, East Bengal became East Pakistan, part of the newly formed nation of Pakistan. East Pakistan was governed by West Pakistan, which was situated about 1,500 kilometres to the west, separated by India.

Differences between the two led to an outbreak of Bengali nationalism. After a short war, the independent state of Bangladesh – meaning 'Bengali nation' – was proclaimed on 26 March 1971. The new country became a parliamentary democracy under a 1972 constitution.

The Bangladesh-born are relatively new migrants to Australia. Since 1970, migration from Bangladesh has steadily increased with the majority arriving under the Skilled Migration Program.

Most Bangladesh-born have settled in the urban areas of New South Wales while smaller numbers settled in other states and territories.


Geographic Distribution

The latest Census in 2011 recorded 27,809 Bangladesh-born people in Australia, an increase of 72.8 per cent from the 2006 Census. The 2011 distribution by state and territory showed New South Wales had the largest number with 17,007 followed by Victoria (5,114), Queensland (1,672) and Western Australia (1,496).

Age and Sex

The median age of the Bangladesh-born in 2011 was 31 years compared with 45 years for all overseas-born and 37 years for the total Australian population.

The age distribution showed 7.6 per cent were aged 0-14 years, 13.8 per cent were 15-24 years, 62.8 per cent were 25-44 years, 14.7 per cent were 45-64 years and 1 per cent were 65 years and over.

Of the Bangladesh-born in Australia, there were 15,958 males (57.4 per cent) and 11,852 females (42.6 per cent). The sex ratio was 134.6 males per 100 females.


In the 2011 Census, the top ancestry responses* that Bangladesh-born people reported were Bangladeshi (19,766), Bengali (4,629) and Indian (913). In the 2011 Census, Australians reported around 300 different ancestries. Of the total ancestry responses*, 25,111 responses were towards Bangladeshi 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 Bangladesh-born people in Australia were Bengali (25,626), English (1,497) and Rohingya (113).

Of the 26,314 Bangladesh-born who spoke a language other than English at home, 92.1 per cent spoke English very well or well, and 6.8 per cent spoke English not well or not at all.


At the 2011 Census the major religious affiliations amongst Bangladesh-born were Islam (23,665), Hinduism (1,930) and Catholic (600).

Of the Bangladesh-born, 1.7 per cent stated 'No Religion' which was lower than that of the total Australian population (22.3 per cent), and 2 per cent did not state a religion.


Compared to 62 per cent of the total overseas-born population, 26.8 per cent of the Bangladesh-born people in Australia arrived in Australia prior to 2001.

Among the total Bangladesh-born in Australia at the 2011 Census, 33.5 per cent arrived between 2001 and 2006 and 37.1 per cent arrived between 2007 and 2011.

Median Income

At the time of the 2011 Census, the median individual weekly income for the Bangladesh-born in Australia aged 15 years and over was $521, 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, 79.4 per cent of the Bangladesh-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 Bangladesh-born aged 15 years and over, 8.4 per cent were still attending an educational institution. The corresponding rate for the total Australian population was 8.6 per cent.


Among Bangladesh-born people aged 15 years and over, the participation rate in the labour force was 74.5 per cent and the unemployment rate was 9.4 per cent. The corresponding rates in the total Australian population were 65 per cent and 5.6 per cent respectively.

Of the 17,107 Bangladesh-born who were employed, 43.9 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.
© Commonwealth of Australia.

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