Iraqi children

Iraq born people living in Australia were first recorded by the Census in 1976, when they numbered 2,273. By 1986, the Iraq born population in Australia had doubled to 4,516 and by the end of the Gulf War in 1991, there were 5,186 Iraq born people living in Australia.

During the 1990s, and through to more recent times, the overwhelming majority of Iraq born people migrating to Australia came as refugees under the Humanitarian Program. The Gulf War, the uprisings of the Shia Muslims and the Kurds, and the persecution of Chaldean Christians, Assyrian Christians and other minority groups have resulted in a humanitarian crisis to which Australia has responded with increased places in the Refugee and Special Humanitarian Programs being allocated to Middle East refugees. An increasing proportion of more recent arrivals have come under the Family and Skilled Migration categories.

The 2011 Census recorded 48,170 Iraq born people living in Australia, with the largest number of almost 30,000 living in New South Wales. The Victorian Iraq born were numbered at 12,795, but this number has most certainly increased since 2011 - with the humanitarian crisis in Iraq escalating in 2014 and 2015, Victoria has continued to receive large numbers of Iraq born refugees who belong to minority groups and have fled persecution.

The largest numbers of Iraq born in Victoria live in the Northern suburbs of Melbourne (local council areas of Hume City, Whittlesea, Moreland), in Dandenong and there is a significant Iraqi community in Shepparton.

The Iraq born living in Victoria are relatively young people with over half aged under 35 years and only 19% aged over 50 years. Almost half of the Iraqi born population of Victoria speaks Arabic at home and others speak Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, Chaldean Neo Aramaic and Kurdish with only 3% recorded as speaking English at home. Given the age profile of the community, their recent arrival history, low English language proficiency and the diversity of languages spoken, service providers need to consider these factors in working with Iraq born people.

Additionally, it is important to consider the cultural, ethnic and religious identity of the Iraq born population, as it represents the diversity of ethnicities and religions of multicultural Iraq and includes Arabs, Kurds, Assyrian Christians, Chaldean Christians, Armenians, Turkomens, Mandaeans, Yazidis and Jews. Of these groups, the 2011 Census recorded the largest ancestry groups of Iraq born as that of ‘Iraqi’, Assyrian and Chaldean.

Although Islam is the dominant religion in Iraq, amongst the Iraq born people living in Victoria, only 28% are Muslim. The majority - 60% of Iraq born in Victoria - are Christian and are followers of diverse Christian churches, including the Chaldean Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East Church.

The Iraq born community of Victoria sustains and celebrates their diverse heritage through various community based organisations and groups, for example, the Victorian Assyrian Community, and diverse places of worship. You can locate these and other organisations in our Directory.

Further Reading & Materials