Souq, Baalbek, Lebanon
Souq, Baalbek, Lebanon. Source: yeowatzup from Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany (Souq, Baalbek, Lebanon Uploaded by russavia) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Lebanese community is a well-established community and has a long history in Australia, with the earliest immigrants arriving in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Three successive waves of migration from Lebanon have seen the community grow and change over the past 130 years:

  • First Wave Migration, 1880 - 1920s: It is difficult to accurately number the early Lebanese settlers, because immigrants from Lebanon were classified as Syrians, Turks or Asians until the 1950s; the pioneer settlers were predominantly Christian and represented a small and alien group within a predominantly Anglo-Celtic community in Australia; many worked as hawkers and later established businesses and the descendants of the first wave settlers now extend to five and six generations

  • Second Wave Migration, 1947 - 1975: Lebanese arriving in this period were predominantly Christian and substantially increased the size of the Lebanese population in Australia; significant growth in the community was made in the years after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war with the Lebanon born community increasing from 10,688 people in 1966 to 33,424 people in 1976; this wave of immigrants now includes at least three generations

  • Third Wave Migration, late 1975 - present: The outbreak of civil war in Lebanon in late 1975 resulted in the third wave of Lebanese migration to Australia, which continues to the present day; this period has seen the most profound changes in terms of size, composition and settlement needs that came with the exodus from Lebanon during and after the civil war; Lebanese arriving in the past few decades have been predominantly Muslim and many have come under the Australian Government’s Special Humanitarian Program. They then became part of a chain sponsoring further immigrants and supporting them with their own resources

The 2011 Census recorded 76,451 Lebanon born people in Australia, however the number of Australians with Lebanese heritage is much larger with estimates of over 250,000 Australians of Lebanese descent. The 2011 Census showed New South Wales had the largest number of Lebanon born people with 56,294, followed by Victoria with 15,871.

The main languages spoken at home by Lebanon born people in Australia are Arabic, English and Armenian. Most are living in metropolitan Melbourne with the largest numbers in the North Western suburbs of Melbourne, in particular in the local government areas of Hume (Meadow Heights, Broadmeadows, Campellfield, Roxburgh Park, Dallas), Moreland (Glenroy, Brunswick, Coburg, Fawkner) and Whittlesea (Thomastown, Lalor, Epping, Mill Park).

The 2011 Census recorded all the main Lebanese religious affiliations, highlighting the religious diversity of the Lebanon born and their representation in Victoria: almost half are Christian (Maronite Catholics, Melkite Catholics, Antiochian Orthodox, Protestants, Catholic Lebanese Armenians); 47% are Muslim, including Shia and Sunni denominations; and small numbers are of the Alawite and Druze religions.

Many Lebanese community groups in Australia are based on religious affiliations and village associations. These groups help to meet the differing cultural, religious and welfare needs of people from particular regions, towns, villages and faiths. There are also Lebanese associations that have formed on national grounds and provide representation across the different groups. You can locate these groups in our Directory.

Further Reading & Materials