Wasela and Saua'a, Jordan Valley, West Bank
Wasela and Saua'a, Jordan Valley, West Bank. Source: Trocaire from Ireland (Wasela and Saua'a,) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The first time that the Australian Census collected information on ancestry was in 2001. Census data on ancestry along with data on those born in the Gaza Strip and West Bank provide some information on the profile of Australia’s Palestinian community.

Given that many Palestinians arrived in Australia on passports issued by the countries to which they were displaced and given that many Palestinians were born in other Middle Eastern countries, it has been difficult to assess the number of Palestinians in Australia through official records.

The migration of Palestinians to Australia has reflected the events in Israel and the Middle East, with increased periods of displacement of Palestinian people in 1948, 1967, during the Lebanese wars in the 1970s and 1980s, and the Gulf War in 1991. It has been in these periods that Australia received large numbers of Palestinians as their experience as a stateless people compelled them to seek refuge beyond the Arab world.

There are more than 7,000 people in Australia recorded with Palestinian ancestry and the 2011 Census recorded 2,692 people as born in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, of which the majority reside in New South Wales. Victoria has 733 Gaza Strip/West Bank born residents, but as previously noted, there are many more Victorians with Palestinian ancestry.

Palestinians are, by and large, Arabic speakers, but are diverse in their religions with almost equal representation of Muslims and Christians (the latter are both Catholic and Orthodox, including followers of the Antiochian Orthodox Church and Syriac Orthodox Church). The largest numbers of Palestinians in Victoria are in the local government areas of Knox, Casey, Whittlesea, Greater Dandenong, Manningham and Moreland.

In Victoria, the Palestinian community have social support groups through their religious affiliations, but have also established their own community groups and associations to support their national and ethnic common heritage. The most prominent are the Palestinian Community Association of Victoria and the Beit Jala Palestinian Association of Victoria. You can locate these groups through our Directory.

Further Reading & Materials