Australian Muslims and 2011 Census:

 The first of the Afghan cameleers arrived in South Australia in the 1830s and they were the founders of Islam in Australia. The rail links across the Australian outback and Australia’s overland telegraph lines were all built with the assistance of these Afghan cameleers, thus opening up Australia’s vast interior. It was their descendants who built Australia’s first mosque in 1861 in South Australia at Marree, then known as Hergott Springs. Australia’s first large mosque was also built in South Australia’s capital city Adelaide in 1890.

The 2011 Census puts the figure at 476,300 of people who stated Islam as their religious affiliation. According to the Census, the most common non-Christian religions in 2011 were Buddhism (accounting for 2.5% of the population), Islam (2.2%, up from 1.7% in 2006) and Hinduism (1.3%); Islam was the fourth largest religious grouping. Of the non-Christian religions, Hinduism had experienced the fastest growth since 2001, followed by Islam (increased by 69%). Between 2006 and 2011, the number of Muslims in Australia increased by 28.5 per cent.45 Between 2010 and 2030, the Muslim population in Australia is forecast to grow by 78.9%.46 A higher proportion of recent arrivals compared to longerstanding migrants reported their affiliations to Islam (8.4% compared to 4.7%).47 Of the overseas-born population, 5.4% are Muslims and the proportion of Muslims born overseas was 61.5%. According to the 2006 Census, there were over 1000 Indigenous Muslims in Australia.

Although 86 per cent of Muslim Australians speak a language other than English at home, more than 80 per cent of them speak English or have good proficiency in English. Arabic-speaking Muslims represent just over a third of all Muslims; besides Arabic, other commonly spoken languages are Turkish (13.8 per cent), English (12.7 per cent), Urdu (5.3 per cent) followed by Bengali or Bangla and Dari.

A significant feature of Muslim communities in Australia is their overwhelmingly migrant character. The countries of origin or birth of Muslims are greater in number in Australia than in any other country in the world. Australian Muslims representing over 60 different ethnic groups and racial backgrounds are among the most ethnically and racially diverse religious groupings in this country.

The following list of countries of origin of Muslim people in Australia shows that around two-thirds of Muslim Australians were born overseas, with Lebanon and Turkey being the two most common birthplaces:

​ Australia 36%

Lebanon 10%

Turkey 8.5%

Bosnia-Herzegovina 4.0%

Afghanistan 3.5%

Pakistan 3.2%

Indonesia 2.9%

Iraq 2.8%

Bangladesh 2.7%

Iran 2.3%

Fiji 2.0%

(Source: Islam in Australia: Demographic Profile of Muslim Youth, Department of Immigration and Citizenship)

Where 39.9 per cent of the total Australian population is aged 29 years and under, the percentage of Muslims in the same age cohort is 58.6 per cent, making it one of the youngest faiths. From this group, the second generation Australian-born Muslims constitute the largest proportion, where a staggering 81.8% are under25 years. Muslims who were born overseas but migrated to Australia tend to be more in the 25 to 44 age bracket.

Although 0.5% of the older Australian population are Muslims, the number is greater at 2.5% among those aged under 64 years.

According to an AIHW projection report, as of 2011, Muslims in the age cohort of 65-79 were to have accounted for 2.6% and those aged 80 and over were to have made up 1.0% of the CALD population. By 2026, the figures are projected to be 4.7 and 2.1 percentages respectively. As for those aged 65 years and over, the percentage would increase from 2.2% to 4.0% between 2011 and 2026.


Further, the report projected that between 1996 and 2011, the growth rates for the 65 and over and 80 and over Muslim age groups would be 242% and 307% respectively. Between 2011 and 2026, the Muslim population is predicted to account for 4.0% of older CALD people. During this period, the growth rates for the 65 and over and 80 and over Muslim age groups are projected to be 159% and 222% respectively.

An ABC News report says that there may be under-reporting by Muslims of their religion in official surveys like the Census because they fear persecution. In such case, the actual number of Muslims in Australia is likely to be much more than the official figure. The report quotes an ABS official who acknowledges that there are groups of people who are reluctant to reveal their backgrounds.

Australian Muslims and 2011 Census:

Islamic community in Australia is made up of people from diverse countries of origin, including countries in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Europe and the Pacific.  However 2011 census data reveals that the majority of Islamic Australians are of Lebanese or Turkish background, as shown in this graph:

AncestrySource: Data generated using ABS TableBuilder: 2011 Census of Population and Housing




Source: Data generated using ABS TableBuilder: 2011 Census of Population and Housing

year of migration Source: Data generated using ABS TableBuilder: 2011 Census of Population and Housing





Muslim Australians now making up 2.21% of Australia’s overall population. Almost 80% reside in NSW and Victoria (46% and 32% respectively), with the vast majority in Sydney and Melbourne.

Islamic Australians by State/Territory    
219,379 152,775 34,047 19,512 39,116 1,709 1,588 7,434 730 476,290
6.9m 5.4m 4.3m 1.6m 2.2m 0.5m 0.21m 0.36m 0.00m 21.5m
3.17% 2.85% 0.79% 1.22% 1.75% 0.35% 0.75% 2.08% 24.09%33 2.21%
Source: Data generated using ABS TableBuilder: 2011 Census of Population and Housing


Local Government Areas (LGAs) containing the highest number Islamic Australians are shown below:

Islamic Population – Top 5 LGAs  by Count






Bankstown 22,663 Hume 19,823 Brisbane 16,157 Port Adelaide Enfield 3,424 Stirling 5,395
Canterbury 20,024 Moreland 11,237 Gold Coast 4,125 Salisbury 3,280 Canning 4,856
Fairfield 16,486 Greater Dandenong 10,160 Logan 3,293 Charles Sturt 2,134 Gosnells 2,571
Blacktown 16,258 Brimbank 9,603 Moreton Bay 1,453 West Torrens 1,559 Wanneroo 2,474
Parramatta 16,190 Casey 9,593 Cairns 1,131 Marion 1,426 Melville 2,084

 Source: Origins Database 2012

In percentage terms, the pattern is similar, but the areas of greatest concentration are highlighted.

Islamic Population – Top 5 LGAs  by Percentage






Auburn 24.84% Hume 18.66% Carpenteria 4.62% Port Adelaide Enfield 4.01% Canning 7.04%
Canterbury 20.53% Moreland 10.46% Quilpie 3.37% Salisbury 3.65% Perth 6.33%
Bankstown 18.75% Greater Dandenong 9.85% Torres 2.31% Renmark Paringa (DC) 3.56% Victoria Park 5.09%
Holroyd 16.17% Melbourne 7.92% Brisbane 2.28% West Torrens 3.48% Belmont 4.64%
Parramatta 14.66% Brimbank 7.38% Logan 2.0% Adelaide 3.34% South Perth 3.95%

 Source: Origins Database 2012


Almost a third of the population is currently studying full-time, and a higher proportion of Islamic Australians holds a degree or higher qualification compared with the general Australian population. A significantly higher proportion holds a Postgraduate Degree than the Australian population.

Student Status: Islamic Australians vs Total Population
Student status






Full-time Student




Source: Data generated using ABS TableBuilder: 2011 Census of Population and Housing



Education Levels

Education Levels: Islamic Australians vs Total Population
Highest Level of Education

Islamic Australians



Postgraduate Degree Level




Graduate Diploma and Graduate Certificate Level




Bachelor Degree Level




Total with Degree or Higher




Source: Data generated using ABS TableBuilder: 2011 Census of Population and Housing



The high proportion of the Islamic Australian population in full-time study is likely to largely explain the relatively low income levels with more than 35% of the population earning less than $400 per week. It also reflects the predominantly young population, likely to be in the early stages of their careers. Relatively low income levels may also be a reflection of the large influx of Islamic immigrants in recent years and establishing a new life in Australia.