The Pakistan-born Community

Historical Background

Pakistan is situated in the northwest region of the Indian sub-continent. It formed part of India before India was partitioned into two independent states on 14 August 1947. In the decades that followed, internal divisions between East and West Pakistan led to the formation of two separate countries in 1971, when East Pakistan became Bangladesh and West Pakistan was renamed Pakistan.

People from Pakistan have been in Australia since the 1860s. According to the 1901 Census there were 600 cameleers in Australia, 240 of whom were Afghan while the remainder were born in north Indian provinces in what is now modern Pakistan. The cameleers, ex-soldiers of the British Indian army, were employed to assist with exploration expeditions. Some lived in central Australia, working as camel drivers, trainers and breeders, wool and water carriers, hawkers and mail carriers. 'Afghan' hawkers, including people from what is today Pakistan, were commonly written about in those days throughout Victoria.

While most migration from Pakistan to Australia occurred in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the community remained small. In 1991, the Census recorded 5930 Pakistan-born people in Australia.

Pakistan-born migrants over the past 20 to 30 years were mainly professionals from urban areas. The majority reside in New South Wales and Victoria.


Geographic Distribution

The latest Census in 2011 recorded 30 221 Pakistan-born people in Australia, an increase of 77.8 per cent from the 2006 Census. The 2011 distribution by state and territory showed New South Wales had the largest number with 13 382 followed by Victoria (9187), Western Australia (2521) and Queensland (2357).

Age and Sex

The median age of the Pakistan-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 12.7 per cent were aged 0-14 years, 15.7 per cent were 15-24 years, 52 per cent were 25-44 years, 17.1 per cent were 45-64 years and 2.4 per cent were 65 years and over.

Of the Pakistan-born in Australia, there were 17 762 males (58.8 per cent) and 12 456 females (41.2 per cent). The sex ratio was 142.6 males per 100 females.


In the 2011 Census, the top ancestry responses* that Pakistan-born people reported were Pakistani (21 116), Indian (2441) and Southern Asian, nfd (1166).

In the 2011 Census, Australians reported around 300 different ancestries. Of the total ancestry responses*, 33 049 responses were towards Pakistani 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 Pakistan-born people in Australia were Urdu (21 911), English (3074) and Pashto (1411).

Of the 27 148 Pakistan-born who spoke a language other than English at home, 89.5 per cent spoke English very well or well, and 9.1 per cent spoke English not well or not at all.


At the 2011 Census the major religious affiliations amongst Pakistan-born were Islam (26 465) and Catholic (1426).

Of the Pakistan-born, 1.7 per cent stated 'No Religion' which was lower than that of the total Australian population (22.3 per cent), and 1.9 per cent did not state a religion.


Compared to 62 per cent of the total overseas-born population, 32.5 per cent of the Pakistan-born people in Australia arrived in Australia prior to 2001.

Among the total Pakistan-born in Australia at the 2011 Census, 24 per cent arrived between 2001 and 2006 and 39.5 per cent arrived between 2007 and 2011.

Median Income

At the time of the 2011 Census, the median individual weekly income for the Pakistan-born in Australia aged 15 years and over was $398, 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, 67.8 per cent of the Pakistan-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 Pakistan-born aged 15 years and over, 12.4 per cent were still attending an educational institution. The corresponding rate for the total Australian population was 8.6 per cent.


Among Pakistan-born people aged 15 years and over, the participation rate in the labour force was 62.9 per cent and the unemployment rate was 10.2 per cent. The corresponding rates in the total Australian population were 65 per cent and 5.6 per cent respectively.

Of the 14 709 Pakistan-born who were employed, 46.3 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.
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