Malaysian Culture

Malaysians in Australia

The Malaysia-born population in Australia was relatively small in the early 1900s due to the White Australia Policy. There was a small increase in arrivals (mostly of European descent) during WWII when people were evacuated from British Malaya. In the late 1960s, particular government policies, race riots, and unfavourable socio-political conditions had negative impacts on the Chinese and other minorities in Malaysia. This factor, alongside the abolishment of the White Australia Policy, led to Australia becoming a desirable destination for Malaysian immigrants, primarily ethnic Chinese. During this time, many students came to Australia and subsequently chose to stay once they completed their studies. Quite a number of these students married locally and later sponsored their parents or siblings. Indeed, Malaysians have one of the highest rates of intermarriage with Australians.


The largest wave of Malaysia-born immigrants was after 1981, under the Family Reunion Program or as skilled or business migrants. The Malaysia-born population in Australia almost doubled between 1986-1991. According to the 2016 census, 61.9% are employed in either a skilled managerial, professional or trade occupation.

The 2016 census also recorded that the major religious affiliation amongst Malaysian-born people in Australia is Buddhism at 24.1%. A further 12.7% identify as Catholic, 5.6% identify as Christian (not further defined), 5.2% identify as Muslim, 26.7% identify with some other religion and 21.1% identify with no religion. This religious composition reflects the ethnic migration of more Malaysian Chinese to Australia than Malays. Traditional Chinese worldviews are not always viewed as ‘religions’. Therefore some of those who stated “no religion” may still have an association with Confucianism, Taoism and/or Buddhism.


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