The Malaysia-born population in Australia was relatively low in the early 1900s due to the White Australia Policy. There was a small increase in the size of the Malaysian community during WWII when people were evacuated from British Malaya. Most arrivals were those of European descent.
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 2011 census, just under 45% of the population who are employed work in a professional occupation.