Sri Lankans have been in Australia since the late 19th century. It is believed that many immigrated as labourers or gold prospectors. The Sri Lankan community remained relatively small well into the 20th century, with most being Burghers (descendants of European). This was largely because of the , whereby only those of European descent were permitted to enter Australia.
The Sri Lankan community began to grow from World War II. Once Sri Lanka gained independence from English in 1948, many more Burgher Sri Lankans began to migrate to the English-speaking West. The end of thesaw large numbers of Sinhalese and Tamil Sri Lankans settling in Australia. During the civil conflict in Sri Lanka (1983-2009), the Sri Lanka-born population in Australia grew due to the intake of immigrants under the special humanitarian program.
Some of the subsequent Sri Lanka-born arrivals have come to Australia under the family reunion program or as independent immigrants. However, the majority of migrants from Sri Lanka over the last five years arrived as skilled immigrants. Indeed, 70.6% of the Sri Lanka-born population aged 15 years and over had some form of higher education (e.g. a university degree).