Syrians were first documented in Australia in 1891, during which time 142 Syrian people were recorded. Before this point, the population had been recorded as ‘Turks’ due to Syria being part of the Ottoman Empire at the time. The Syrian population remained relatively small whilst steadily growing throughout the 20th century. It increased more significantly in the 1970s and 1980s during a period of regional military conflict and insurgency against the government. Yet prior to 2011, Syrian migration to Australia was mostly minimal and consisting of family visa grants.
Syrian migration to Australia increased following the outbreak of Syrian civil war in 2011 as millions of Syrian citizens were forced to flee their country. The Australian government increased its humanitarian intake to allow settlement for 12,000 Syrian refugees in addition to the existing Humanitarian Program. The Syrian candidates for these places were drawn from UNCHR refugee camps, and urban communities in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. The Department of Immigration and Protection has indicated priority was given to those assessed to be most vulnerable – women, children and families with the least prospect of ever returning safely. This also includes religious minorities, such as Christians, Yazidis and Druze. According to the 2016 census, more that half of Syrians living in Australia identify with a minority religion, such as Catholicism (16.6%), Assyrian Apostolic Christianity (10.2%) or EasternChristianity (8.3%).1
Most recent Syrian refugees arrivals have settled in New South Wales and Victoria (usually the surrounding areas of Sydney and Melbourne). It is likely that some newly immigrated Syrians have been exposed to a range of traumatic experiences. Some may have personally been subjected to physical violence. Meanwhile, almost all are experiencing immense loss and grief, whether for deceased family members or for emotional, relational or material losses. The destruction the country and decimation of people's previous hometowns is a particularly painful truth for Syrians to process.