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Afghan community profile

Information about the Afghan community in Victoria including where they live and when they arrived, languages spoken, English language proficiency, religions and significant dates.

These profiles are of Victorian communities, using the best available data we have from the 2021 Australian Census.

The Census defines ancestry as the cultural or ethnic group you most identify with.

We acknowledge that the profiles are not definitive. There are limitations and challenges in assigning ancestry or ethnicity to a specific ‘community’, especially as defined by geographical borders.


Afghanistan–born people have been migrating to Australia since the mid–nineteenth century when they came as cameleers. During the 1860s, only a few settled in Victoria, and they were all men, as they were not allowed to bring their wives to Australia.

The White Australia Policy (The Immigration Restriction Act 1901) meant that few Afghans arrived in Victoria until the 1970s. The late 1970s and 1980s saw a wave of Afghan arrivals as people fled the country following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

However, the number of Afghans in Australia remained low until the mid–1990s. Most of the Afghan community arrived between 1991 and 2010, following the rise of the Taliban and the subsequent US invasion of Afghanistan.

Most of the Afghans in this wave of migration were refugees accepted through Australia’s humanitarian program and settled in either Victoria or New South Wales.

Most of the Afghan community in Victoria arrived after 2001. A severe drought in Afghanistan in 2000 led to more Afghan asylum–seekers migrating to Australia by boat. The Afghan community continues to grow, and there was a peak in arrivals between 2011 and 2015 when over 8,000 Afghan people arrived in Victoria.

Afghan community

The Afghan community in Victoria is the largest in Australia. There are 43,845 people in Victoria who have Afghan ancestries, of which 25,432 were born in Afghanistan.

The following ancestries have been included in defining the Afghan community: Hazara, Pashtun, Tajik, Turkmen, Uzbek and Kyrgyz.

The gender breakdown for the Afghan community is:

  • male: 23,929 (54.6%)
  • female: 19,916 (45.4%).

Most of the Afghan community is young, with the largest cohorts aged from 0–14 (30.2%) and 25–34 (21.7%).

Insights for communication and engagement

These are some key insights from the data when communicating and engaging with the Afghan community:

  • The Afghan community is a growing one, with many people arriving between 2011 and 2015.
  • The community has medium levels of English language proficiency, and there are many in the community who may require in–language information, resources or in-person support.
  • Write in plain language. Use plain words, short sentences, headings, lists and other design elements to make information clear.
  • Digital channels can help reach the many young people in the Afghan community who live in Victoria.
  • For placed–based activities, the south–eastern suburbs are where most of the population lives.
  • For more insights about communicating with multicultural audiences read the: 
Better practice guide for multicultural communications
PDF 3.35 MB
(opens in a new window)
Better practice guide for multicultural communications - accessible version
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(opens in a new window)


Many people in the Afghan community live in Melbourne’s south–eastern suburbs.

The City of Casey is home to one of the largest Afghan communities in Victoria with 23,450 people. The City of Greater Dandenong is next with 7,268 people.

These 10 local government areas have the largest Afghan communities.

Local government areaPopulation
Greater Dandenong7,268
Greater Shepparton1,144
Greater Geelong1,047

Afghanistan-born population

These statistics focus on people living in Victoria who were born in Afghanistan. This will be referred to as the ‘Afghanistan–born population'.


The top languages spoken by the Afghanistan–born population in Victoria are:

  • Hazaragi (12,376)
  • Dari (7,601)
  • Pashto (2,161)
  • Persian (excluding Dari) (1,446)
  • English (576).

English language proficiency

The Afghanistan–born population in Victoria has medium levels of English language proficiency:

  • 67.1% of the population say they speak English ‘very well’ or ‘well’.
  • 30.0% of the population say they speak English ‘not well’ or ‘not at all’.
  • 2.3% of the population speak English only.


The Afghanistan–born population identify with these religions:

  • Islam (94.3%)
  • Catholicism (0.1%)
  • Sikhism (0.1%)
  • no religion (3.1%).

Years of arrival

Most of the Afghanistan–born population in Victoria arrived between 2011 and 2015.

Year of arrivalNumber of arrivalsPercentage
1951 to 196000.0
1961 to 197030.0
1971 to 1980290.1
1981 to 19905512.2
1991 to 20002,5179.9
2001 to 20107,43729.2
2011 to 20158,05431.7
2016 to 20216,38125.1


In Afghan culture, people usually only have a first or personal name. No surnames or middle names are used by the majority of Afghans. The personal name may be compounded, such as Ahmad Khan. These two words signify one name and not a first or middle name. This format does not usually apply to females.

Many Afghans living in Western countries may adopt a surname that reflects their tribe, place of origin or ethnicity. When surnames are used, children adopt the surname of their father. Afghan women do not traditionally adopt their husband’s surnames when they marry. 

Significant dates 

The dates of significance in Islam are based on the Islamic lunar calendar and may vary yearly. 

These are some key dates of significance: 

  • Independence Day – 19 August
  • New Year (Nawroz) – 21 March or a day before or after
  • Labour Day – 1 May
  • Religious feast (Ramadan Eid and Eid al–Adha) – varies each year.

Sources of information 

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics 2021 Census Country of birth QuickStats
  • SBS Cultural Atlas
  • Encyclopedia of Melbourne (School of Historical Studies at the University of Melbourne, in association with the University of Melbourne's eScholarship Research Centre)
  • Afghanistan's Constitution of 2004.