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Cambodian community profile

Information about the Cambodian 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.


Before 1975, the number of Cambodian people in Australia was quite small and consisted mainly of students, professionals, and their families.

The first significant wave of migration occurred after the late 1970s. Many people fled Cambodia because of the Civil War. When the Khmer Rouge took control of the country, many Cambodians left and often spent years in refugee camps in neighbouring countries such as Thailand before relocating to Australia.

Australia accepted several thousand Cambodian refugees from the late 1970s to the mid–1980s. Many Cambodians settled in Victoria, and suburbs, including Springvale and Dandenong, became centres for the Cambodian community in Melbourne.

The 1980s and 1990s saw the continued migration of Cambodians to Victoria. A quarter of the Cambodian population arrived in Victoria during this period between 1981 and 1990. Family reunions and further humanitarian intakes during this period led to a growth in the Cambodian community in Victoria.

The Cambodian community in Victoria continues to grow, albeit slower than during the peak refugee movements of the 1980s. The reasons for migration now include family reunions and people pursuing education and economic opportunities.

Cambodian community

The Cambodian community in Victoria is one of the largest in Australia. There are 23,497 people in Victoria who have Cambodian ancestries, of which 16,758 were born in Cambodia.

The gender breakdown for the Cambodian community is:

  • male: 11,029 (46.9%)
  • female: 12,468 (53.1%).

Most of the Cambodian community is young, with the largest cohorts aged from 0–14 (23.0%) and 15–24 (16.9%).

Insights for communication and engagement

The following are some key insights from the data when communicating and engaging with the Cambodian community:

  • The Cambodian community is well established in Victoria, with most of the population arriving between 1981 and 1990.
  • 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.
  • Social media and digital channels can help reach the many Cambodian young people who live in Victoria.
  • For place–based activities, the south–eastern suburbs are where the majority of the community lives.
  • For many religious Cambodians, it can be helpful to reach them in their places of worship by providing brochures.

For more insights about communicating with multicultural audiences read the:

Better practice guide for multicultural communications
PDF 3.35 MB
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Better practice guide for multicultural communications - accessible version
Word 2.33 MB
(opens in a new window)


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

The City of Greater Dandenong is home to one of the largest Cambodian communities in Victoria with 11,112 people. The City of Casey is next with 3,953 people.

These 10 local government areas have the largest Cambodian communities.

Local government areaPopulation
Greater Dandenong11,112

Cambodia-born population 

The statistics below focus on people living in Victoria who were born in Cambodia. This will be referred to as the ‘Cambodia–born population’.


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

  • Khmer (12,543)
  • English (1,248)
  • Min Nan (690)
  • Cantonese (591)
  • Mandarin (554)
  • Vietnamese (386).

English language proficiency

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

  • 52.1% of the population say they speak English ‘very well’ or ‘well’.
  • 39.9% of the population say they speak English ‘not well’ or ‘not at all’.
  • 7.4% of the population speak English only.


The Cambodia–born population identify with the following religions.

  • Buddhism (74.8%)
  • no religion (15.7%)
  • not stated (2.3%)
  • Catholic (1.8%)
  • Christianity (1.7%).

Years of arrival

There have been three main points of arrival for the Cambodian–born population. A quarter of the population arrived between 1981 and 1990. Two other key periods of arrival were from 1991-2000 and 2001-2010.

Year of arrivalNumber of arrivalsPercentage
1951 to 196040.0
1961 to 1970250.1
1971 to 19809425.6
1981 to 19904,22425.2
1991 to 20003,01418.0
2001 to 20103,04818.2
2011 to 20152,09412.5
2016 to 20212,93817.5


In Cambodian culture, names usually begin with a family/surname and then a given/first name. However, many Cambodians living in English–speaking countries have adapted their names to the Western style of surname followed by a first name. Cambodian names are often derived from one or multiple of the following languages: Khmer, Chinese, Sanskrit and Pali.

The concept of a ‘middle name’ is not followed in Cambodian culture and women generally do not change their name at marriage. Cambodians generally address people using the titles ‘Lok’ (Mr) or ‘LokSrey’ (Mrs) in most formal or professional settings or when addressing strangers.

Significant dates

Many Cambodians are Buddhist and religious celebrations are based on the lunar calendar.

These are some key dates of significance:

  • Khmer New Year (Chaul Chnam Thmey) – varies every year (usually 13–15 April)
  • King’s Birthday (Norodom Sihamoni) – 13–15 May
  • Independence Day – 9 November
  • Magha Puja (Meak Bochea) – February
  • Buddha’s Birthday (Visakh Bochea) – late May
  • Vassa – July to September
  • Pchum Ben – varies every year (usually September or October).

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)
  • The Migrant Information Centre (Eastern Melbourne).