Chinese community profile

Information about the Chinese 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.


The Chinese are an established community in Victoria. A long history of migration from China to Victoria goes back as far as the gold rush in the 1850s. During this time, many men from China came to Victoria in large numbers, hoping to strike gold.

By 1861, the Chinese community was thriving and people from China made up nearly 7% of Victoria’s population. However, the introduction of the 1901 Immigration Restriction Act, which is often called the ‘White Australia Policy’ resulted in a huge decrease in people from China being able to settle in Australia. This policy restricted the migration of people from non–European backgrounds to Australia.

In the 1970s, these restrictions were lifted and migration of Chinese people to Victoria increased. Between 1986 and 1991, the Chinese community in Victoria more than doubled to over 20,000. This increase was mainly because of Chinese students seeking citizenship and asylum after the pro–democracy demonstrations at Tiananmen Square in 1989.

From the 1990s onwards, the Chinese community continued to grow for a variety of reasons. Many Chinese students began attending Victorian higher education institutions. Many people also arrived in Victoria to pursue economic and investment opportunities. These people came from professional backgrounds, including doctors, business investors and scholars.

Family–sponsored visas also enabled Chinese people to migrate to Victoria to join family members.

More recently, an increasing number of elderly Chinese people have also settled in Victoria to live with their adult children and often to help look after their grandchildren.

Victoria is still home to Australia's second–largest Chinese community, and China ranks as the fourth top country of birth for the Victorian population.

Chinese community

The Chinese community in Victoria is the second largest in Australia. There are 427,811 people in Victoria who have Chinese ancestries, of which 171,447 were born in China.

The gender breakdown for the Chinese community is:

  • male: 198,740 (46.5%)
  • female: 229,071 (53.5%).

Most of the Chinese community is young to middle aged, with the largest cohorts aged from 25–34 (19.3%) and 0–14 (18.0%).

Insights for communication and engagement

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

  • The Chinese community is an established and steadily growing community in Victoria, with 27% of the population arriving between 2016 and 2021.
  • 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.
  • Print and radio channels can be helpful for reaching Chinese people who are older.
  • Social media and digital can be helpful for reaching younger Chinese people.
  • For place–based activities, the southeast and eastern suburbs are where most of the community lives.

For more insights about communicating with multicultural audiences read the:

Better practice guide for multicultural communications
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Better practice guide for multicultural communications - accessible version
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Many people in the Chinese community live in Melbourne’s south–eastern and eastern suburbs.

The City of Monash is home to one of the largest Chinese communities in Victoria with 47,238 people. The City of Whitehorse is next with 44,445 people.

These 10 local government areas have the largest Chinese communities.

Local government areaPopulation
Greater Dandenong19,385
Glen Eira13,632

China–born population

These statistics focus on people living in Victoria who were born in China. They will be referred to as the ‘China-born population’.

These statistics exclude those born in the Special Autonomous Regions (Hong Kong and Macao) and Taiwan.


The two main languages spoken by the China–born community are Mandarin and Cantonese. Other major languages/dialects that are also spoken include Teo Chew, Hokkien, Hakka, and Shanghainese (Wu).

There are two forms of Chinese written language: traditional and simplified. Traditional Chinese is mostly used by people aged 60 years and over. It is also used in most Chinese newspapers and publications in Australia. Many Chinese language schools in Australia teach Simplified Chinese. Governments’ publications in Australia use both forms.

The six top languages spoken by the China–born community in Victoria are:

  • Mandarin (134,176)
  • Cantonese (19,373)
  • English (4,649)
  • Chinese – not defined (1,814)
  • Wu (862)
  • Russian (376).

English language proficiency

The China–born population in Victoria has medium to high levels of English language proficiency:

  • 65.3% of the population say they speak English ‘very well’ or ‘well’.
  • 31.4% of the population say they speak English ‘not well’ or ‘not at all’.
  • 3% of the population speaks English only.


The China–born population identify with these religions:

  • Buddhism (8.9%)
  • Christianity (2.8%)
  • no religion (77.6%).

Years of arrival

There have been three main points of arrival for the China–born population in Victoria. Most of the population arrived from 2001–2010 (31.3%), 2011–2015 (21.3%), and 2016–2021 (27.2%).

Year of arrivalNumber of arrivalsPercentage


Traditionally, Chinese names begin with a family/surname and then a first name. Chinese names are passed down from the father’s side of the family. Women do not change their legal names at marriage, but a select few may choose to place their husband’s family name before their full name.

Many Chinese characters can be used as both family names and personal names. This means that it is common practice to write family names in capitals to avoid any confusion.

Many Chinese people living in English–speaking countries change their names to follow the Western style. Some Chinese people will also adopt a Western personal name in social or business environments.

Most people will change back to their original Chinese name when speaking or writing in Chinese.

Significant dates

The Chinese community celebrates various cultural and religious holidays. These dates will vary depending on a person’s religion, heritage and identity. Some traditional events are based on the Chinese lunar calendar, and this means that the dates will change each year.

These are some key dates of significance:

  • Chinese New Year/Spring Festival – varies each year (usually in late January to early February)
  • Lantern Festival – varies each year (usually in February to early March)
  • Women’s Day – 8 March
  • Qingming Festival/Tomb–Sweeping Day – varies each year (usually in early April)
  • Labour Day – 1 May.

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).