Iraqi community profile

Information about the Iraqi 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 the ethnic and linguistic complexity of the Iraqi community and note that these 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 Iraqi community in Victoria is small and made up of recent arrivals. Almost a third of the current Iraqi–born population migrated to Victoria from 2016–2021.

The first wave of migration began after 1991, following the Gulf War and the persecution of ethnic and religious minority communities in Iraq.

Most Iraqi–born people who arrived during this period were refugees who settled in Victoria through Australia’s Refugee and Special Humanitarian Programs.

The 2003 United States–led invasion of Iraq and the 2013 rise of ISIS saw another large increase of Iraqi–born people settling in Australia as refugees.

More recently, Iraqi–born people have migrated to Victoria to reunite with families or pursue employment opportunities.

One significant feature of the Iraqi community in Australia is its cultural and religious diversity, with many transnational and minority groups represented.

Iraqi community

The Iraqi community in Victoria is the second largest in Australia. There are 39,271 people in Victoria who have Iraqi ancestry, of which 26,083 were born in Iraq.

The Iraqi community in Victoria is made up of many different ethnic and religious groups. The following ancestries have been included in defining the Iraqi community: Iraqi, Assyrian/Chaldean, Kurdish, Mandaean, and Yezidi.

The gender breakdown for the Iraqi community is:

  • male: 19,813 (50.5%)
  • female: 19,458 (49.5%).

Most of the Iraqi community is young, with the largest cohorts aged from 0–14 (25.9%) and 15–24 (16.5%).

Insights for communication and engagement

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

  • The Iraqi community is a growing one with many people arriving from 2001–2021.
  • 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.
  • Digital channels can be helpful for reaching the many in the Iraqi community.
  • For placed–based activities, the south–eastern and north–western suburbs are where most of the community lives.
  • For religious Iraqis, it can be helpful to receive information in places of worship by providing brochures.

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 Iraqi community live in Melbourne’s south–eastern and north–western suburbs.

The City of Hume is home to one of the largest Iraqi communities in Victoria with 15,476 people. The City of Whittlesea is next with 3,013 people.

The following 10 local government areas have the largest Iraqi communities, which include people from the range of ancestries outlined above.

Local government areaPopulation
Greater Shepparton706
Moonee Valley473

Iraqi–born population

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


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

  • Assyrian/Chaldean Neo–Aramaic (12,915)
  • Arabic (10,720)
  • English (781)
  • Kurdish (413)
  • Persian – excluding Dari (129).

English language proficiency

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

  • 65.7% of the population say they speak English ‘very well’ or ‘well’.
  • 30.7% of the population say they speak English ‘not well’ or ‘not at all’.
  • 3% of the population speak English only.


The Iraqi–born population identify with the following religions:

  • Christianity (including Chaldean Catholic, Assyrian Apostolic, Assyrian Church of the East and Oriental Orthodox) (71.4%)
  • Islam (22.8%).

Please note that the 2021 Census did not include an option to select Syriac Catholic or Syriac Orthodox as a religious affiliation.

Years of arrival

There are three significant points of arrival for the Iraqi–born population: 2001–2010, 2011–2015 and 2016–2021. Most of the Iraqi–born population in Victoria arrived in these three periods.

Year of arrivalNumber of arrivalsPercentage


In Iraqi culture, names are passed through the male side of the family. Children are named after their father or grandfather. Iraqi women who marry do not usually adopt their husband’s names.

Iraqi Arabs use Arabic names, which include a personal name, father’s personal name and grandfather’s personal name. Iraqi Arab names do not include a surname. Some Iraqis use their grandfather’s personal name as their surname to fit Western naming conventions. Some non-Arab Iraqi people can have Arabic names.

Significant dates

The Iraqi community is diverse and many different cultural and religious festivals are celebrated. Many people celebrate the key dates in the Islam and Christian religious calendar. Some Iraqi–born people may come together to celebrate national holidays such as Iraqi Independence Day.

The following are some key dates of significance:

  • Iraqi Independence Day – 3 October
  • Persian New Year (Nowruz) – on or around 21 March
  • Islamic New Year – varies each year
  • End of Ramadan (Eid al–Fitr) – varies each year
  • Festival of Sacrifice (Eid al–Adha) – varies each year
  • Feast of Nineveh (Ba’utha D’Ninwaye) – varies each year
  • Assyrian New Year (Kha b-Nisan, Resha d-Sheta or Akitu) – 1 April
  • Assyrian Martys Day – 7 August.

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).