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Malaysian community profile

Information about the Malaysian 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.

Malaysia is a very diverse country with many different ethnicities, languages and religions. Please note that this profile does not include people who identify with Chinese or Indian ancestry, and for this reason is not definitive.

There are limitations and challenges in assigning ancestry or ethnicity to a specific ‘community’, especially as defined by geographical borders.


Malaysians have a long history of migration to Australia. The first Malaysian migrants were pearl divers in the early 1900s. However, the Malaysia-born population in Australia remained relatively small throughout the early twentieth century due to the White Australia policy (The Immigration Restriction Act 1901).

With the end of the White Australia policy (1973), Australia became an attractive destination for primarily ethnic Chinese Malaysian immigrants. In the 1970s and 1980s, a significant number of Malaysians came to Australia for tertiary education.

This was partly due to the Colombo Plan, a scheme initiated in the early 1950s, where students from Asian countries, including Malaysia, were sponsored to study in Australia. Many of these students married locally and later sponsored their parents or siblings.

The largest wave of Malaysia-born people was after 1981, under the Family Reunion Program or as skilled or business migrants. The Malaysia-born population in Australia almost doubled from 1986-1991. Based on the 2021 Census, most of the Malaysian-born population arrived in Victoria after 2001, and there has been a steady growth in the community.

Malaysian community

The Malaysian community in Victoria is the largest in Australia. There are 20,920 people in Victoria who have Malaysian ancestry.

The gender breakdown for the Malaysian community is:

  • male: 29,600 (47.2%)
  • female: 33,065 (52.8%).

Most of the Malaysian community is young to middle-aged, with the largest cohorts aged from 25-34 (21.7%) and 35-44 (21.7%). 

Insights for communication and engagement

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

  • The Malaysian community is growing in Victoria, with many 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.
  • Social media and digital channels can help reach the many in the Malaysian community who live in Victoria.
  • For place-based activities, the south-eastern, central, 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
PDF 3.35 MB
(opens in a new window)
Better practice guide for multicultural communications - accessible version
Word 2.33 MB
(opens in a new window)


Many people in the Malaysian community live in Melbourne’s south–eastern, central, and eastern suburbs.

The City of Monash is home to one of the largest Malaysian communities in Victoria, with 1,341 people. The City of Melbourne is next with 1,366 people.

The following 10 local government areas have the largest Malaysian communities.

Local government areaPopulation
Greater Dandenong1,952

Malaysia-born population

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

There are 62,662 people who were born in Malaysia and live in Victoria.


These are the top languages spoken by the Malaysia-born population in Victoria:

  • Mandarin (19,720)
  • English (18,418)
  • Cantonese (11,124)
  • Malay (5,340)
  • Min Nan (2,532)
  • Tamil (1,704).

English language proficiency

The Malaysian-born population in Victoria have medium levels of English language proficiency:

  • 60.1% of the population say they speak English ‘very well’ or ‘well’.
  • 10.1% of the population say they speak English ‘not well’ or ‘not at all’.
  • 29.4% of the population speak English only.


The Malaysia-born population identify with the following religions.

  • Buddhism (25.5%)
  • Catholicism (9.9%)
  • Islam (7.5%)
  • Christianity (6.0%)
  • no religion (23.8%).

Years of arrival

There are two key points of arrival to Victoria for the Malaysia-born population. The majority of the population arrived between 2016-2021 (25.6%) and 2001-2010 (22.8%).

Year of arrivalNumber of arrivalsPercentage


Malaysia is a very diverse country and there are many different ethnicities, languages and religions. As a result, naming conventions will depend on a person’s ethnicity and religious background. The following are some general naming conventions in Malaysian culture.

Names usually follow the following order: [Given name(s)], [Patronymic noun], [Father’s given name]. For example, Razak bin Osman (male) and Aisyah binte Musa (female). The patronymic noun is the word ‘bin’ (meaning ‘son of’) for men and ‘binte’ or ’binti’ (meaning ‘daughter of’) for women.

In formal places or when meeting someone for the first time, Malay people generally use titles. In these situations, titles are used with a person’s given name rather than with the last name/father’s name. Some Malaysian Chinese who are Christian or speak English have an English name that they use in international and English-speaking contexts.

Significant dates

Malaysia is a nation with a strong religious identity, and many significant dates throughout the year are focused on religion or the country itself. Some of these dates follow the lunar calendar and may vary from year to year.

The following are some key dates of significance:

  • Chinese New Year - varies each year
  • Labour Day - 1 May
  • Malaysia Day -16 September
  • Buddha’s Birthday (Buddhist) - varies each year
  • End of Ramadan (Muslim) - varies each year
  • Christmas Day (Christian) – 25 December.

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).