Broader Burmese community profile

Information about the Broader Burmese 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 Myanmar-born/Broader Burmese community in Victoria is culturally diverse and is made up of many different ethnic groups. Many refer to their community as the Broader Burmese community, although some prefer to identify with their ethnic group.

The main ethnic group is the Bamar (or Burman), but many others exist, including the Karen, Chin, Karenni, Shan, Kachin, Mon, Bamar, and Rohingya. Each group has its own unique language, beliefs and customs.

There are many ethnic groups that are considered part of the Chin community including Falam, Haka, Mizo, Zo, Zomi, Matu, and Zophei.

Most of the Broader Burmese community who arrived in Victoria or Australia as refugees, throgh the Humanitarian resettlement program. Many people belong to an ethnic or religious minority group that faces persecution in Myanmar/Burma or are pro–democracy activists. Some have arrived as skilled migrants.

There have been several different waves of migration. The first wave happened after the rise of nationalism in Myanmar (1947–1959). The second took place between 1965 and 1972 when the military took over. The third wave occurred after the pro–democracy uprising of 1988 when many people left the country due to ethnic tensions and government oppression.

Broader Burmese community

Victorian is home to the largest Broader Burmese community in Australia. The are 22,844 people in Victoria who have Broader Burmese ancestries, of which 14,261 were born in Myanmar/Burma.

The following ancestries have been included in defining the Broader Burmese community: Anglo-Burmese, Burmese, Chin, Karen, Mon and Rohingya.

The gender breakdown for the Myanmar community is:

  • Male: 11,557 (50.6%)
  • Female: 11,287 (49.4%)

Most of the Broader Burmese community is young to middle–aged, with the largest cohorts aged from 0–14 (19.5%), 15–24 (17.3%) and 25-34 (19.5%).

Insights for communication and engagement

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

  • The Broader Burmese community is relatively new, with many people arriving between 2001–2021.
  • Many people in the community are people seeking asylum, skilled migrants or students.
  • There are many in this new and emerging community who may require in-language information, resources or in-person support.
  • In general, refugees and asylum seekers prefer information through spoken (for example, phone calls and community forums) rather than written channels. This is especially true for people with lower literacy (in English or in their preferred language) as well as those from a culture where language is mainly spoken rather than written (for example, Rohingya).
  • Radio and digital channels like Facebook or WhatsApp, can be helpful for reaching many in the Broader Burmese community who live in Victoria.
  • For written content, write in plain language. Use plain words, short sentences, headings, lists and other design elements to make information clear.
  • For place–based activities, the southwestern and eastern suburbs are where the majority 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 Broader Burmese community live in Melbourne’s southwestern and eastern suburbs. Many newly arrived people in this community have also moved to the regional towns of Nhill, Horsham, and East Gippsland areas.

The City of Wyndham is home to the largest Broader Burmese community in Victoria with 4,616 people. The City of Maroondah is next with 2,260 people.

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

Local government areaPopulation
Greater Dandenong1,863
Greater Bendigo1,638
Yarra Ranges1,599
Greater Geelong1,078

Myanmar/Burma–born population

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


The top languages spoken by the Myanmar/Burma–born population in Victoria are:

  • Burmese (4,084)
  • Karen (3,117)
  • Chin Haka (2,646)
  • English (638)
  • Zomi (589)
  • Rohingya (284).

There are over 60 different dialects of Chin Haka spoken within Chin communities.

English language proficiency

The Myanmar/Burma–born population in Victoria has low levels of English language proficiency:

  • 46.1% of the population say they speak English ‘very well’ or ‘well’.
  • 48.8% of the population say they speak English ‘not well’ or ‘not at all’.
  • 4.5% of the population speak English only.


The MyanmarBurma–born population identify with the following religions:

  • Baptist (44.9%)
  • Buddhism (16.9%)
  • Islam (9.8%)
  • Christianity (6.6%)
  • Catholicism (5.4%).

Years of arrival

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

Year of arrivalNumber of arrivalsPercentage


Many people in the Broader Burmese community speak Burmese and follow Burmese naming conventions which are different from Western traditions. Some people do not have surnames (family names) and have just a single personal name.

A person’s full name is made up of several words that might have a special meaning or significance or may even be a combination of parents’ names. Some members of the community may also adapt their names to suit Western conventions and use the last word in their personal name as their surname.

Significant dates

The Broader Burmese community is diverse and celebrates many different cultural and religious festivals. The following are some key dates of significance:

  • Thingyan (Burmese Water Festival or Myanmar New Year) – mid-April
  • Independence Day – 4th of January
  • Festival of Lights (Thadingyut) – usually in October
  • Full Moon Day of Tazaungmone – varies each year
  • Chin National Day – 20 February
  • Karenni National Day – 21 June
  • Kay Htoe Boe (Harvest Festival) – usually in April or May
  • Karen New Year – usually in December or January
  • Chapcar Kut Festival – March
  • Christmas – 25 December
  • Ramadan – varies each year
  • Eid al-Fitr – 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).