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Somali community profile

Information about the Somali 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 Somali community in Victoria is a relatively new one. Almost half of the current Somali–born population migrated to Victoria between 1991–2010. This period marked the beginning of the Somali community in Victoria.

The majority of the population arrived in Victoria as refugees following the outbreak of civil war in Somalia in 1991. From 1991–2000, there were 1,686 Somali–born people who settled in Victoria.

Many Somali–born people arrived as refugees from other surrounding countries, including Kenya, Ethiopia and Egypt. Some Somali refugees were born in refugee camps in these countries. This means that the number of Somalis in Victoria may be underestimated as statistics often only consider people born in Somalia.

More recently, Somali–born people have migrated to Victoria to reunite with family or to pursue educational and economic opportunities.

Somali community

The Somali community in Victoria is one of the largest in Australia. There are 10,019 people in Victoria who have Somalian ancestry, of which 4,291 were born in Somalia.

The gender breakdown for the Somali community is:

  • male: 4,770 (47.6%)
  • female: 5,249 (52.4%).

Most of the Somali community is young, with the largest cohorts aged from 0–14 (34.5%) and 15–24 (24.2%).

Insights for communication and engagement

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

  • The Somali community is a relatively new community, with most people arriving between 1991 and 2010.
  • The community has high levels of English language proficiency and may therefore understand information or resources in English. It is worth noting there are many in the community who may require in–language information, resources or in-person support, particularly more recent arrivals and older people.
  • Write in plain language. Use plain words, short sentences, headings, lists and other design elements to make information clear. Print, radio and digital channels can be helpful in reaching the many people in Somali community.
  • For place–based activities, the southwestern and north–western 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
PDF 3.35 MB
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Better practice guide for multicultural communications - accessible version
Word 2.33 MB
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Many people in the Somali community live in Melbourne’s south–western and north–western suburbs.

The City of Wyndham is home to the largest Somali community in Victoria with 1,555 people. The City of Hume is next with 1,326 people.

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

Local government areaPopulation
Moonee Valley590
Greater Dandenong426

Somali–born population

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


There are many different dialects in the Somali language, with the main one being Standard Somali (based on the Northern/Central dialect).

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

  • Somali (3,647)
  • English (265)
  • Arabic (118).

English language proficiency

The Somali–born population in Victoria has high levels of English language proficiency:

  • 76.9% of the population say they speak English ‘very well’ or ‘well’.
  • 14.8% of the population say they speak English ‘not well’ or ‘not at all’.
  • 6.2% of the population speak English only.


The Somali–born population identify with the following religions:

  • Islam (95.7%)
  • Eastern Orthodox (0.1%)
  • no religion (1.3%).

Years of arrival

There are two significant points of arrival for the Somali–born population: 1991–2000 and 2001–2010. Most of the Somali–born population in Victoria arrived between 1991 and 2000.

Year of arrivalNumber of arrivalsPercentage
2016-2021410 9.6


Somali names usually include a personal name, father’s personal name, and paternal grandfather’s personal name. Somali names do not include a family name and this means that sometimes members of the family may have different surnames.

Many Somali–born people adapt their names to Western naming customs by hyphenating the two last names or making their paternal grandfather’s name their legal surname. In Somali culture, it is also not usual for women to change their names after getting married.

Significant dates

As most people in the Somali community follow the Islam religion, many significant dates are religious and based on the Islamic lunar calendar.

The following are some key dates of significance:

  • New Year’s Day – 1 January
  • Night Journey (al–Isra wal–Mi'raj) – varies every year
  • End of Ramadan (Eid al–Fitr) – varies every year
  • Feast of Sacrifice (Eid al–Adha) – varies every year
  • Independence Day (Northern Regions) – 26 June.

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).