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Sri Lankan community profile

Information about the Sri Lankan 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 Sri Lankan community in Australia is culturally diverse and made up of different ethnic groups, including the British, Dutch, Portuguese, Sinhalese and Tamil and Muslim communities made up of Moors, Malays and Indian ethnicty(we are 10% of the Sri Lankan population). The Victorian  Sri Lankan Community is made up of Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims.

From 1948 to the late 1960s, most Sri Lankan–born migrants to Australia were of British, Dutch and Portuguese descendants. The end of the White Australia Policy (The Immigration Restriction Act 1901) saw large numbers of Sinhalese and Tamils settling in Australia. After World War II, many Tamil–speaking students arrived in Australia under the Colombo Plan.

In the 1970s, many Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims migrated to Australia due to the political unrest. Between 1983 and 2009, the Sri Lankan community in Australia grew due to the intake of immigrants under the special humanitarian program. Many of those who arrived as humanitarian entrants later sponsored family members under the family reunion program.

In Victoria, there was a peak between 2001 and 2010 when 19,513 Sri Lankan people arrived. The growth in the Sri Lankan community in Victoria remained steady throughout the 2000s. Many of these recent arrivals were well–educated professionals and skilled migrants.

Sri Lankan community

The Sri Lankan community in Victoria is the largest in Australia. There are 85,192 people in Victoria who have Sri Lankan ancestries, of which 68,066 were born in Sri Lanka.

The following ancestries have been included in defining the Sri Lankan community: Sri Lankan, Sri Lankan Tamil, and Sinhalese.

The gender breakdown for the Sri Lankan community is:

  • male: 43,473 (51.0%)
  • female: 41,719 (49.0%).

Most of the Sri Lankan community is young, with the largest cohorts aged from 0–14 (21.3%) and 25–34 (18.8%).

Insights for communication and engagement

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

  • The Sri Lankan community is growing and many people arrived between 2001 and 2010.
  • The community has high levels of English language proficiency and may therefore understand information or resources in English.
  • 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 be helpful in reaching the many young Sri Lankans who live in Victoria.
  • For place–based activities, the south–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 Sri Lankan community live in Melbourne’s south–eastern suburbs.

The City of Casey is home to one of the largest Sri Lankan communities in Victoria with 18,184 people. The City of Monash is next with 8,472 people.

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

Local government areaPopulation
Greater Dandenong6,054

Sri Lanka-born population 

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


There are many different languages spoken in the Sri Lanka–born population. The top languages spoken by the Sri Lanka–born population in Victoria are:

  • Sinhalese (40,388)
  • English (15,219)
  • Tamil (10,561).

English language proficiency

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

  • 72.7% of the population say they speak English ‘very well’ or ‘well’.
  • 4.6% of the population say they speak English ‘not well’ or ‘not at all’.
  • 22.4% of the population speak English only.


The Sri Lanka–born population identify with the following religions:

  • Buddhism (48.7%)
  • Catholicism (21.4%)
  • Hinduism (10.7%)
  • Islam (3.8%)
  • no religion (4.2%).

Years of arrival

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

Year of arrivalNumber of arrivalsPercentage


The Sri Lankan community is culturally diverse and naming conventions depend on a person’s cultural background and personal preferences.

In the Sinhalese community, names usually have three parts: [First name – which is the patronymic name of the father, ancestor or 'house' and often has the suffix ‘–ge’ at the end of the name], [Second name – personal name] and [Third name – Surname]. Many Sinhalese people living in Australia often omit their patronymic name.

In the Tamil community, people usually do not have family names. Their first name will be their father’s personal name, followed by their name.

Many Sri Lankans end up adopting an English name when they come to Australia because they think that Sri Lankan names may be too long and difficult for others to pronounce.

Significant dates

Sri Lankans celebrate diverse national and religious festivals. These celebrations are observed in their different communities.

The following are some key dates of significance:

  • Tamil Thai Pongal Day – 15 January
  • National Day – 4 February
  • Sinhala and Tamil New Year's Day – 14 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)
  • Museums Victoria.