Malaysian Australian

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Malaysian Australian
Total population
92,337 (by country of birth, 2006)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Melbourne, Sydney, Perth[2]
Australian English, Malaysian English, Malaysian Mandarin, Cantonese, Malay
Christianity (43%), Buddhism (26%), Islam (5%)[3]
Related ethnic groups
Various ethnic groups of Malaysia, Singaporean Australian, Cocos Malays

A Malaysian Australian is an Australian person who is from or has ancestral ties to Malaysia. This may include Malays as well as overseas Chinese, Indian and other groups. There are also ethnic Malays in Australia who came to Australia prior to the establishment of Malaysia, or who have come from other regional countries including Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei.


People born in Malaysia as a percentage of the population in Sydney divided geographically by postal area, as of the 2011 census.

At the 2006 Census 92,335 Australian residents stated that they were born in Malaysia.[4] 64,855 Malaysian born Australian residents declared having Chinese ancestry (either alone or with another ancestry), 12,057 declared a Malay ancestry and 5,848 declared an Indian ancestry. The proportion of Malaysian-born individuals in Australia who claim Chinese ancestry is 70.2%, which is markedly different from the proportion of Malaysians in Malaysia who claim Chinese ancestry (22.9%). The proportion of Malaysians in Australia that claim Indian ancestry (6.3%) is similar to the proportion in Malaysia (7.1%). Taken together with the marked difference in the proportion who cite Islam as their religion (60% in Malaysia, 5% in Australia), it is clear that migration from Malaysia to Australia has not reflected a cross-section of Malaysia, but rather, is heavily skewed towards the Chinese community. It has been suggested that Malaysia's bumiputra policies that favour ethnic Malays over other ethnic groups has contributed to the pattern of migration from Malaysia to Australia. [3]

Malaysian Australians are well established in Australia. Slightly more than half (46,445) had Australian citizenship,[3] and 47,521 had arrived in Australia in 1989 or earlier.[3] 32,325 spoke English at home, 24,347 spoke Cantonese, 18,676 spoke Mandarin and 5,329 spoke Bahasa Melayu.[3] Malaysian Australians were resident in Melbourne (29,174), Sydney (21,211) and Perth (18,993).[2]

Although Malaysia has a 60% Muslim population, only 5% of Malaysian-born Australians cited Islam as their religion in the 2006 Census, the largest religions were Christianity (43%) and Buddhism (26%).[5]


Malay labourers were brought over to Australia to work mainly in the copra, sugarcane, pearl diving and trepang industries. In the case of Cocos Islands, the Malays were first brought as slaves under Alexander Hare in 1826, but were then employed as coconut harvesters for copra. However, there were no historical facts that prove that the Malays settled in mainland Australia and the east coast until the late 19th century, where they not only worked in the trepang or pearl diving industry, but also in sugarcane plantations.

In Western Australia and the Northern Territory, Malay pearl divers were recruited through an agreement with the Dutch. By 1875, there were 1800 Malay pearl divers working in Western Australia itself. Most of them returned home when their contract expired. The Immigration Restriction Act 1901 severely curtailed the growth of this community.

Number of permanent settlers arriving in Australia from Malaysia since 1991 (monthly)

From the 1950s onwards Malaysians came to Australia to study under the Colombo Plan, with many choosing to stay in Australia after graduation. Their numbers increased following the end of the Immigration Restriction Act in 1973. As Malaysia's affluence increased, more students came to study as self-financed students.[citation needed]

Notable Malaysian Australians[edit]

name Born - Died Notable for Connection with Australia Connection with Malaysia
Che'Nelle[6] 1983- singer lives in Australia born Kota Kinabalu[7]
Remy Hii 1986/87- actor lives in Australia of Malaysian descent[8]
Nick Kyrgios 1995- Professional tennis player lives in Australia of Malaysian descent[9]
Kamahl[10] 1934- singer lives in Australia; immigrated 1953 born Kuala Lumpur[11]
Brendan Gan[12] 1988- football (soccer) player lives in Australia of Malaysian descent
Adam Liaw[13] 1978- lawyer, author and television chef lives in Australia; immigrated 1980 born in Penang[14]
Cheong Liew[15] chef lives in Australia; immigrated 1969 born Kuala Lumpur[15]
Chong Lim[16] musician, music director lives in Australia born Ipoh[17]
Guy Sebastian[18] 1981- singer lives in Australia; immigrated as child born Klang[19]
Pria Viswalingam[20] 1962- documentary and film maker works in Australia born Malaysia
James Wan[21] 1977- producer, screenwriter, and film director brought up in Australia and studied there born Kuching[22]
Penny Wong[23] 1968- politician lives in Australia; immigrated 1977[24] born Kota Kinabalu[25]
Poh Ling Yeow[26] 1973- artist and television chef lives in Australia grew up in Kuala Lumpur[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "20680-Country of Birth of Person (full classification list) by Sex - Australia" (Microsoft Excel download). 2006 Census. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 2008-05-27. 
  2. ^ a b ABS Census - ethnicity
  3. ^ a b c d e "2914.0.55.002 2006 Census Ethnic Media Package" (Excel download). Census Dictionary, 2006 ( 2901.0). Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2007-06-27. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  4. ^ "20680-Ancestry (full classification list) by Sex - Australia" (Microsoft Excel download). 2006 Census. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 2008-05-19. 
  5. ^ "3416.0 - Perspectives on Migrants, 2007: Birthplace and Religion". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2008-02-25. Retrieved 2008-07-15. 
  6. ^ Air Bourne (13 February 2010). "Malaysian-born singer Che’Nelle is back with her second disk, “Feel Good”". The Bajan Reporter. Retrieved 2 March 2010. 
  7. ^ Chandran, Sheela (25 July 2007). "Virgin deal for Malaysian-born singer Che’nelle". Retrieved 27 September 2010. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ LEO SCHLINK (1 July 2014). "Rod Laver says Nick Kyrgios can put pressure on Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon tonight". NEWS CORP AUSTRALIA. Retrieved 2 July 2014. 
  10. ^ "Talking Heads - Kamahl". Retrieved 2007-06-05. 
  11. ^ Street, Andrew P. "Kamahl - interview". Retrieved 27 September 2010. 
  12. ^ "Gan the face of new Sydney". 10 January 2009. Retrieved 26 September 2010. 
  13. ^ Idato, Michael (26 May 2010). "Network counts its takings as a cooking king is crowned". Retrieved 6 November 2013. 
  14. ^ Aedy, Richard (4 April 2011). "Masterchef: Adam Liaw (audio interview)". Masterchef: Adam Liaw. Retrieved 6 November 2013. 
  15. ^ a b "Master Chef Cheong Liew Senses Hilton Kuala Lumpur". 6 May 2010. Retrieved 26 September 2010. 
  16. ^ "Chong Lim". Retrieved 26 September 2010. 
  17. ^ D'Cruz, Neville (7 May 2006). "New Aussie Honour For Malaysian-born Singer". Retrieved 27 September 2010. 
  18. ^ Cheah, Jason (22 December 2003). "Nice guys do win". Retrieved 26 September 2010. 
  19. ^ "M’sian-born Idol Guy Sebastian to wed girlfriend". 8 January 2008. Retrieved 27 September 2010. 
  20. ^ "Pria Viswalingam". Retrieved 26 September 2010. 
  21. ^ "James Wan Bio". Retrieved 26 September 2010. 
  22. ^ Johan, Rizal (26 March 2008). "Mortal enemy". Retrieved 27 September 2010. 
  23. ^ "Profile". Asian Currents: The Asian Studies Association of Australia's e-bulletin (Asian Studies Association of Australia). August 2004. Retrieved 3 December 2007. 
  24. ^ Atkinson, Meera (26 August 2008). "Penny Wong: climate change and compassion". Retrieved 27 September 2010. 
  25. ^ Maher, Sid. "Penny Wong". Retrieved 27 September 2010. 
  26. ^ Davies, Nathan (2009-07-11). "Poh dishes up her MasterChef secret". Retrieved 2009-07-18. 
  27. ^ Thompson, Peter (20 September 2010). "Poh-Ling Yeow". Poh-Ling Yeow. Retrieved 27 September 2010. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Cleland, Bilal. The Muslims in Australia: A Brief History. Melbourne: Islamic Council of Victoria, 2002.
  • JPS Bach, 'The pearlshelling industry and the "White Australia" policy', Historical Studies, Australia and New Zealand, vol. 10, no. 38, May 1962, pp. 203–213
  • Bilal Cleland, Muslims in Australia: A Brief History,
  • Nahid Kabir, Muslims in Australia: Immigration, Race Relations, and Cultural History, Kegan Paul, London, 2004
  • Nahid Kabir, 'Muslims in Western Australia, 1870-1970', Journal of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society, vol. 12, part 5, 2005, pp. 550–565
  • L Manderson, 'Malays' in James Jupp (ed.), The Australian People, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1988, pp. 691–93
  • Daniel Oakman, Facing Asia: A History of the Colombo Plan, Pandanus Press, Canberra, 2004
  • Gwenda Tavan, The Long, Slow Death of White Australia, Scribe, Melbourne 2005

External links[edit]