The earliest immigrants
from the British-ruled Indian province of Bengal arrived in Australia during the late nineteenth century. They accompanied a small number of retired British Indian officers as either servants or workmen.
When India gained independence in 1947, Bengal was split, and its Muslim-dominated eastern part became East Pakistan. Following a struggle for independence Bangladesh separated from Pakistan in 1971, and Bangladeshis were first counted separately in the Australian census
in 1976. Despite political independence, and development of a clothes and textiles industry, Bangladeshis experienced a low standard of living. Many sought a better life elsewhere.
Only 66 Victorians born in Bangladesh were counted in the 1976 census
, following the end of the White Australia Policy
. Within 15 years the community had increased seven-fold to 519.
Between 1991 and 2006 there was a dramatic increase in the number of arrivals from Bangladesh. While some arrived as a result of Skilled and Family Migration, others were accepted under the Humanitarian Program. By 2006, 3,008 Bangladesh-born people lived in Victoria.
The Bangladesh-born community in Victoria is currently the second largest in Australia, after New South Wales. Living predominately in the local government areas of Monash, Maribyrnong and Moreland, a high proportion of Bangladesh-born migrants are working as professionals in the fields of education, health and community services.
The community in Victoria has active social and cultural networks such as the Australia Bangladesh Council of Victoria (ABCV), which promotes Bengali culture and supports newly arrived migrants.