Until 1947, Pakistan was part of British-ruled India. Immigrants
from this region began to arrive in Australia during the mid-nineteenth century, most as cameleers hired on short-term contracts. Many settled permanently. Like the ‘Afghan’ cameleers, they played a crucial role in the exploration and development of vast areas of inner Australia.
In 1901, the Immigration Restriction Act
(known as the White Australia Policy
) was introduced. The immigrant
population from what is now Pakistan, subsequently dwindled, as many left Australia and returned home.
Pakistan was created in the 1947 partition of India, after a long struggle for a Muslim homeland on the sub-continent. Nine years later it was declared an Islamic Republic. Emigration to Australia remained low, but as the White Australia Policy
was dismantled in the early 1970s more Pakistanis were able to migrate. Few chose to live in Victoria; however, by 1981 the population of Pakistan-born Victorians was still only 545.
Immigration from Pakistan increased significantly in the 1990s. By 1996 the Pakistan-born population of Victoria had more than tripled to 1,782. The 2006 census
revealed this number had jumped to 4,703. Most Pakistani immigrants
were accepted under the Humanitarian Program and the Skilled and Family Migration Streams.
Today Pakistan-born Victorians are among the most educated of Victoria’s emerging communities. More than one-third work in professional positions; approximately half work in clerical, production, service, transport and sales positions. Most are Muslims, reflecting the national religion of Pakistan; only 12% are Christian. Many live in Melbourne’s outer south-east.
Pakistan-born Australians have played a significant role within local Muslim organisations, and have contributed to the development of independent Muslim schools and language programs throughout Australia. A number of Pakistani associations also support this community, the oldest being the Pakistan Australia Association formed in 1959.