Australian Jewish

Jewish Immigration to Australia

The Jewish community is an integral part of Australia in the spheres of law, business, politics, and the arts. It has been a part of the Australian community for a long time.

The makeup of the Jewish community in Australia has undergone many changes since the influx from 1788 until 2023. If you’re looking for details on the immigration, settlement, and growth of Jews in Australia, you’re at the right place.

This article covers every demographic detail about the Jewish community’s life in Australia.

Let’s start with the story of Jewish immigration to Australia.

History Of Jewish Immigration To Australia

The history of Jewish immigration to Australia starts with the first recorded arrival of Jews in 1788—with the first fleet carrying at least 8 convicts of Jewish descent.

Over the next 60 years, many more Jewish immigrants were sent to Australia as convicts. They were followed by free settlers who arrived in the early 1820s.

Most of these first Jewish settlers were from Britain. This trend continued until 1901, when the political conditions across mainland Europe led to an increasing number of Jews coming in from Poland, Russia, and Germany.

But by 1901, the Jewish community in Australia was sizable and growing. Some estimates suggest there were more than 15,000 Jews in Australia by 1901.

Present-Day Census

Today, Australia has one of the largest populations of Jews in the world. According to the 2021 census, about 99,956 Jews call Australia home. These numbers show a 9.8% increase from the previous 2016 census, which showed a total of 91,023 Jews in Australia.

The number might be higher, considering many Jews choose not to mention their religion on the census form. If these rough estimates of Jews who don’t mention their faith are considered, there may be around 120,000 Jews in Australia.

However, Jews only comprise about 0.4% of the Australian population.

Geographic Distribution

Of all the 99,956 Jews living in Australia, the highest majority, about 85% of the population, lives in New South Wales and Victoria. There are about 46,645 Jews in Victoria and 40,249 Jews in New South Wales.

The majority of the population of Australian Jews resides in the urban cities of Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane.

Age and Sex

The female Jewish population of Australia is slightly higher than the male Jewish population of Australia. Out of the total 99,956 Jews, 51,713 are female, and 48,239 are male.

The numbers are also the same for the total female population of Australia, which comes up to 50.7%. The male population is 49.3%.

Age statistics from the 2021 census reveal the Jewish median age to be between 45 and 54 years. This is higher than the 2016 median age of 44 years.

The majority of Jews in Australia are above 65 years old and between the ages of 0 and 14 years old. In contrast, the minority age groups of the Jewish population in Australia are between 15 and 34 years old.

In contrast, the median age of Australians as of 2021 is 38 years, which is slightly high for females. Meanwhile, the median age of permanent migrants in Australia is 37 years.

Ancestry

Australia’s top five ancestries as of 2021 are English, Australian, Irish, Scottish, and Chinese.

The largest population of Australian Jews reports having Southern and Eastern European ancestry. This is followed closely by North-West European, North African, and Middle Eastern ancestries.

And of the 99,956 Jews living in Australia, the highest, around 55, 860 are Australian-born. Of the 42,178 overseas-born Australian Jews, the majority are South African-born.

Another key finding is that of all the Jews in Australia, only 29,113 claim to have Jewish ancestry.

Language

While Hebrew speakers have increased since the last census, it is still not the top spoken language in Australia. The 2021 census reports suggest around 11,504 Australians speak Hebrew at home. The numbers for the same criteria were only 7,568 in 2006.

Another trend noticed in the findings is that while all Hebrew speakers are of Jewish background, only 80-85% list themselves as Jewish under the religion category. Up to 14% claim to have no religion.

The numbers of secular Israeli Jews are much higher than the numbers in 2006.

Religion

The religious diversity in Australia keeps growing, and the recent 2021 census confirms it. But these findings don’t give us any clear information, as religious affiliation is optional in the census. And some Australians choose not to reveal their religion during the census.

In the 2021 census, about 93.1% of the population answered questions on religion. And of these, 10 million reported having no religious affiliation.

The 2021 census also reveals that about 99,956 Australian Jews practice Judaism, which is 9.8% higher than the numbers in the 2016 census. While Judaism isn’t one of Australia’s top five most common religions, the main streams of Orthodox, Conservative, and Reformative Jews are all active in the country.

Arrival

The majority of Jews in Australia are 65 years of age and older. So it is no surprise that most overseas-born Australian Jews arrived in Australia before 2017.

In addition, there are about 42,178 overseas-born Jews in Australia. Of these, only 2,945 Jews reported having arrived in Australia between 2017 and 2021.

However, these numbers are very small compared to the 10,20,007 immigrants arriving in Australia between 2017 and 2021.

Median Income

Regarding annual income, Hebrew-speaking Australians outperformed the rest of the Australians. They also outperformed themselves in comparison to the previous census.

As per the 2021 census, the median weekly income of a permanent migrant above 15 years of age was $963. In contrast, the same for the general Australian population above 15 years of age was $805.

The median incomes among permanent migrants were also higher for skilled individuals, amounting to $1,234 weekly.

Qualifications

Typically, Jewish parents prefer sending their children to Jewish day schools. However, the Jewish population in government educational institutions has recently been on the rise due to the high cost of Jewish day schools.

Overall, the Hebrew-speaking population in Australia outperforms Australians in terms of educational qualifications. About 8.7% of Hebrew speakers in Australia have a tertiary education, whereas only 7% of the general Australian population has one.

The stats were the same in 2016, where 82% of Jews had completed a Year 12 or equivalent education, in comparison to 57% of Australians in general.

Among all the permanent migrants in Australia, up to 51% (1.4 million) have at least a bachelor’s degree or higher-level education.

Employment

Of the total Australian population, 54.9% are in the labour force, while 71% of permanent migrants are employed.

The possibility of permanent migrants being employed is higher in age groups between 35 and 44 years, and more so if they’re skilled.

Additionally, more Jewish men prefer working full-time, while females prefer part-time roles.

In Summary

The immigration of Jews to Australia has been on the rise since the first fleet in 1788. And the 2021 census confirms that this growth trajectory also reflects in most demographic aspects.

We hope this guide has given you an insight into the status of Jewish immigration to Australia.