History of immigration from Bosnia & Herzegovina

     Select a language:
Map of Bosnia & Herzegovina
Map date: 2013
Few people immigrated to Australia from the region now recognised as Bosnia-Herzegovina until after World War II. By the 1960s and 1970s rising unemployment in the then Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia caused the government to ease emigration restrictions, allowing increasing numbers to migrate to Australia. Many settled in Victoria.

In March 1992 the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina voted in favour of independence from the Yugoslav federation. Ethnic divisions saw Serbian leaders declare a separate Serbian Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whilst the Croatians joined forces with the predominantly Muslim government in the capital, Sarajevo. Violence erupted, and thousands of people were forcefully expelled from their homes. More than one million people sought new homes around the world.

Australia received several thousand immigrants from war-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina, the vast majority of whom arrived under the Refugee and Humanitarian Programs. By 1996, a year after the civil war had ended, almost 14,000 migrants from Bosnia-Herzegovina were living in Australia. Most of the new arrivals settled in Victoria – Bosnia-Herzegovina was the fifth-largest source of immigrants to Victoria in 1995-96.

By 2011, Victoria was home to 9,163 people from Bosnia-Herzegovina. Predominantly living in the Dandenong area, most members of this community are Muslim, followed by Eastern Orthodox and Catholic. Bosnian is the dominant language spoken at home, followed by Serbian and Croatian.

Today most Victorians from Bosnia-Herzegovina are employed as tradespeople and transport and production workers, despite many having professional qualifications. Their community life is supported by a range of cultural organisations, both religious and secular.

© Museum Victoria Australia