History of immigration from Somalia

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Map of Somalia
Map date: 2013
The Somali community in Victoria is new and relatively small. In 1991, when Somalis were first counted separately in the census, there were only 242 in Victoria.

The Somalian population in Victoria began to increase after civil war broke out in Somalia in 1991. By the following year almost half of all Somalis had died or faced death by starvation, and hundreds of thousands fled their country. Many came to Australia as refugees under the Humanitarian Program. The largest number came to Victoria, attracted by its employment opportunities, Melbourne’s reputation for cultural diversity and its established Islamic community.

Somalis in Victoria face particular challenges following their experiences in Somalia. Some Somali children received no schooling in their country, and now must adjust to school life in Australia and at the same time learn the English language. Many Somalis face the additional economic responsibility of sending money to support family members in Somalia. And some Somalis continue to suffer the after-effects of war, famine and dislocation.

Support networks are growing. The Somali Community of Victoria was established in 1988, and the Somali Cultural Association in 1995, to promote Somalian culture and community support in Australia. Virtually all Somalis are Sunni Muslim, and the Somali Cultural Association helps the community celebrate the end of the holy month of Ramadan and the annual festival for the celebration of the Pilgrimage to Mecca.

The Somali community continues to grow. The 2011 census counted over 3,061 Somalia-born Victorians, a 15% increase in community size since the last census in 2006. The majority of men work in production and transport, while increasing numbers of women work in clerical fields. Slowly but surely, the Somalian community is becoming an important member of the diverse society that is Victoria.

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