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The Ukraine-born Community

Historical Background

One of the first Ukrainian migrants to Australia was Mykhailo Hryb, a soldier in the Austrian army, who was from the western part of Ukraine when it was part of the Austrian Empire. In the 1860s Hyrb sailed to Australia where he established a sheep farm.

Up to 5000 Ukrainians are believed to have arrived in Australia prior to World War I, along with a larger group of Russians, who were workers on the Chinese Eastern Railway, which was completed in 1902. Many lived in Brisbane where they were politically active. A large number also returned to Ukraine at the outset of the Russian revolution, during which control of Ukraine was fought over by Germany, Austria and Russia.

Following World War II, the first Ukrainians from displaced persons camps in Europe arrived in 1948. They came to Australia on assisted passages which included two-year work contracts with the Australian Government. Among the migrants were priests, lawyers, doctors and engineers, but the vast majority were people from a rural background.

The 1947 Census did not list Ukraine as a birthplace, but the 1954 Census recorded 14 757 Ukraine-born. After that the number of migrants from the Soviet Ukraine was negligible, apart from a few Ukrainian Jews. There was also limited migration of Ukrainians from communities in Poland and Yugoslavia.

Migration from Ukraine increased following its independence in 1991 from the former Soviet Union, as skilled and family migrants.

Today

Geographic Distribution

The latest Census in 2011 recorded 13 990 Ukraine-born people in Australia, an increase of 2.4 per cent from the 2006 Census. The 2011 distribution by state and territory showed Victoria had the largest number with 5870 followed by New South Wales (4995), Queensland (1128) and South Australia (1074).

Age and Sex

The median age of the Ukraine-born in 2011 was 55 years compared with 45 years for all overseas-born and 37 years for the total Australian population.

The age distribution showed 2.1 per cent were aged 0-14 years, 7 per cent were 15-24 years, 27.7 per cent were 25-44 years, 22.7 per cent were 45-64 years and 40.6 per cent were 65 years and over.

Of the Ukraine-born in Australia, there were 5773 males (41.3 per cent) and 8217 females (58.7 per cent). The sex ratio was 70.3 males per 100 females.

Ancestry

In the 2011 Census, the top ancestry responses* that Ukraine-born people reported were Ukrainian (8011), Russian (3684) and Jewish (2290).

In the 2011 Census, Australians reported around 300 different ancestries. Of the total ancestry responses*, 38 791 responses were towards Ukrainian ancestry.

*At the 2011 Census up to two responses per person were allowed for the Ancestry question; therefore providing the total responses and not persons count.

Language

The main languages spoken at home by Ukraine-born people in Australia were Russian (8049), Ukrainian (3340) and English (1903).

Of the 12 087 Ukraine-born who spoke a language other than English at home, 76.1 per cent spoke English very well or well, and 22.3 per cent spoke English not well or not at all.

Religion

At the 2011 Census the major religious affiliations amongst Ukraine-born were Eastern Orthodox (4236), Judaism (3353) and Catholic (2387).

Of the Ukraine-born, 17.2 per cent stated 'No Religion' which was lower than that of the total Australian population (22.3 per cent), and 3.3 per cent did not state a religion.

Arrival

Compared to 62 per cent of the total overseas-born population, 75.3 per cent of the Ukraine-born people in Australia arrived in Australia prior to 2001.

Among the total Ukraine-born in Australia at the 2011 Census, 11 per cent arrived between 2001 and 2006 and 9.6 per cent arrived during 2007 and 2011.

Median Income

At the time of the 2011 Census, the median individual weekly income for the Ukraine-born in Australia aged 15 years and over was $379 compared with $538 for all overseas-born and $597 for all Australia-born. The total Australian population had a median individual weekly income of $577.

Qualifications

At the 2011 Census, 67.2 per cent of the Ukraine-born aged 15 years and over had some form of higher non-school qualifications compared to 55.9 per cent of the Australian population.

Of the Ukraine-born aged 15 years and over, 4.4 per cent were still attending an educational institution. The corresponding rate for the total Australian population was 8.6 per cent.

Employment

Among Ukraine-born people aged 15 years and over, the participation rate in the labour force was 47.4 per cent and the unemployment rate was 6.7 per cent. The corresponding rates in the total Australian population were 65 per cent and 5.6 per cent respectively.

Of the 5872 Ukraine-born who were employed, 56.8 per cent were employed in either a skilled managerial, professional or trade occupation. The corresponding rate in the total Australian population was 48.4 per cent.

Produced by the Community Relations Section of DIAC All data used in this summary is sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics Census of Population and Housing. Sources for the Historical Background are available on our website.
© Commonwealth of Australia.

Last reviewed Tuesday 19 November 2013

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