Up until 1975 there were fewer than 2,000 Vietnam-born people in Australia. Following the takeover of South Vietnam by the North Vietnamese communist government in April 1975, Australia, being a signatory to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, agreed to resettle its share of Vietnam-born refugees under a refugee resettlement plan between 1975 and 1985. After the initial intake of refugees in the late 1970s, there was a second immigration peak in 1983-84, most likely a result of the 1982 agreement between the Australian and Vietnamese governments (the Orderly Departure Program) which allowed relatives of Vietnamese Australians to leave Vietnam and migrate to Australia. A third immigration peak in the late 1980s seems to have been mainly due to Australia's family reunion scheme. Over 90,000 refugees were processed, and entered Australia during this time.
By the 1990s, the number of Vietnam-born migrating to Australia had surpassed the number entering as refugees. From 1991-93, the percentage of Vietnam-born migrants had reached 77 per cent of the total intake of Vietnam-born arriving in Australia, and by 2000, the percentage of Vietnam-born migrants had climbed to 98 per cent. In 2001-2002, 1,919 Vietnam-born migrants and 44 humanitarian entrants settled in Australia.
Vietnamese Australians vary in income and social class levels. Australian born Vietnamese Australians are highly represented in Australian universities and many professions (particularly as information technology workers, engineers, doctors and pharmacists), while many other members in the community are subject to high unemployment rates, poverty and crime.
Vietnamese Australians have an exceptionally low rate of return migration to Vietnam. In December 2001, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade estimated that there were 3,950 Australian citizens resident in Vietnam. It is not clear what proportion of this number are returned emigrants with Australian citizenship or their Vietnamese Australian children, and what number is simply other Australians in Vietnam for business or other reasons. The greater proportion (3,000) were recorded in the south of the country.
About 0.8% of the Australian resident population was born in Vietnam; in terms of birthplace, Vietnam has been the fifth-largest source of immigration to Australia, behind the United Kingdom (mainly from England and Scotland), New Zealand, China, and Italy. Only Cambodia, the United States, and France have larger Viet Kieu communities. According to results of the 2006 Census, 159,848 Australian residents declared that they were born in Vietnam
In the 2001 census, the 155,000 people of Vietnamese ancestry were first or second generation Australians; first generation Australians of Vietnamese ancestry outnumbered second generation Australians with Vietnamese ancestry (74% : 26%) Relatively few people of Vietnamese ancestry stated another ancestry (6%). Among the leading ancestries, the proportion of people who spoke a language other than English at home was highest for those of Vietnamese (96%).
At the 2006 Census, 173,663 Australian residents declared themselves to be of Vietnamese ancestry. A further 2,190 declared themselves as having Hmong ancestry. Respondents could nominate up to two ancestries. There may additionally be persons of Vietnamese descent born in Australia, or of arguably non-Vietnamese ancestries (such as Cantonese) born in Vietnam, who elected not to nominate their ancestry as Vietnamese.
Over three-quarters of people born in Vietnam live in New South Wales (63,786, or 39.9%) and Victoria (58,878, or 36.8%). In Melbourne the suburbs of Richmond, Footscray, Springvale, Sunshine and St Albans have a significant proportion of Vietnamese-Australians, while in Sydney they are concentrated in Cabramatta, Cabramatta West, Canley Vale, Canley Heights, Bankstown, St John's Park and Fairfield. Other places of significant Vietnamese presence include Brisbane, where many have settled in suburbs like Darra and Inala.
According to census data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2004, Vietnamese Australians are, by religion, 30.3 per cent Catholic, 0.4 per cent Anglican, 3.1 Other Christian, 55.2 per cent Other Religions, mainly Buddhist, Taoism, and Ancestor Worship and 11.0 per cent No Religion.
In 2001, the Vietnamese language was spoken at home by 174,236 people in Australia. Vietnamese is the sixth most widely spoken language in the country after English, Chinese, Italian, Greek and Arabic.
During October 2003, government owned SBS TV began airing a Vietnamese news program called Thoi Su ('News'). The stated purpose was to provide a news service to cater for Australia's Vietnamese population. This was received poorly by the significant portion of the Vietnamese community as many had previously fled after the fall of South Vietnam and thus harbour resentment to the communist government and its institutions, including the state-controlled media. Thoi Su was regarded as a mouthpiece for the ruling Vietnamese Communist Party, and uncritically endorsed government policy and practices using strong language while failing to report issues objectively including political arrests or religious oppression in Vietnam. A large protest was convened outside SBS's offices. SBS decided to drop Thoi Su (which was being provided at no cost to SBS through a satellite connection). SBS subsequently began broadcasting disclaimers before each foreign news program stating it does not endorse their contents.Hieu Van Le, AO - Governor of South Australia and Chairman of the South Australian Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission (SAMEAC).
Anh Do - Comedian, actor, author of The Happiest Refugee and brother of Khoa Do
Khoa Do - Young Australian of the Year in 2005, writer, director and brother of Anh Do
Charles Tran Van Lam - Former Foreign Minister of South Vietnam (1969–72), first Vietnamese Ambassador to Australia (late 1950s), President of the Senate of South Vietnam (1973), one of signatories of the Paris Peace Accord (1973).
Maria Tran - actress, filmmaker
Nam Le - author of The Boat, winner of the 2008 Dylan Thomas Prize for The Boat
Tan Le - 1998 Young Australian of the Year
Phuong Ngo - ALP politician (member of Fairfield Council, NSW), Catholic community leader convicted for the homicide of John Paul Newman, and suspected drug lord
Tung Ngo ALP politician, Legislative Council of South Australia
Giang Nguyen - Mathematician and chess player
Jordan Nguyen - engineer
Luke Nguyen - chef and owner of Red Lantern in Surry Hills, Sydney and host of Luke Nguyen's Vietnam on SBS
Trung Ly - Martial Artist/ Action director
Peter Nguyen Van Hung - Catholic priest and human rights activist on Taiwan.
Rob Nguyen - Formula 3000 driver
Sang Nguyen - Victorian ALP Upper House politician
Tach Duc Thanh Nguyen - Convicted drug smuggler and member of the Bali Nine
Van Tuong Nguyen - Executed drug trafficker
Vincent Long Van Nguyen - Roman Catholic bishop of Parramatta
Ngan Phan-Koshnitsky - chess player
Batong Pham - ALP Upper House politician in Western Australia
Hoa Pham - Writer
Caroline Tran - Triple J announcer
Natalie Tran - video blogger on YouTube The Most Viewed YouTuber in Australia
Van Thanh Rudd - Political artist, nephew of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd
Vico Thai - Television and Film Actor
Giang Le-Huy - Actor
Tony Le-Nguyen - Actor, Writer, Director and Producer
Tran My Van - Academic
Quan Yeomans - Lead singer and guitarist of Regurgitator
Thang Ngo - Fairfield Councillor (1999-2008), cast member of Once Upon a Time in Cabramatta Documentary, food writer and publisher of Noodlies food blog
Tony Lee - Luke Nguyen's stunt double