SBS Punjabi

‘Blossoming beautifully’: Census 2021 reveals Punjabi is the fastest growing language in Australia

SBS Punjabi

Thousands celebrated Vaisakhi in the heart of Melbourne

Thousands celebrated Vaisakhi in the heart of Melbourne in April 2019. Source: SBS Punjabi


Published 28 June 2022 at 10:32am, updated 17 August 2022 at 1:17pm
By Preetinder Grewal, Sumeet Kaur
Source: SBS

The 2021 Census confirms that Punjabi continues to be the fastest-growing language in Australia, with more than 239,000 people using it at home, an increase of over 80 per cent from 2016.


Published 28 June 2022 at 10:32am, updated 17 August 2022 at 1:17pm
By Preetinder Grewal, Sumeet Kaur
Source: SBS


Highlights
  • Punjabi has again emerged as the fastest-growing language spoken at home in Australia
  • Census 2021 figures reveal the number of Punjabi speakers has risen over 80 per cent in the last five years
  • New data reveals over 5.5 million people now use a language other than English at home
Australia's linguistic diversity is on the rise as the number of people who use a language other than English at home has increased by nearly 800,000 from 2016 to over 5.5 million people (5,663,709).

The largest gain is for the Punjabi-speaking community in Australia. Census 2021 data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveal that the number of Punjabi speakers has increased by 80 per cent in the past five years to over 239,000.

Perth-based Tarun Preet Singh, an active volunteer of Western Australia's Sikh community and a member of the Sikh Association of Western Australia (SAWA), calls this Census result a 'proud' moment.

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Speaking to SBS Punjabi, Mr Singh says the community has grown significantly since international students and skilled migrants started coming to Australia in big numbers.

"In the last few years, we've seen many young families successfully integrating within local communities across different parts of Australia," he says.

"We've increased in huge numbers in this short span of time. I feel it's a big moment for the Punjabi and Sikh communities in Australia. 

"I am glad that our community is trying its best to fulfil the expectations and win the trust of the Australians with honesty, compassion and selfless service to vulnerable communities," he adds. 
A file photo of the Australian Sikh Games held at Perth, WA.
A file photo of the Australian Sikh Games held at Perth, WA. Source: SBS Punjabi
Mr Singh, who migrated from India about 20 years ago with his wife and three children using a skilled migration pathway, now works in the supply chain industry, and his wife is a secondary school teacher.

"We decided to settle in WA as most of our extended family has been settled in this state since 1968. Later my elderly parents joined us on contributory parents' visa in 2007. We are just loving it," he says.

'Punjabi language has deep roots in Australia'

Mr Singh, who has also been researching Sikh history in Australia, says the Punjabi language has been spoken on Australian soil for more than 150 years.

He provided SBS Punjabi with many Australian documents that were written in Punjabi from as early as the late 1800s. These include a petition for equal rights that about 100 Sikh community members signed in the Punjabi language in 1898.

"The Sikhs in WA got an appeal printed in the West Australian newspaper in April 1900 in the Punjabi language. 
sikhs in Australia
The presence of Punjabi speakers in Australia goes back to at least 180 years when they first arrived as cameleers, Anzacs, hawkers, entrepreneurs etc. Source: Supplied by Tarun Preet Singh.
"Additionally, many Sikh store owners and hawkers in the late 19th century or early 20th century maintained their ledgers in the Punjabi language," he adds.
We are proud that the seeds sown by Sikh pioneers for 150 years are now blossoming beautifully
"We have been proudly living in this great country that has given us much respect and opportunities to prosper in all walks of life."
Mr Singh's whole family, including second- and third-generation family members, have embraced Punjabi at different levels.

"Speaking our language is the only way we could connect our new generation to our culture, heritage and values that we are very proud of," he says.

'Census is a great tool to know the community'

Jang Singh Pannu, the Victorian Sikh Gurdwaras Council secretary, congratulated the Australian Sikh and Punjabi community on the inspiring 2021 Census results. 
vaisakhi Nagar Kirtan
Thousands celebrate Vaisakhi in the heart of Melbourne. Source: SBS Punjabi
Speaking to SBS Punjabi, Mr Pannu says the results reflect the rapid rate at which the Punjabi community is growing in Victoria and across Australia, including the regional areas.

"The Census is a great tool that facilitates the Australian government to use these statistics as a guiding force to provide more funding and support to communities like ours who are at the forefront of setting new milestones at social and professional levels. 

"Our community's role within the broader Australian population has been demonstrated by social work during pandemic, bushfires, drought and floods across different parts of Australia. 

"I am glad our people continue fostering harmony and social cohesion amongst the wider Australian community. No wonder this Census result is a great moment for us to cherish at a community level," he says.
VU Diwali
Punjabi students celebrating Diwali at the Victoria University, Melbourne. Source: Photo courtesy Hong Seok Che
Griffith-based Jagmohan Singh Maavi expressed his happiness over the recent growth of Punjabi speakers.

"Every year, many Punjabi-origin people are nominated and awarded for their exceptional contributions to the Australian community," he says.

"I am so happy that in such a short span, the community has created a niche for itself in almost every sector in Australia."

Mr Maavi also praised the media for creating awareness about the importance of Census data.

"We are proudly teaching our children to learn Punjabi as we believe the mother tongue is critical to a person's identity, creativity and self-esteem. 
Jagmohan Singh and his 5-year-old daughter Gursakhi Kaur
Jagmohan Singh and his daughter Gursakhi Kaur were delighted after seeing a signboard written in Punjabi, near Griffith in regional NSW. Source: Supplied by Mr Singh
Natively spoken in the Punjab region of India and Pakistan, the Punjabi language has many dialects.

With an estimated more than 122 million people speaking Punjabi as a native language, it's the 10th most widely spoken language in the world.

Click on the audio player to this report in Punjabi. 

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