Latest Census figures show where most people live in Australia

by Ray Clancy on October 11, 2017

in Australia

Most people in Australia live in cities in the Eastern side of the country with more than two thirds of the population living in a State capital, official figures show, with women making up over half of the nation.

Almost 80% of the population lives in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory, according to the latest Census 2016 data published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).


The population was 23.4 million on Census Day in 2016, an increase of 8.8% since the 2011 Census and Australia’s population has more than doubled from the 11.6 million recorded 50 years before in 1966.

Over 7.4 million live in New South Wales, almost six million in Victoria, 4.7 million in Queensland, almost 2.5 million in Western Australia, 1.6 million in South Australia, 509,000 in Tasmania, 397,000 in ACT and 228,000 in the Northern Territory.

The number of people living in all States and Territories has increased since the 2011 Census with ACT, Victoria and Western Australia having experienced the fastest growth between 2011 and 2016, with each increasing by 11%.

In 2016, more than two thirds of Australians lived in a capital city. Between Censuses, the number of people living in capital cities grew nearly twice as fast as the number of people living outside of capital cities at 10.5% and 5.7% respectively.

Sydney is still the largest city in Australia, growing by an average of 1,656 people per week between the 2011 and 2016 Censuses. Melbourne however is catching up, growing by an average of 1,859 people per week over the same period.

The 1981 Census was the first to count more women than men in Australia. Women have continued to outnumber men since, making up 51% of the population in 2016. The data also shows that the median age of all Australians increased to 38 years in 2016, after remaining 37 years since the 2006 Census.

The data shows how Australia’s ageing population. The proportion aged 65 and over has increased from 14% in 2011 to 16% in 2016 while the proportion of the population that is female increased with age. Of those aged 65 years and over, 54% are female compared to 63% of those aged 85 years and over.

The figures also point to Australia’s rich mix of cultural backgrounds and heritage, with the number of people living in Australia who were born overseas continuing to increase, up by almost one million people between 2011 and 2016 Censuses, rising from 25% of the population in 2011 to 26% in 2016.

While England and New Zealand remained the most common countries of birth after Australia, the proportion of people born in China and India has increased since 2011.

Across Australia, the median personal income was $662 per week, up from $577 per week in 2011. The ACT remained the state or territory with the highest median income in 2016 at $998 per week. Tasmania also remained the state with the lowest median income at $573 per week.

The 2016 Census counted 6.1 million families across Australia and there has been little change in the composition of Australian families between 2011 and 2016, although there has been considerable change in the 25 years since 1991.

Couple families with children remained the most common type of Australian family in 2016. However the proportion of Australian families they make up has decreased over time. In 1991, 54% of families were couples with children, dropping to 45% in 2016.

The proportion of couple families without children and single parent families has increased since 1991 from 32% to 28% and single parent families have increased from 13% to 16%. Over 900,000 single parent families were counted in 2016 and over 80% of single parents were female.

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