More people than ever are living in Australia's major cities and they are projected to see their populations jump even further in the next 40 years with Melbourne becoming the largest city.

New figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows that the nation's state capitals packed in more than three times as many new residents as the rest of Australia in the year to June 2013.


Melbourne is projected to overtake Sydney to become Australia's largest city by 2053​

In 2013, two in three, or 66%, of people lived in a capital city, a slight increase since 1973 when 65% lived in a capital. By 2053, this share is projected to increase to 72% or 28 million people.

In the last 40 years some 89% of the growth in capitals occurred in the four largest cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, with Perth and Brisbane more than doubling in population. Darwin had the highest growth rate at 191% while Hobart grew by just 36%, the lowest.

Sydney and Melbourne each grew by almost 1.7 million people between 1973 and 2013, although the overall growth rate for Melbourne was higher at 62% compared with 54%. ABS director of demography, Denise Carlton, said that this reflects Melbourne's comparatively higher growth rates in recent years.

If current trends prevail, Melbourne is projected to overtake Sydney to become Australia's largest capital city by 2053. Melbourne accounted for 76% of Victoria's population at June 2013. Population growth in Greater Melbourne equated to 89% of Victoria's total growth in 2012/2013.

Of the four largest capitals, Perth has seen the fastest growth over the past 40 years. Perth has grown by around 1.2 million people since 1973, exceeding Adelaide's population in 1984. While Brisbane has grown by a similar number of people, Perth is growing at a faster rate and is projected to overtake Brisbane in 2028.

Currently, Perth and Darwin are the fastest growing capital cities. Between 2012 and 2013, Perth grew fastest at 3.5%, followed by Darwin at 3%, Melbourne at 2.2% and Brisbane at 2.1%.

Within the states and territories, population growth tended to be most prominent in outer suburbs, inner cities, urban infill areas and along the coast. Areas that declined include regional areas and long established suburbs within capital cities.

Many areas which experienced strong growth were located on the fringes of capital cities, where more land tends to be available for subdivision and housing development. South Morang, on the northern outskirts of Greater Melbourne, had the largest growth in the country in 2012/2013. Point Cook, on the southern fringe of Greater Melbourne, and Craigieburn in Mickleham in the north, also had large growth.

Generally, the most prominent growth outside of capital cities between 2012 and 2013 occurred along the coast of Australia. Upper Coomera-Willow Vale on the Gold Coast, had the largest increase outside of Australia's capitals, followed by Deeragun, west of Townsville's central business district.

In Western Australia, the southern coastal areas of Busselton and Australind-Leschenault saw growth, as did Karratha in the north and Broome. While in Victoria the coastal area of Torquay in Geelong had the largest growth in the state outside of Greater Melbourne. Highton, Leopold and Grovedale also had large increases.

Population density at June 2013 was highest within Greater Capital Cities, particularly in Greater Sydney. Eight of the country's top 10 most densely populated areas were in Greater Sydney, including Pyrmont-Ultimo, which had the highest, at 14,300 people per square kilometre, followed by Potts Point-Woolloomooloo, Darlinghurst (13,300) and Surry Hills.

Within Greater Melbourne, the areas with the greatest population densities were inner city Melbourne at 12,400 people per square kilometre, followed by neighbouring Carlton, New Farm and Kangaroo Point.