Australia - Demographics

Demographics

For almost two centuries the majority of settlers, and later immigrants, came from the British Isles. As a result the people of Australia are primarily of British and/or Irish ethnic origin. The 2011 Census asked respondents to provide a maximum of two ancestries with which they most closely identify. The most commonly nominated ancestry was English (36.1 per cent), followed by Australian (35.4 per cent), Irish (10.4 per cent), Scottish (8.9 per cent), Italian (4.6 per cent), German (4.5 per cent), Chinese (4.3 per cent), Indian (2.0 per cent), Greek (1.9 per cent), and Dutch (1.7 per cent). Asian Australians make up 12% of the population.

Australia's population has quadrupled since the end of World War I. Nevertheless, its population density, 2.8 inhabitants per square kilometre, remains among the lowest in the world. Much of the population increase came from immigration. Following World War II and through to 2000, almost 5.9 million of the total population settled in the country as new immigrants, meaning that nearly two out of every seven Australians were born in another country. Most immigrants are skilled, but the immigration quota includes categories for family members and refugees. By 2050, Australia's population is currently projected to reach around 42 million.

In 2011, 24.6% of Australians were born elsewhere and 43.1% of people had at least one overseas-born parent; the largest immigrant groups were those from the United Kingdom, New Zealand, China, India, Italy, Vietnam, and Philippines.

Over 80 percent of Australia's population is of European ancestry, and most of the rest are of Asian heritage, with a smaller minority of indigenous (Aboriginal) background. Following the abolition of the White Australia policy in 1973, numerous government initiatives have been established to encourage and promote racial harmony based on a policy of multiculturalism. In 2005–06, more than 131,000 people emigrated to Australia, mainly from Asia and Oceania. The migration target for 2012–13 is 190,000, compared to 67,900 in 1998–99.

The Indigenous population—mainland Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders—was counted at 548,370 (2.5 per cent of the total population) in 2011, a significant increase from 115,953 in the 1976 census. The increase is partly due to the fact that previously, many people with Indigenous heritage were overlooked by the census due to undercount and cases where their Indigenous status had not been recorded on the form.

Indigenous Australians experience higher than average rates of imprisonment and unemployment, lower levels of education, and life expectancies for males and females that are 11–17 years lower than those of non-indigenous Australians. Some remote Indigenous communities have been described as having "failed state"-like conditions.

In common with many other developed countries, Australia is experiencing a demographic shift towards an older population, with more retirees and fewer people of working age. In 2004, the average age of the civilian population was 38.8 years. A large number of Australians (759,849 for the period 2002–03; 1 million or 5% of the total population in 2005) live outside their home country.

Largest populated areas in Australia
Rank City Name State Pop. Rank City Name State Pop.
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Sydney

Melbourne

1 Sydney NSW 4,605,992 11 Greater Hobart TAS 216,276
2 Melbourne VIC 4,169,103 12 Geelong VIC 174,087
3 Brisbane QLD 2,146,577 13 Townsville QLD 167,636
4 Perth WA 1,832,114 14 Cairns QLD 146,477
5 Adelaide SA 1,262,940 15 Darwin NT 129,062
6 Gold Coast-Tweed QLD / NSW 576,747 16 Toowoomba QLD 125,265
7 Newcastle NSW 540,002 17 Launceston TAS 107,746
8 Canberra-Queanbeyan ACT / NSW 418,292 18 Albury-Wodonga NSW / VIC 103,209
9 Wollongong NSW 288,101 19 Ballarat VIC 95,007
10 Sunshine Coast QLD 241,643 20 Bendigo VIC 89,666

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