First results of 2016 Census released by ABS

THE results of the latest national Census reveal Australia is a fast changing, ever-expanding, culturally diverse nation, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), who last week released the first results since the 2016 Census of Population and Housing was undertaken in August last year.

The Census has helped update Australia's estimated resident population, which has grown to 24.4 million people by December 31, 2016. The 2016 Census counted 23,717,421 people in Australia on Census night, which included 23,401,892 people who usually live in Australia– an 8.8 per cent increase from 2011. On Census night, over 600,000 Australians were travelling overseas.

Australia seen from space at night
Above: Australia seen from space at night / by Craig Mayhew and Robert Simmon.

The Census found that New South Wales remains the most populous state, with 7,480,228 people counted, ahead of Victoria in second (5,926,624 people) and Queensland in third (4,703,193 people).

However, it was the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) that experienced the largest population growth of any state or territory over the past five years, adding more than 40,000 new residents – an increase of 11 per cent.

Located approximately 45 kilometres from the Perth CBD in the woody hills of the Darling Scarp, Serpentine - Jarrahdale showed the fastest regional growth in the country, with a population increase of 51 per cent to 27,000 people – up from 18,000 people in 2011. Gungahlin, a thriving northern area in the ACT, continues to flourish and is now home to 71,000 people, up from 47,000 in 2011 – an increase of 50 per cent.

Stretching from the beaches of Bondi and Manly to the Blue Mountains, Greater Sydney once again came in as Australia's largest population centre, with 4,823,991 people, with around 1,656 new people calling the city home every week since the last Census. However, Greater Melbourne is closing in fast with 4,485,211 people, increasing by around 1,859 people every week since 2011.

1.3 million new migrants have come to call Australia home since 2011, hailing from some of the 180 countries of birth recorded in the Census, with China (191,000) and India (163,000) being the most common countries of birth of the nation's new arrivals.

While the majority of migrants settle in Sydney and Melbourne, most New Zealanders choose to call Queensland home, with more than one in three (35 per cent) of the 98,000 New Zealanders who have arrived in Australia since 2011 settling in Queensland.

Of all Australian residents, just more than a quarter of people (26 per cent) said they were born overseas, with England remaining the most common country of birth other than Australia. However, with China, India, and the Philippines all in the top five, for the first time in history, the majority of people born overseas are now from Asia, not Europe.

At the same time, Australia remains a predominantly English-speaking country, with 72.7 per cent of people reporting they spoke only English at home. Tasmania had the highest rate of people speaking only English at home with 88 per cent, while the Northern Territory had the lowest rate at 58 per cent.

Australia also remains a predominantly religious country, with 60 per cent of people reporting a religious affiliation. However, the proportion of people reporting no religion increased to 30 per cent in 2016 – up from 22 per cent five years ago and nearly double the 16 per cent in 2001.

The 2016 Census found that there are 664,473 additional people aged 65 and over since 2011, with Tasmania recording Australia's highest median age (42 years), ahead of South Australia (40 years). One in five people in Tasmania are aged 65 and over.

The proportion of the people who reported as having Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin has increased again in 2016, accounting for 2.8 per cent of the population. With 649,171 people indicating that they have Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin, the population size has increased by 18.4 per cent since 2011, and nearly doubled since 1996.

Australian Statistician David Kalisch said the 2016 Census had a response rate of 95.1 per cent and a net undercount of 1.0 per cent, meaning the quality is comparable to both previous Australian Censuses and Censuses in other countries, such as New Zealand, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

"Sixty-three per cent of people completed the Census online, embracing the digital-first approach and contributing to faster data processing and data quality improvements," Mr Kalisch said.

More information about 2016 Census is available from the Australian Bureau of Statistics website at <>.

Photo: 'Australia seen from space at night' / Craig Mayhew and Robert Simmon, NASA/GSFC / Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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