Collage of individual photos of diverse people

The results of the latest national Census reveal we’re a fast changing, ever-expanding, culturally diverse nation. The Census has helped update Australia’s estimated resident population, which had grown to 24.4 million people by 31 December 2016.

23,717,421 people were counted 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.

The Census found that New South Wales remains our 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).

Yet it’s the home of the nation’s capital – 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.

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 our new arrivals.

While the majority of migrants settle in Sydney and Melbourne, most Kiwis 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 the Sunshine State.

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 our history, the majority of people born overseas are now from Asia, not Europe.

At the same time, we remain 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.

Australians are getting older. The 2016 Census found that there are 664,473 additional people aged 65 and over since 2011. Tasmania is our most experienced state, with nearly one in five people aged 65 and over. The Apple Isle also recorded Australia’s highest median age (42 years), ahead of South Australia (40 years).

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 W. Kalisch said the ABS was pleased to deliver this valuable dataset for Australia, emphasising it is high quality and acknowledging the participation of Australians.

“2016 Census data provides a detailed, accurate and fascinating picture of Australia and our communities,” Mr Kalisch said.

Census data is available free online. The ABS also runs free seminars.

Find out more about the Census Data Seminar series

Related items:

Census: NSW

Census: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population

Census: Multicultural

Census: Religion

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