Demographics of Australia

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Growth of number of inhabitants (in thousands) from 1961-2003. Data from FAO, year 2005

The demographics of Australia start with the arrival of Australia's indigenous people, a hunting-gathering people, the Australian Aborigines, who were estimated to have arrived between 50,000-60,000 years ago. Although their technical culture remained static—depending on wood, bone, and stone tools and weapons—their spiritual and social life was highly complex. Most spoke several languages, and confederacies sometimes linked widely scattered tribal groups. Aboriginal population density ranged from 1 person per square mile along the coasts to 1 person per 35 square miles in the arid interior. Food procurement was usually a matter for the nuclear family and was very demanding, since there was little large game, and outside of some communities in the fertile south-east, they had no agriculture. Australia may have been sighted by Portuguese sailors in 1601, and Dutch navigators landed on the forbidding coast of modern Western Australia several times during the 17th century. Captain James Cook claimed it for Great Britain in 1770. At that time, the native population was around half a million, divided in as many as 500 tribes speaking many different languages. The Aboriginal population currently numbers more than 300,000, representing about 1.7% of the population. Since the end of World War II, efforts have been made both by the government and by the public to be more responsive to Aboriginal rights and needs.

Today, many tribal Aborigines lead a settled traditional life in remote areas of northern, central, and western Australia. In the south, where most Aborigines are of mixed descent, most live in the cities.

European arrivals

File:Australian population data as a percentage 1881-2000.png
Colony/state populations as a percentage of total population

Main article: Australian immigration

Immigration has been a major factor in Australia's development since the beginning of European settlement in 1788. For generations, most settlers came from Britain and Ireland, and the people of Australia are still predominantly of British or Irish origin, with a culture and outlook similar to that of the United Kingdom and the United States.

Between 1839 and 1900 over 18,000 Germans came to Australia, especially the south; by 1890 they were the largest non-British section of the population. Some were persecuted Lutherans, others were economic or political refugees, for example the Forty-Eighters who fled Germany after the revolutions in 1848.

Since the end of World War II, the population has more than doubled; non-European immigration, mostly from the Middle East and Asia, has increased significantly since 1945 through an extensive, planned immigration program. From 1945 through 1996, nearly 5.5 million immigrants settled in Australia, and about 80% have remained; nearly one of every four Australians is foreign-born. Britain and Ireland have been the largest sources of post-war immigrants, followed by Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Greece, New Zealand, and the former Yugoslavia. [1]

The 1970s saw progressive reductions in the size of the annual immigration program due to economic and employment conditions; in 1969-70, 185,000 persons were permitted to settle, but by 1975-76 the number had dropped to 52,700. Immigration has slowly risen since. In 1995-96, Australia accepted more than 99,000 regular immigrants. In 1999-2000, Australia accepted 82,000 new immigrants. In addition, since 1990 about 7,500 New Zealanders have settled in Australia each year.

  • 1999-2000: 82,000
  • 2000-2001: 107,336
  • 2001-2002: 88,900
  • 2002-2003: 93,914
  • 2003-2004: 111,590

Settler Arrivals 1993-94 to 2003-04 (293KB, PDF)

  • 2004-2005: 120,000
  • 2005-2006: 130,000 - 140,000 (projected)

Australian immigration

Current situation

File:Australian population.PNG
The trend of population growth in Australia. The rate of population growth increased following the discovery of gold in 1851 and following World War II.

Australia's refugee admissions of about 12,000 per year are in addition to the normal immigration program. In recent years, the government has given priority to refugees from the former Yugoslavia, the Middle East, and Africa. In recent years, refugees from Indochina and the former Yugoslavia have comprised the largest single element in Australia's refugee program.

Emigration now also plays a role in changing Australian demographics. The term, Australian Diaspora, refers to the 850,000 Australian citizens who today live outside Australia. This phenomenon is relatively new in Australia's history, estimated as having occurred over the last 40 years. Awareness of this demographic (almost 5% of the Australian population) is growing and supported by government initiatives.

Although Australia has scarcely more than two persons per square kilometer of total land area, this raw figure is highly misleading: most of the continent is desert or semi-desert and of limited agricultural value. In consequence, Australia is one of the world's most urbanized countries: less than 15% of the population live in rural areas.

Demographic data from the CIA World Factbook


20,281,400 (March 2005 - ABS)

Age structure

0-14 years: 19.8% (male 2,038,809/female 1,943,563)
15-64 years: 67.2% (male 6,815,600/female 6,695,189)
65 years and over: 12.9% (male 1,145,274/female 1,452,002) (2005 est.)

Median age

Total: 36.56 years
Male: 35.74 years
Female: 37.4 years (2005 est.)

Population growth rate

1.1% (March 2005 - ABS)

Birth rate

12.26 births/1,000 population (2005 est.)

Death rate

7.44 deaths/1,000 population (2005 est.)

Net migration rate

3.91 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2005 est.)

Sex ratio

At birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
Under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.79 male(s)/female
Total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2005 est.)

Infant mortality rate

Total: 4.69 deaths/1,000 live births
Male: 5.08 deaths/1,000 live births
Female: 4.27 deaths/1,000 live births (2005 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

Total population: 80.39 years
Male: 77.52 years
Female: 83.4 years (2005 est.)

Total fertility rate

1.76 children born/woman (2005 est.)


Adult prevalence rate: 0.1% (2003 est.)
People living with HIV/AIDS: 14,000 (2003 est.)
Deaths: less than 200 (2003 est.)


Noun: Australian(s)
Adjective: Australian

Ethnic groups

Caucasian 92%, Asian 7%, aboriginal and other 1%


Roman Catholic 26.6%, Anglican 20.7%, other Christian 20.7%, non-Christian 4.8%, no Religions 15.5%, undescribed 11.7%


Official: English
Most common languages other than English: Chinese languages, Italian, Greek
Indigenous: Australian Aboriginal languages, Australian Deaf Sign Language


Definition: age 15 and over can read and write
Total population: 100%
Male: 100%
Female: 100% (1980 est.)


Template:CIA WFB 2005

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 3101.0 Australian Demographic Statistics

See also : Australia, Education in Australia, List of cities in Australia, Culture of Australia, Immigration to Australia

External link

es:Demografía de Australia pt:Demografia da Austrália