Australian Census data released

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released the results of the 2016 Census of Australian population. The Census shows an Australia which is more diverse and less religious, with a notable increase in Indigenous Australians.

The 2016 Census counted 23.4 million people living in Australia, an increase of 8.8% since the 2011 Census. Australia’s population has more than doubled in the 50 years since the 1966 Census, which counted 11.6 million people.

The results show a rapidly changing Australian society:

  • There are now more than 300 separately identified languages spoken in Australian homes. More than one-fifth (21%) of Australians spoke a language other than English at home.
  • More than two-thirds of Australians lived in a capital city. Between Censuses, the number of people living in capital cities grew nearly twice as fast as the number of people living outside of capital cities (10.5% and 5.7% respectively).
  • Sydney remains the largest city in Australia, growing by an average of 1,656 people per week between the 2011 and 2016. Melbourne however is catching up, growing by an average of 1,859 people per week over the same period.

Growth in Indigenous Australians

In the 2016 Census, 649,171 people identified as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin, making up 2.8% of Australians. The number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples has increased by 18% since the 2011 Census, when they made up 2.5% of Australians.

Stephen Patrick in The Australian reports that, “Aboriginal and Torres Strait ­Islander numbers have returned for the first time to the estimated pre-1788 level of about 750,000 people, in a population rise even more rapid than the Australian Bureau of Statistics had expected. Adjusting for the undercount, the census extrapolates to 786,689 the actual reported figure of 649,171 people.” (See a good analysis of the Indigenous numbers by ANU’s Nicholas Biddle and Francis Markham in The Conversation).

Since the 1996 Census, median age for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has been on the rise. Twenty years ago in 1996, the median age was 20. This had increased to 21 years in 2011, and increased again to 23 years in the five years to 2016. The median age for non-Indigenous people was 38 in 2016.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to have a much younger age profile and structure than the non-Indigenous population. In 2016, more than half (53%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were aged under 25 years. In comparison, almost one in three (31%) non-Indigenous people were aged under 25.

The difference between the two populations was also marked in the 65 years and over age group. The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 65 years and over was considerably smaller than for non-Indigenous people (4.8% compared to 16%).

The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 20 to 24 years who had completed Year 12 or its equivalent increased by more than a third between 2011 and 2016, from 37% to 47%. Over the same period, the proportion for non-Indigenous people increased slightly from 75% in 2011 to 79%. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 25 to 64 years were more likely than non-Indigenous people of the same age to have left school at Year 9 or below (19% compared with 6.7%). This is an improvement from 2011 for both groups (24% and 8.6% respectively).

For a good moving “infographic” of key Census figures done by the ABC, click here.

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