2016 Census shows a growing, ageing, and more culturally diverse Australia

Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Source: The Australian Bureau of Statistics Infographic 

The Census results, released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics today, reveal a picture of a changing Australia. Our nation is larger, older, more culturally diverse and less religious than at any other time in history.

A nation of 24.6 million and growth of 8.8% since the 2011 Census

On Census night in 2016, 23.4 million individuals who normally live in Australia were counted – an 8.8% increase from 2011. This doesn’t include the 300,000 visitors, or the 600,000 Australians who were overseas at the time. As at 31 December 2016, the ABS estimates a total population of 24.4 million (and today it is 24.6 million).

While New South Wales (7.5 million) and Victoria (5.9 million) remain our largest states, the fastest growing states were the ACT (11.2% growth), followed by Victoria (10.7%) and Western Australia (10.5%).

Cities absorb most of Australia’s growth

Two thirds (67%) of our nation lives in Australia’s capital cities, which have grown twice as fast as the rest of Australia over the past five years (10.5% compared to 5.7% for the remainder of Australia).

Our biggest capital city remains Sydney (4.8 million) which has grown 9.8% in five years, while Melbourne (4.4 million) is not far behind and edging closer with 12.1% growth. Our fastest growing cities since 2011 have been Darwin (14% growth), Melbourne (12%) and Perth (12%).

Migration is the key growth driver, led by migrants from China and India

1.3 million new migrants from 180 nations have come to call Australia home since 2011, with most of them settling in Sydney and Melbourne. Of the more than 6 million migrants who call Australia home, 18% have arrived since the start of 2012.

China (191,000 migrants; 14.4% growth) and India (163,000 migrants; 12.3% growth) are the top places of birth for migrants since 2011. This is followed by migrants from the UK (8.3% growth), New Zealand (7.4% growth) and the Philippines (4.9% growth).

Nearly half of us are ‘first’ or ‘second’ generation Aussies

Migration has changed Australia’s cultural landscape. 26.3% of Australians are now born overseas (up from 24.6% in 2011). Australians are most likely to have had at least one parent born overseas (both parents Australian born has declined from 50.0% to 47.3%).

While most Australians (73%) speak only English at home, more than a fifth of Australians (21%) speak one of the 300 or more languages spoken across our nation. Mandarin (2.5%), Arabic (1.4%), Vietnamese (1.2%), and Cantonese (1.2%) are the most commonly spoken languages.

The top places of birth of all Australians who were born outside of Australia are England (3.9%, down from 4.2% in 2011), New Zealand (constant at 2.2%), China (2.2%, up from 1.5% in 2011), India (1.9%, up from 1.4% in 2011) and the Philippines (1.0%, up from 0.8%). European migrants tend to be much older than Asian born migrants, who are more likely to have come in recent years and are therefore younger.

Not only growing, but ageing

Australia has developed a middle-age spread as our population is ageing. As the proportion of the population aged over 50 has grown, the child and teenage population as a proportion has decreased. Those aged 65+ now represent 16% of the population (up from 14% in 2011). In Tasmania, Australia’s oldest state, almost one in five residents are aged 65 or older. Since 2011, the median age of an Australian has increased from 37 to 38.

Rise in single households

Since 2011, family households have declined in their proportion of all households (71.3% down from 71.5%), while single parent households have risen (from 24.3% to 24.4%), along with group households (from 4.1% to 4.3%).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population increased

Almost 650,000 individuals of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin were recorded in the Census, comprising 2.8% of our population nationally. This is an increase of 18% since 2011 and a doubling since 1996. More than 3 in 5 of Australia’s recorded Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population lives in New South Wales (33%) and Queensland (29%).

‘No religion’ the largest category of religion for the first time

Australia remains a predominantly religious country, with 60% reporting religious affiliation. More than half of Australians affiliate with Christianity (52%, down from 61% in the 2011 Census) while those who adhere to other religions (8%) has remained constant.

Islam (2.6%, increasing from 2.2% in 2011), Buddhism (2.4%; decreasing from 2.5%), Hinduism (1.9%; increasing from 1.3%), Sikhism (0.5%; increasing from 0.3%), and Judaism (0.4%; decreasing from 0.5%) are Australia’s largest ‘other’ religions.

‘No religion’ is now the single largest religious affiliation at 29.6% (larger than the most prominent Christian affiliation of Catholic at 22.6%), up from 21.8% in 2011.

Growing cost of living pressures in capital cities

Average household weekly incomes increased by 16.5%, from $1,234 in 2011 to 1,438. However, over the same period, median weekly rents increased by 17.5% (from $285 to $335 today). Median rent is highest in Sydney ($440/week) and Darwin ($420/week).

The proportion of Australians renting has increased to 30.9% (up from 29.6% in 2011), while 34.5% own their home with a mortgage (down from 34.9%) and 31% own outright (down from 32.1%).

Median mortgage repayments are highest in Sydney, Darwin, and Canberra, where mortgage repayments are well over $2,000 per month. Perth, Sydney & Melbourne have the highest proportion of mortgage holders who spend more than 30% of their income on their mortgage.

More than 1 in 5 Sydneysiders face ‘rental stress’ or ‘mortgage stress’

The housing crisis is greatest in Australia’s largest city. 8% of Sydneysiders face mortgage stress (paying more than 30% of their pre-tax income on their mortgage), and a further 14% face rental stress (paying more than 30% of their income to the landlord). Combined, 22% of Sydneysiders face significant housing affordability challenges.

Car ownership up

The proportion of households with no motor vehicles declined from 8.6% in 2011 to 7.5% in 2016. The proportion of households with two or more vehicles increased from 52.6% to 54.3%. While internet connections from home have increased since 2011, 14.1% of Australian households still do not access the internet from their dwelling.


For media commentary from our media team, please contact Kimberley Linco – kim@mccrindle.com.au or 02 8824 3422

Census Update - In the media

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Australian Census has been conducted every 5 years since 1911, and is the biggest democratic activity in Australia. While the election last year counted 14 million votes, the 2016 Census includes every household, age group, resident and visitor – all 24 million of us.

Here’s everything you need to know about the preliminary Census results, painting a picture of our changing nation.


The typical Australian is a 38 year-old Gen X woman, born in 1979, who can expect to live past the age of 85. She is married with two children and lives in one of Australia’s capital city (like 3 in 5 Australians), which is worth $825,980 and which she owns with a mortgage. She has $427,847 equity in their home, which is the bulk of her wealth. She works full-time and gets to work by car, along with 69% of all commuters.


We are ageing

The median age of Australians has increased from 37 to 38 (from the 2011 to the 2016 Census). Queensland has shown a strong leap in ageing (from 36 to 38), as has the Northern Territory (from a median age of 31 in 2011 to 34 in 2016).

We are culturally diverse

Three states (NSW, VIC, and WA) now feature their ‘typical’ resident as a person who has at least one parent born overseas. In NSW, China is now the top country of birth for residents born overseas and in VIC the top country for residents born overseas is India.

Owning a home outright is not as common anymore

The typical person across all of the states and territories now no longer owns a home outright, but with a mortgage. Only NSW and TAS feature the typical person who owns a home outright, and in the NT, the typical person is renting their home.

McCrindle In the media

Mark McCrindle on The Daily Edition

Eliane Miles on SBS News

Mark McCrindle on Seven News

McCrindle In the media

Welcome to our blog...

We have a passion for research that tells a story, that can be presented visually, that brings about change and improves organisations. And we hope these resources help you know the times.

Our Social Media Sites

Facebook | McCrindle Research Social Media YouTube | McCrindle Research Social Media Twitter | McCrindle Research Social Media Flickr | McCrindle Research Social Media Pinterest | McCrindle Research Social Media Google Plus | McCrindle Research Social Media LinkedIn | McCrindle Research Social Media Mark McCrindle Slideshare

Last 150 Articles


christian culturally diverse charity high density living baby names report communication workplace culture city curiosity priorities screenage new york times DIY What is food insecurity? Australians fears ashley mckenzie Mark McCrindle national crime rates financial planning CPI couple suburban living government community technology spirituality demographics acf15 women social media Financial Planning Association of Australia baby names australia report hornsby sydneycity Australian demographics keynote the changing face of Mount Annan-Currant Hill cancel plans Wodonga professional schools year 7 New Zealand media Geoff Brailey Willowdale the average aussie wealth data analyst speajer medicine education future report wages local communities Melbourne study February 16 families marrickville stats children wedding changing face of sydney train royal menai NBRS mythbusters safe in depth interviews employment infographics perth vegemite office opening housing SA Research Director resource emerging generations Engineering Manager census fail Real Estate case study data visualisation hopes land of the middle class the great screenage population growth grandparents young australians coffee lovers public speaking infographic Andrew Duffin publication earnings ABS village kate middleton long weekend baby name trends trades faith SMART The Daily Edition graphs System's Architect story crows nest environmental scanning travel demographic challenge cica culture 2016 census results Netflix learning styles logan baby boom capital cities google for education McCrindle Speakers community event population map Royals Kiwi omnibus celebration victoria the hills impact research financial fears VET sector Gen Y Generation Y toys leadership australian communities forum christmas #censusfail states optus property price learner offenders divorce rate tableau property market change politics choice workers professional speaker parenting brand experience meals emerging technologies sydneysider Generation X income innovative program ideas aged care market research fresh school satisfaction consumer presentations etiquette selfie capital city financial child care affordability Charlotte relevant non profit millionth house dreaming men cartodb australians staying home more list not-for-profit moderators guide Canberra Sydney Hills Business Chamber local community internship cancelling plans Education Future Forum educated ACF faux-cilising thrive future of education training generations award father's day darwin rent manly high density apartments NBRS Architecture chairty insights geomapping hunger business census data balance christianity debate Population Clock prince george define low density Research Executive finance Adelaide neutral bay names Kirsten Brewer brand financial dreams australia urban taskforce tea poker master group session Res Vis gig the lucky country cost of living school students census global generations Cobbitty-Leppington January 26th contiki visualisation tattoos sydneysiders middle class unaffordable religion Wellington energy students communications speakers pack growth purpose staying in the hills shire housing growth education sector growing population shifts forecast holidays organisations personalities Elderslie-Harrington park Tuesday Trends sunburnt country panel event skills VIC rising house prices donate Northern Beaches Christian School deloitte researcher housing market internet school healthy future optimistic marriage sydney metro commuters work 2016 census paying to work youth Do It Yourself research data pharmacies WA going out insight greatness waverton Hills Shire Council professional development sun NSW Australian Census Australia Day McCridle water Duchess of Cambridge volunteering data not for profit renter of the future alpha Crime Rates Northern Territory cars entrepreneur retirement friendship mover and shaker global financial crisis 24 million economic hello fresh happiness presentation earn giving rule keeper demographic trends volunteering home participants society trends post rationalism interactive 2014 unemployment sector wide study digital plans urban living index teachers social Skilling innovation gig economy click future of shopping 40 million Northern Beaches transport cost social shifts office social analysis Work place eliane miles food bank social researchers Territory affordable mateship report volunteers online bondi the australian dream SMSF results Christmas season 1980 GPO entrepreneurial 2012 REIV Conference language census results ipswich analysis data careers Caregiver households jobs of the future rental stress research on coffee micro apartments TED talk live the dream generation Z townhouses mccrindle tea goal mccrindle in the media housing trends future proofing ferry huffington post suburbs leadership workshop 2013 equip motivate high school tv world youth day wolloomooloo litter Western Australia networking eliane research report entertainment employers visual Jura Australia World Water Day social researcher Christmas presents qualitative research "know the times" ACF17 follow millenials australian resilience social commentator trends of 2017 Financial Planning Association royal family generational trends aussie culture ACF2017 10 years average sydneysider Sydney’s south west public holiday education future relational rich generation alpha Christmas lunch social change focus groups overcast average aussie 2015 statistics weather hills breakfast TDE financial independence ageing population rain Australian community trends sports environment EFF urban millennials population identity office space PSI Vocational education national wealth belief The ABC of XYZ ACT mentor hills shire ease of travel royal influence FPA Bathburst mobile English 1968 high density brands forecasting news weekly earnings small business social issues area food insecurity Social Trend REIV National Conference australian real estate winter blues dessert conference proactive baby names casual wage tuesday social trends housing affordability workforce employmee car vegetarian newspaper potts point Merry Christmas increasing densification hobart Christchurch collaboration Gen X anzac average Australian SRE social commentary outsourcing Sydney keynote speaker debt sydney event DESTEL investing volunteer workshop NEETs Hornsby Shire Council meetings sector survey tips jobs professional presenters house price marketing leader daily telegraph mortgage owning a home FOMO donation Deaths wealth inequality dreams typical australian customer professional services mother's day state career baby name predictions sydney hills care support internships coffee Valentine’s Day social impact lalor park futurist society forum gen alpha royal baby 1975 rise of local business index ultimo mccrindle Queensland: QLD easter staff australian community trends report baby boomers know the times wealth and income micro travelling survey design university degree not for profit research household award winner media commentary renting norwest commute engagement Tuesday Trend winter cloudy days 2020 entrepreneurs of today daily commute world food employmer mccrindle research storytelling australian communities trends report social lives media activity community engagement social enquiry teleworking Australia street keynote speaker narcissism apartments Channel Seven Aussie Births quote Real Estate Institute of Victoria Northern beaches Event cultural diversity criminal workplace dream IT Specialists in the media education spend learning Australian Trends friends twentyseventeen goals wealth and income distribution VET New Zeland earning Australian Home Australian Families 2017 baby nfp holiday responsive investment easy rider NT domestic divorce trends analyst public speaker recap Love sentiments future of work moreton bay mythbusting trend 24,000,000 speakers Myth cancelling event pyrmont tertiary education church budget communicate summer home owner parents 23 million bus cultural diveristy work-life census 2016 demography social research 1994 mining boom property poor infographic wall online shopping authenticity baby name research pack Assistant Store Manager trend tuesday local Australian communities Australian Population population milestone dare to dream family research visualisation TEDx Australia Day 2017 schools students slideshare future shopping centre trends of 2016 Jura Coffee princess charlotte emerging trends faux-cilise buildings personal growth wellbeing experience financial future Scouts events cooking snapshot residents real ACF 2016 business performance annual income student apartment aged care puzzle repayments optus my business awards conference presentation conference speaker consumerism young people pharmacy national private wealth google university socialising new office economy global shopper's pick James Ward suburb focus group social life TED gold coast research services clothing house prices learn NFP event 2016 life demographer woolworths showreel teach sector wide seasons lifestyle media release crime Australian Dream HSC living shopping sydney speaker video year 12 ageing future proof communities home ownership stay home salary Tasmania future-proof ethnography Financial Planning Week youth unemployment CBD organisational culture ashley fell JOMO socialites Aussies Australian schools Australian Bureau of Statistics Australian Communities Trends education research monarchy Macquarie University product house price rise intern supply and demand demographic transformations trends work mates ACT Report cold facts faux-ciliser blaxland New South Wales teaching Wagga Wagga speaker australian social research cash urban living builders TAS Channel 7 investor educhat thought leadership South Australia Sydney engage sustainable bureau grave decision charities wealth distribution brisbane megatrends conferences gen z shbc Queensland Word Up collaborative sunny days money group gender generation marriages teacher