Compared with 100 years ago, Australians today are older, have fewer children, are more likely to live in urban areas, and are more likely to be born overseas in countries other than the United Kingdom. Stimulated by the gold rushes of the 19th century, Australia's population had reached nearly four million by Federation in 1901. For the first part of the 20th century, natural increase was the main contributor to population growth, as better living conditions saw births outnumber deaths. However, following World War II in 1945, the total fertility rate grew, and Australia actively embarked on an immigration program to boost the population.
Counting The Australian Population
There are two ways the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) determines the size and characteristics of the population: the five-yearly Census of Population and Housing (Census) and quarterly estimates of the resident population. The Census can be counted by place of enumeration or by place of usual residences:
- Census counts by place of enumeration are a count of every person in Australia on Census Night, based on where they were located on that night. This may or may not be the place where they usually live. This count excludes Australian residents who were out of the country on Census Night and overseas diplomatic personnel and their families in Australia.
- Census counts by place of usual residences are a count of people based on where they usually live. This information is determined from responses to the question of usual residence on the census form. Visitors to an area are not included in the usual residence Census count.
- Estimated resident population (ERP) is the official estimate of the Australian population and based on Census counts by place of usual residence, to which are added the estimated Census net undercount (those people missed on Census night) and the number of Australian residents estimated to have been temporarily overseas on Census night. This calculation excludes short-term overseas visitors in Australia on Census night. Post-Census ERP is obtained by adding to the estimated population at the beginning of each period the components of the population—natural increase and net overseas migration.
In 2020, around 4.97 million people lived in Melbourne, making it the most populous city in Australia.
Australia: The ten largest cities in 2020 (in a million inhabitants)
Characteristic Inhabitants in millions
New South Wales is the most consistent performer in wealth and income and the only other state to have both income and wealth about the national average (12% on income and 13% on wealth).
Melbourne, Australia's largest urban area geographically with a population of just over four million, occupies the 32nd largest area in the world at 2,453 square kilometres, making it larger than London, home to 10.4 million people, and Mexico City, with 20.4 million residents.
According to Demographia's list, out of the 1,040 cities surveyed, Melbourne's population density of an estimated 1,500 people/ km2 is ranked 955th. The same Demographia-sponsored survey listed Sydney as 43rd in urban footprint size (2,037 km2).
As far as American city nomenclatures go, Melbourne could be called San Seattle! Melbourne has been likened to having the land area of Los Angeles but the population of San Francisco. In reality, greater Melbourne is about three quarters the size of greater L.A. and about half the population of greater San Francisco.
Melbourne is known for being one of the cleanest and greenest cities in the world. In 2015 it was named the world's most livable city by The Economist for the fifth year running.
OVERALL RISK: LOW. When the criminal against tourists is considered, Melbourne is believed to be a very safe city. The overall rating is 80% which makes it a place where tourists can feel safe walking around.
FAQs About People Live In Melbourne
Population Growth Of Melbourne
Looking back last eight years of Melbourne's population, the growth rate is very consistent, ranging from 1.67% to 6.23%, adding around 70,000 to 280,000 people each year to the overall population. Many workers were moving to Melbourne to take advantage of employment opportunities there, which contributed to the population growth. Also, overseas immigration number contributes to the growth.
Year Population Growth rate
- 2011 3.85 million n/a
- 2012 4.09 million 6.23%
- 2013 4.18 million 2.20%
- 2014 4.25 million 1.67%
- 2015 4.53 million 6.59%
- 2016 4.67 million 3.09%
- 2017 4.82 million 3.21%
- 2018 5.00 million 3.73%
- 2019 5.191 million 3.82%
- 2020 5.33 million 3.69%
Demography Of Melbourne
According to the Australian Census, the top five ancestries for Melbourne are: English, Australian, Irish, Scottish and Italian. The top five languages (other than English) spoken in Melbourne are Italian, Greek, Mandarin, Vietnamese and Cantonese. The top six countries of birth for people in Melbourne are Australia, England, India, China, New Zealand, and Italy. In Melbourne, 48.8% of people are married, 36.0% have never married, 7.4% are divorced, and 2.7% are separated. In addition, 162474 widowed people are living in Melbourne.
Population Density Of Melbourne
Melbourne's population density is 453 people per square kilometre, ranking as Australia's most populated state capital city. We are not surprised Melbourne has topped the list due to many people coming to Melbourne for jobs, education and entertainment from interstate and overseas. However, compared with other big cities like New York City or London, Melbourne's population density is very small.
Position City Population Density
- 1 Melbourne 453/km2
- 2 Adelaide 404.205/km2
- 3 Sydney 400/km2
- 4 Perth 317.736/km2
- 5 Canberra 173.3/km²
- 6 Brisbane 145/km2
- 7 Hobart 124.8/km2
- 8 Darwin 44.976/km2
Occupations And Industries
The main occupations of people living in Melbourne are 24.4% Professionals, 15.3% Clerical & administrative workers, 13.2% Technicians & trades workers, 12.5% Managers, 9.7% Sales workers, 8.9% Community & personal service workers, 7.9% Labourers, 5.8% Machinery operators & drivers, 2.3% Occupation inadequately described/ Not stated.
The main industries people from Melbourne work in are 11.1% Health care and social assistance, 10.8% Manufacturing, 10.6% Retail trade, 9.1% Professional, scientific and technical services, 8.0% Construction, 8.0% Education and training, 5.9% Accommodation and food services, 5.1% Public administration and safety, 5.0% Wholesale trade.
Components Of Population Growth
As mentioned above, there are two components to estimating population growth:
- Natural increase is the excess of births over deaths (measured by fertility rates and life expectancy).
- Net overseas migration (NOM) is the difference between incoming migrants and outgoing migrants. Net overseas migrant arrivals are all arrivals in Australia for 12 months or more during 16 months. These people are added to the ERP. Net overseas migrant departures are people counted in the ERP and then removed after being outside Australia for 12 months or more during 16 months. Short-term tourists in Australia for less than 12 months are not included in the count; however, international students in Australia studying for more than 12 months are included. The ABS uses the Department of Home Affairs (Home Affairs) data to calculate the official NOM estimates each quarter.
According To The Abs:
The official measure of the population of Australia is based on the concept of usual residence. It refers to all people, regardless of nationality, citizenship or legal status, who usually live in Australia, except for foreign diplomatic personnel and their families. It includes usual residents overseas for less than 12 months over 16 months. It excludes overseas visitors in Australia for less than 12 months over 16 months.
The relative contribution these two components make has changed considerably over time, as shown in Figure 1. For example, during 1976–1977, natural increase represented 66.6 per cent of Australia's population growth and NOM 33.4 per cent; by 2016–17 natural increase represented only 36.0 per cent of Australia's population growth with NOM at 64.0 per cent. Interestingly, the increase in NOM in recent years has not been caused by an increase in permanent settlers. Rather it has been driven by people staying in Australia on long-term temporary visas, such as overseas students and temporary skilled migrants (see Table 1 on page 5).
Population Growth In Australia
Since Federation, Australia's population has varied from periods of very high growth to periods of slow growth, as shown in Figure 2. During World War 1, there was negative population growth (-0.9 per cent in 1915–16) due to soldiers going overseas; emerging from World War 1, the population grew rapidly (3.3 per cent in 1918–19), followed by a considerable drop during the Great Depression of the 1930s (falling to 0.7 per cent in 1933–34). Following World War II, annual growth reached 3.4 per cent in 1949–50 and peaked at 4.5 per cent in 1971. During this period (the early 1950s to early 1970s), the average annual growth was 2.2 per cent. After a relatively slow growth period during the 1980s and 1990s, Australia's population growth rate increased again in the mid-2000s peaking in 2008–09 at 2.1 per cent. In 2016–17, the growth rate was 1.7 per cent.
It is important to note that Australia's population growth varies widely across states, territories, and sub-regions. In general, Australian cities have grown strongly whilst growth in regional areas has been mixed. Over the last decade, migration has contributed particularly strongly to population growth in Sydney, Perth and Melbourne. Regional population growth is discussed in more detail later in this Quick Guide.
Components Of Migration
A range of visa categories contributes to NOM, including temporary visas (i.e. students and long-term visitors), permanent settlers, plus Australians returning home or leaving the country.
According To The Abs:
Home Affairs manages and grants visas each year. It is important to note there is a difference between when Home Affairs issues a visa and when and how they may impact NOM and, therefore, Australia's estimated resident population. For example, there can be a lag between a visa being granted and the actual use of that visa by the applicant on entering Australia for many visas. Also, some travellers who have been granted permanent or long-term temporary visas may end up staying in Australia for a short period of stay or not at all. In addition, travellers may also apply for and be granted a different visa whilst in Australia or overseas. However, without an additional border crossing within the reference quarter to capture a traveller's visa change, the NOM system cannot show these occurrences.
In short, the ABS cannot account for the transition between visa categories after arrival, such as a student moving from a temporary to a permanent visa.
Table 1 provides a breakdown of visa categories by NOM and clearly shows temporary visa holders were the main contributors to NOM in both 2006–07 and 2016–17 financial years (61.5 per cent and 70.7 per cent respectively).
- (a) Represents the number of visas based on the visa type at the time of a traveller's specific movement. It is this specific movement that has been used to calculate NOM. Therefore the number of visas in this table should not be confused with information on the number of visas granted by Home Affairs.
- (b) Data for 2016-17 is preliminary
As noted previously, NOM refers to the number of persons arriving in Australia minus the number leaving and, in some instances, can result in a negative value. For example, in Table 1, NOM for Australian citizens (2016–17) is minus 14,250 because there were fewer arrivals (78,890) compared to departures (93,140), resulting in a negative NOM.
- The areas with the largest growth were:
- Riverstone - Marsden Park (up by 8,900 people) in Sydney's outer north-west
- Cranbourne East (6,300) in Melbourne's outer south-east
- Cobbitty - Leppington (4,900) in Sydney's outer south-west
The areas with the highest growth rates were:
- Mickleham - Yuroke (up by 33%) in Melbourne's outer north
- Rockbank - Mount Cottrell (29%) in Melbourne's outer west
- Riverstone - Marsden Park (28%)
Outside of the capital cities:
- Pimpama (up by 2,700 people) on Queensland's Gold Coast had the largest growth
- Pimpama also had the highest growth rate (14%)
- Areas with the highest growth rates
Population change, Greater Melbourne increased by 80,100 people (1.6%), the rest of the state increased by 19,700 (1.3%).
- The areas with the largest growth were:
- Cranbourne East (up by 6,300 people) in Melbourne's outer south-east
- Mickleham - Yuroke (3,700) and Wollert (3,300), both in Melbourne's outer north
- The areas with the highest growth rates were:
- Mickleham - Yuroke (33%)
- Rockbank - Mount Cottrell (29%) in Melbourne's outer west
- Wollert (20%)
- Components of population change
- Cranbourne East had the largest natural increase (1,100 people) and the largest net internal migration gain (4,800 people).
- Inner-city Melbourne had the largest net overseas migration gain (1,800 people).
Facts About Melbourne
- The world's first feature film, the Story of the Ned Kelly Gang, was filmed and made in Melbourne in 1906.
- Thirty-eight per cent of the population in Melbourne was born overseas as of 2013.
- Melbourne's Chinatown, established in 1854, is one of the oldest in the world. It is also home to the world's longest Chinese dragon at more than 100 meters in length.
- The city is also famous for its fantastic unpredictable weather, and there are chances you get to taste all four seasons in just a day.
- MELBOURNE was named the world's top sports events city in 2006. It hosted the 1956 Olympic Games and the 2006 Commonwealth games.…
- Tallest building: Eureka Tower (300m), the tallest residential building globally!
- Melbourne was originally named 'Batmania' after one of its founding fathers, John Batman.
- Melbourne's maximum temperature ever recorded was 46.4 degrees Celsius in 2009, and the minimum was -2.8 degrees Celsius in 1869.
The rate of population growth has increased since the mid-2000s. Overseas migration is now the main driver of this, making up about 64 per cent of population growth (2017). By 2018, Australia's population had increased to 25 million people. This guide provides an overview of the drivers of Australia's growing population and introduces the key concepts and terminology used.