The 2016 Census: Australia at a glance

Photo: Bradley Kanaris/ Getty Images.

Australia is growing in terms of population but its people are getting older, more culturally diverse and less religious, according to data from the 2016 Census.

Here’s the quick view, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics:

The 2016 Census counted 23.4 million people living in Australia, an 8.8% increase since the last census in 2011.

The population has more than doubled in the 50 years since the 1966 Census, which counted 11.6 million.

Most live in the eastern mainland states. Almost 80% are in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and the ACT.

The ACT, Victoria and Western Australia grew the fastest, with each increasing by 11%.

More than two-thirds of Australians lived in a capital city. Between censuses, the number of people living in capital cities grew nearly at 10.5%, about twice as fast as those living outside the big cities.

Sydney, the largest city in Australia, grew by an average of 1,656 people a week between the 2011 and 2016. However, Melbourne is catching up, growing by an average of 1,859 a week.


Women continue to outnumber men, making up 51% of the population in 2016.

The proportion of the population that is female increased with age. Of those aged 65 years and over, 54% are female, compared to 63% of those aged 85 years and over.


We’re getting older. The median age rose to 38 years in 2016, after staying around 37 years since the 2006 census.

This is also highlighted by the increase in the proportion of the population aged 65 years and over, which grew to 16% in 2016 from 14% in 2011.


More aboriginal people. 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 people has increased by 18% since the 2011 census, when they made up 2.5% of Australians.

More than 60% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples lived in New South Wales and Queensland in 2016. One-quarter of people in the Northern Territory identified as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin.

The median age of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was 23 years in 2016. While considerably lower than the wider population, it has increased from 21 years in 2011.

Country of Birth

The number of people living in Australia who were born overseas increased by almost one million between the 2011 and 2016 censuses, rising from 25% of the population in 2011 to 26% in 2016.

While England and New Zealand are still the most common countries of birth after Australia, the proportion of people born in China and India has increased since 2011.

Here are the top five countries of birth:


The majority of Australians (60%) have a religion and the most common is still Christian.

However, the proportion those reporting a Christian religion has fallen to half in 2016 (52%) from almost three-quarters (74%) in 1991.

The proportion reporting a religion other than Christianity increased to 8.2% in 2016 from 2.6% in 1991. The most common are Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism.

Almost one-third (30%) say they don’t have a religion, an increased from 13% of Australians in 1991.

And fewer people are reporting Jedi (the mystical characters from the Star Wars movies) as a religion. The census says: “Jedi numbers are down — is this part of the move towards ‘no religion’, or are our minds just drifting from a galaxy far, far away?”


The median personal income is $662 per week. This has increased from $577 per week in 2011.

The ACT remains the state or territory with the highest median income — $998 per week. Tasmania also is still the state with the lowest — $573 per week.


The census counted almost 10 million dwellings across Australia. Most (8.9 million) are private homes with people living in them.

More than two-thirds (69%) had one family living in them. The proportion of one family households has continued to fall in the last 25 years. In 1991 one family households made up three-quarters of Australian households.

In 2016, almost one household in four was a person living alone. This increased from one in five households in 1991. Of the 2 million people living alone on census night, more than half (55%) were female.

Women living alone tended to be older than men who live alone. The median age of females living on their own was 64 years compared to 54 for males.

In 2016, the average number of people living in each household was 2.6 people, decreasing from 2.8 people in 1991.


The census counted 6.1 million families. There was little change in the composition of Australian families between 2011 and 2016, although there has been considerable change in the 25 years since 1991.

Couple families with children are still the most common type of Australian family. However the proportion of Australian families they make up has dipped over time. In 1991, 54% of families were couples with children, dropping to 45% in 2016.

The proportion of couple families without children and single parent families has increased since 1991. In 1991, 32% of Australian families were couple families without children, increasing to 38% in 2016.

Single parent families have increased from 13% of families in 1991 to 16% in 2016. More than 900,000 single parent families were counted in 2016 and over 80% of single parents were female.

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