Census 2016: Five ways Australia is getting more diverse

Diversity in the Australian community is flourishing, according to fresh Census data.


Two women raise their right hands during an Australia Day citizenship ceremony in the city of Waneroo, in Perth's north, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017. Source: AAP

Australia's increasingly close ties with its international neighbours are evident throughout many of the 68.9 million pieces of data published by the ABS for Census 2016 on Tuesday morning.

This handful of insights about diversity is the first glimpse of the trove of information released.

More than one million more migrants

In total 1.3 million new migrants have moved to Australia since 2011. India with 163,000 and China with 191,000 are the largest sources.

Subtracting those who have left in the past five years, the total number of people living in Australia who were born overseas increased by 870,000 between 2011 and 2016.

That’s a rise from 24.6 per cent to 26.3 per cent - more than one in four Australian residents.

By share of population, Australia has the ninth-largest group of migrants in the world, ahead of Spain, Italy, New Zealand and Canada according to a comparison of UN data from 2015. The US has the largest total - 47 million - but at 14 per cent, its share is only a little over half of Australia’s.

It’s no surprise that capital cities are growing twice as fast as rest of the country, with 86 per cent of migrants who have arrived in the last 25 years settling in our capital cities.

Religion down, but not for all faiths

The shifting of the “no religion” response to the top of the list of responses on the Census form was a major reason for a bump in that share of Australians from 22 per cent of the population in 2011 to 30 per cent in 2016.

The share of Christians actually dropped by a greater amount - 61 to 52 per cent over the same time frame.

The group of Catholics declined from 25 to 23 per cent, Anglicans from 17 to 13 per cent and each of the minor Christian denominations also recorded reductions.

But non-Christian religions actually grew in their share of the population, from 7 to 8 per cent due to small increases across Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism.

Religion chart
Source: SBS World News

A country of young Asian-Australians

If migration to Australia in the 20th century was headlined by post-war moves by Italians and Greeks, the 2016 Census makes it clear a new era has arrived.

The median age of Australian residents born in Europe is 59, while for those born in Asia the figure is 35.

England remains the country of birth most common outside of Australia. In the past 10 years more than three times as many arrivals have come from India and China compared with from England.

Fifty years ago people born in China and India accounted for less than 2 per cent of Australia’s residents. Today, it’s 16 per cent.

And 38 per cent of students attending university or a tertiary education institution were born overseas.

Share of English-speaking households shrinks

The number of people who spoke English only at home topped 17 million for the first time, an increase of more than 500,000 compared to 2011.

But the share of this group actually declined from 77 per cent in 2011 to 73 per cent in 2016.

Mandarin has consolidated its position as the second-most commonly spoken language in Australia after English, and Cantonese has knocked Italian - in 2011 it was the third most-common language - down to fifth. 

Indigenous advantage

The proportion of people who reported as having Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin grew to 649,000 from 550,000 in 2011.

That figure has nearly doubled since 1996.

Most of the growth is in New South Wales and Queensland, which both recorded increases in the Indigenous population of more than 20 per cent since 2011.

4 min read
Published 27 June 2017 at 9:02am
By Jackson Gothe-Snape