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Most of Australia’s population is concentrated in two widely separated coastal regions. By far the larger of these, in terms of area and population, lies in the south-east and east. The smaller of the two regions is in the south-west of the continent. In both coastal regions the population is concentrated in urban centres, particularly the state and territory capital cities.
Source: Regional Population Growth, Australia and New Zealand (3218.0).
Geographic distribution of Indigenous Australians
The Indigenous population at 30 June 2001 was 458,500 of which 134,900 (29.4%) lived in New South Wales, 125,900 (27.5%) in Queensland, 65,900 (14.4%) in Western Australia and 56,900 (12.4%) in the Northern Territory. The Northern Territory had the largest proportion of its population who were Indigenous (28.8%) compared to 3.7% or less for all other states and the Australian Capital Territory (table 5.16).
While most of the Australian population is concentrated along the eastern and south-west coasts, map 5.17 shows the Indigenous population is more widely spread. The total population is contained within the most densely settled areas of the continent, while the Indigenous population live in areas covering more of the continent. This partly reflects the higher level of urbanisation among the non-Indigenous population than the Indigenous population. Indigenous people are much more likely to live in very remote areas than the non-Indigenous population. The SLAs with the highest number of Indigenous people per square kilometre were located in Darwin, whereas the SLAs with the highest densities for the population as a whole were located in Sydney.
5.17 INDIGENOUS POPULATION(a) DISTRIBUTION - 30 June 2001
Source: Census of Population and Housing: Population Growth and Distribution, Australia, 2001 (2035.0).
New South Wales is the most populous state, with 6.6 million people at 30 June 2002. From 1997 to 2002 the fastest growth occurred in Queensland, which grew over the five years by 9.2%, followed by Western Australia (7.4% over five years) and Victoria (6.0% over five years). Tasmania's population declined slightly over the five years to 30 June 2002 (-0.2%).
Table 5.18 sets out the ERP in major population centres at 30 June 1997 and 2002. Australia’s capital cities accounted for 66% of Australia’s population growth between 1997 and 2002, with Sydney (up 242,300 people) and Melbourne (up 214,500 people) experiencing the largest increases. The capital city with the fastest population growth over the 1997-2002 period was Brisbane (up by an average 1.8% per year), followed by Darwin (1.7% per year).
Between 1997 and 2002 large increases in population occurred on the outskirts of Australia’s capital cities. In Sydney, the Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Liverpool (C), Blacktown (C) and Baulkham Hills (A) experienced significant growth (up 32,300, 25,500 and 23,100 people respectively), while the largest growth in Melbourne occurred in the LGAs of Casey (C), Hume (C) and Melton (S) (up 37,900, 17,400 and 16,000 people respectively). This pattern of growth was also apparent in outer suburban areas in the smaller capital cities.
Many of Australia’s inner city areas, especially in the larger cities, grew rapidly in the five years to 30 June 2002. The LGA of the City of Sydney recorded Australia's highest average annual growth rate of 13.2%. The LGAs of Perth (up 8.2% per year) and Melbourne (up 5.4% per year) also experienced rapid growth between 1997 and 2002. The inner-Brisbane SLA of City - Inner was one of the fastest-growing SLAs in Queensland over this period.
Other major population centres experiencing significant population growth between 1997 and 2002 were the Statistical Districts of Gold Coast-Tweed on the Queensland-New South Wales border, which increased by an average 3.6% per year, Mandurah and Bunbury in Western Australia (up 3.5% and 3.3% per year respectively), and Sunshine Coast in Queensland (up 3.4% per year). Rapid population growth was also recorded in many LGAs elsewhere along the Queensland, New South Wales and Victorian coastline and in some LGAs in the south-west corner of Western Australia.
Some areas of Australia have experienced significant population decline in recent years. While some of the population declines have occurred in established areas within capital cities and major urban centres, the fastest population declines have occurred in rural areas. Most of this decline has been caused by net migration loss. Such population loss is associated with technological, social and economic changes and industry restructuring in local economies.
In 1901, 64% of Australians lived outside capital cities. This proportion fell steadily, and from 1962 only 40% lived outside capital cities. Between 1976 and 2002 the decline appeared to have halted, with a slight increase in the proportion of people living in the balance of states and territories (graph 5.19), which may have been due to people moving to coastal regions and other urban centres.
The main factor changing the distribution of Australia's population has been internal migration. During 2001-02, 392,100 people moved from one state or territory to another, 11,200 more than in the previous year (380,900).
In 2001-02, Victoria and Queensland recorded net interstate migration gains. All other states and territories experienced net losses due to interstate migration, although this was offset in all cases by growth due to natural increase and net overseas migration (table 5.20).