Australian Bureau of Statistics

Rate the ABS website
ABS Home > Statistics > By Release Date
ABS @ Facebook ABS @ Twitter ABS RSS ABS Email notification service
4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, April 2013  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 29/05/2013   
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All RSS Feed RSS Bookmark and Share Search this Product



ACT(a)(b): POPULATION, 1911-2011

(a) In 1911 and 1921, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) was named Federal Capital Territory.
(b) Excludes Jervis Bay.
Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing











Related terms:
Canberra, ACT, Centenary, Centenary of Canberra, Federal Capital Territory, ACT and region, Census, Australian Capital Territory, Australia's national capital.



INTRODUCTION

In 2013 Canberra is celebrating its centenary year. To mark this milestone, this article uses Census data from 1911 through to 2011 to highlight how Canberra has developed over the last 100 years.

Canberra is a relatively young city, but it has a rich history; from passionate and protracted debate about where it should be located and what its name should be, to the transformation of a sheep station into the diverse city-state that Canberra is today.

A CITY CALLED SHAKESPEARE?

In the years leading up to Federation in 1901, deciding where the new nation's capital city should be situated proved difficult, with both Sydney and Melbourne vying for the claim. Eventually a compromise was reached, and the newly formed Australian Constitution allowed for the creation of a Federal territory on the conditions that the site be in the state of New South Wales, and that it be at least 100 miles (160km) from Sydney. (Endnote 1) Towns such as Tumut and Bombala were proposed, but both sides initially agreed on the compromise of Dalgety, a village 20 kms south east of Jindabyne. (Endnote 2) King O’Malley (the Minister for Home Affairs in 1913) who also proclaimed his belief that 'cold climates have produced the greatest geniuses' (Endnote 3) proposed that the capital city of Australia be named ‘Shakespeare’. (Endnote 2)

Dalgety remained the unofficially nominated location of choice from 1903 to 1908, until a final ballot was held in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, which resulted in the Yass-Canberra region narrowly defeating other contenders to become the home of the future ‘bush capital’. While Canberra has grown into a major city, Dalgety remains a small rural locality, home to just 214 people at the 2011 Census.

The Canberra/Yass region was declared the Federal Capital Territory on 7 December 1909, and on 12 March 1913, Lady Denman officially declared "Canberra" as the name of Australia's future capital.

Although Federal Parliament moved to Canberra in 1927, the Two World wars and the Great Depression slowed the capital's early growth. In 1954, the city of Canberra was still described as a ‘place of makeshift buildings which displayed an utter lack of vision on a national scale’. (Endnote 4) Another commentator of the time noted that Canberra ‘had the best lit paddocks in Australia’, referring to infrastructure far outrunning actual housing at the time. (Endnote 5)

It wasn’t until 1964 when Lake Burley Griffin was finally completed that the Canberra landscape we see today began to take shape.

POPULATION

At the time of Australia's first national Census in 1911, there was little hint of the Canberra that exists today. The 1911 Census recorded 1,714 people in the Australian Capital Territory (then the Federal Capital Territory) on Census night. Walter Burley Griffin's winning design for Australia's national capital was still two years away.

By 1961, the number of people living in the renamed Australian Capital Territory (ACT) had grown to 58,828 (including 527 in Jervis Bay). The Government was expecting the population to grow to 100,000 people by 1969. (Endnote 6) By 30 June 1970, the population for the ACT was 133,050 people, greatly exceeding those expectations.

According to the 2011 Census, there were 355,600 people resident in Canberra, living across 100 suburbs, and just under 1,000 people living in the surrounding ACT.

ACT(a)(b): POPULATION, 1911-2011

(a) In 1911 and 1921 ACT was named Federal Capital Territory.
(b) Excludes Jervis Bay.
Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing

CANBERRA, POPULATION DENSITY - 2011

Source: ABS 2011 Census of Population and Housing

ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER PEOPLES

For thousands of years the ACT region has been home to Aboriginal people. Evidence of their long occupation exists in archaeological evidence found at Birrigai Rock Shelter at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, (Endnote 7) in rock paintings in Namadgi National Park (Endnote 8) and in other places throughout the ACT.

Only incomplete counts of Aboriginal people in the region are available until late in the 20th Century, following the 1967 Referendum. This referendum resulted in an amendment of the Constitution which required that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people be included in official population estimates. This change is reflected in all counts from 1971 onwards. (Endnote 9)

In 1971, 255 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lived in the ACT, accounting for 0.2% of the population. In the 2011 Census, there were 5,184 people who identified themselves as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin (1.5% of ACT's usual residents).

AGE AND SEX

Over the last 100 years the ACT's population has aged in line with that of Australia. In 1911, the median age was 23, in 1961 it was 24, and in 2011 it was 34. This was three years younger than the Australian median age in 2011 (37 years), and was the second youngest of all states and territories, with only the Northern Territory having a younger median age (31).

MEDIAN AGE, ACT AND AUSTRALIA - 1911, 1961 AND 2011

Source: ABS Australian Historical Population Statistics, 2008 (cat. no. 3105.0.65.001), ABS Australian Demographic Statistics, Sep 2012 (cat. no. 3101.0)

The relatively young age of the ACTs population reflects the ACT being an employment and education centre in the region, attractive for graduates and providing study opportunities for local and overseas students. In 2011, there were more people aged 20-29 than any other age group (17% of all ACT usual residents). Of people aged 20 to 29 years living in the ACT, 68% had lived interstate or overseas five years earlier. The next largest group were aged 30-39 years.

Consistent with this, the ACT had a relatively lower proportion of its population aged 60 years or more, with 16% of ACT usual residents in this age group, compared with 20% for Australia as a whole.

ACT: AGE DISTRIBUTION, 2011

Source: ABS 2011 Census of Population and Housing

In 1911, the Federal Capital Territory was being built by construction workers on farmland still partially populated by farmers and livestock, which was reflected in the number of males for every 100 females. There were 137 males for every 100 females in 1911 (higher than the national average of 108). In 1961, this had fallen to 110 males for every 100 females (still higher than the national average of 102). In 2011, the ACT was populated by people predominantly working in government and service industries - industries that are more likely to have a higher proportion of women than construction and farming. Reflecting this, there was a ratio of 98 males to 100 females, the same as the national average.

MARRIAGE AND PARTNERSHIPS

Reflecting the young age of the population at the time, and the large numbers of single men, in 1911 only 44% of people aged 15 years and over in the Federal Capital Territory were, or had been, married.

In 1961, 67% of people aged 15 years and over reported they were married. In 2011, just under half the population aged 15 years and over were married (48%), although an additional 11% indicated they were in de facto partnerships.

As of the 2011 Census, same-sex couples accounted for 1.1% of all couples in the ACT, the highest proportion of any state or territory. New South Wales had the next largest percentage, with same-sex couples making up 0.8% of all couples in the state.

CULTURAL DIVERSITY

In the 1911 Census, 179 people (10%) in the Federal Capital Territory indicated they were born overseas. The majority of this group were born in Britain and Ireland (90%). Only 10 people indicated a birthplace outside of Europe.

By 1961, over a quarter of people counted in the ACT on Census night (27%) stated they were born overseas. Of these overseas born, the most common country of birth was England (27%), followed by Germany (10%), Italy (8%), and the Netherlands (7%), reflecting Australia's intake of predominantly European migrants in the 1950s.

In 2011, the proportion of ACT residents born overseas was 24%, representing over 86,000 usual residents born in one of around 180 different countries. Countries in Asia now accounted for more than 39% of people born overseas, up from just 4% in 1961. Further, almost 44% of all ACT residents indicated that either their mother, their father or both parents were born overseas.

Many of the ACT's overseas born were relatively recent arrivals, with 33% having arrived in Australia in the ten years to 2011.

REGION OF BIRTH, PEOPLE BORN OVERSEAS, ACT - 1911, 1961 and 2011

Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 1911, 1961 and 2011

TOP FIVE COUNTRIES OF BIRTH FOR PEOPLE BORN OVERSEAS, ACT - 1911, 1961 and 2011

1911
1961
2011



England
51.4%
England
26.5%
England
15.1%
Ireland
24.6%
Germany
9.6%
China
7.6%
Scotland
12.8%
Italy
8.1%
India
6.8%
New Zealand
2.2%
Netherlands
7.4%
New Zealand
5.1%
USA/Germany
1.7%
Scotland
6.7%
Vietnam
3.4%

Source: Census of Population and Housing, 1911, 1961 and 2011

In 2011, 19% of ACT usual residents aged five and over indicated that they spoke a language other than English at home. The most common languages other than English were Mandarin (1.8%), Italian (1.5%), Arabic (1.4%), Cantonese and Greek ( both 1.3%).

RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION

In 1911, 97% of all residents living in the Federal Capital Territory identified themselves as Christian, and in 1961, 89% of ACT residents identified themselves as Christian. However, by 2011, the proportion of ACT residents identifying as Christian had dropped to 55%. This was the lowest proportion of any state or territory.

In 2011, 7% of ACT usual residents identified with a religion other than Christianity. The most common were Buddhism (2.6%), Islam (2.1%), and Hinduism (1.7%). A further 29% of ACT residents reported that they had no religion. Along with Tasmania, this was the highest proportion of any state or territory.

PROPORTION OF PEOPLE AFFILIATED WITH SELECTED RELIGIONS, ACT - 2011

Source: ABS 2011 Census of Population and Housing

WORKING IN THE AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY

The ACT has always enjoyed relatively high labour force participation. Historically, social norms meant women's participation in the labour force was low. However for men, participation has generally been high. Among the 719 men aged 15 years and over who lived in the Federal Capital Territory in 1911, just 14 were not working. Keeping with the social norms of the time, the majority of women were dependents.

In 1961, this pattern continued, with 92% of men participating in the labour force, while a majority of women were still not participating in the labour force. In 2011, high labour force participation continued in the ACT, with high rates for both men and women (77% and 69% respectively).

The types of jobs people were employed in a hundred years ago in Canberra were very different to those of today. Australia as a whole has evolved over the 20th century from a nation of predominantly farming and manufacturing industries, to one more reliant on service industries. (Endnote 10) Over the past 100 years, Canberra has evolved to be a city of predominantly government and service industries.

In 1911, there were 800 people employed in the Federal Capital Territory. The majority of them were farmers (53%) and industrial workers (27%).

By 1961, 25,015 people were employed in the ACT. Construction workers still made up 16% of workers, but farming employed less than 3% of workers. Around one in five women (22%) were in paid employment, which was equal highest (with Victoria) of any state or territory.

In 1961, women were mainly employed in occupations such as nursing, teaching and hospitality and very few women worked as medical practitioners or lawyers. The 3,500 women employed by the Commonwealth Government were predominantly typists and stenographers.

Between 1961 and 2011, while numbers in traditionally female occupations like nursing and teaching remained high, more women were now working in greater variety of occupations. In 1961, there were 13 female medical practitioners the ACT, accounting for 13% of all doctors in the ACT. By 2011, women comprised 44% of all doctors. In 1961, 7% of lawyers in the ACT were women, but by 2011, women accounted for 54%. While there were no female fire-fighters and less than a handful of female police officers in 1961, in 2011, the ACT had 9 female fire-fighters and 329 female police officers, the latter made up 26% of the ACT’s police force.

Working in the public service

As Australia's capital and the seat of government, Canberra is widely seen as a public service town. However, the proportion of the employed population working in the Commonwealth Government has varied considerably over the past 100 years.

In 1911, when Parliament still sat in Melbourne, government workers, employees working in law, and defence workers accounted for less than 3% of the Federal Capital Territory's employed population.

By 1961, the number of Commonwealth Government employees had grown to almost 13,000 making up 52% of the employed population. While public servants had been relocating to Canberra since 1927, much of this increase occurred as part of a 1948 scheme, approved by the government, to transfer Commonwealth departments to Canberra. In 1961, nearly a third of Commonwealth public servants in the ACT were women, although their participation was limited due to restrictions enforced by the marriage bar, which was not lifted until 1966.

In 2011, there were 67,276 ACT usual residents employed by the Commonwealth Government, accounting for 34% of the employed population. While the proportion is less than it was in 1961, it was still higher than in other states and territories, with Northern Territory (9.5%) having the next highest. More than half (53%) of ACT federal public servants were women.

PROPORTION OF EMPLOYED PEOPLE WORKING FOR GOVERNMENT(a) - 2011

(a) Based on state/territory of usual residence. Residents of one state or territory may work for the Government of another.
(b) ACT has no local government.
Source: ABS 2011 Census of Population and Housing

A regional employment hub

As well as being home to over 350,000 people, Canberra provides employment to many workers in the region.

In 2011, of the 27,800 employed people who travelled from interstate to work in the ACT, two-thirds came from nearby Queanbeyan (17,400). This number accounts for over half (60%) of Queanbeyan's employed population. Around 3,900 travelled from Yass (45% of the employed population of Yass), and around 1,000 travelled from Goulburn, (though this made up only 7% of Goulburn's employed).

On the other hand, around 3,800 ACT residents worked in Queanbeyan, 300 worked in Yass, and 70 worked in Goulburn. Overall, 3.4% of employed ACT residents worked outside the territory.

ACT AND REGION - 2011

Source: ABS 2011 Census of Population and Housing

CAR CITY

Travelling to work by car is the most common mode of transport for the people of Canberra. In the ACT, 72% of employed people travelled to work by car on Census day, equal highest (with Adelaide) of any capital city. Other common method of travel to work for ACT usual residents in 2011 were bus (7%), walked only (4%), and bicycle (3%).

The proportion of people using cars to travel to work has decreased slightly since 2001. Over the same period, bus travel increased from 6% to 7%, and cycling increased from 2% to 3%.

METHOD OF TRAVEL TO WORK(a), ACT(b) - 2011

(a) People may have more than one method of travel to work, and not all methods are shown.
(b) Based on place of usual residence.
Source: ABS 2011 Census of Population and Housing

Motor vehicles registered in the ACT travelled 14,300 kms on average in the 2011-12 year, second only to vehicles in Queensland (14,900 kms).

While cars continue to be popular, the most common types of cars on Canberra's roads have changed over the years. In 1962, the most common make of car was Holden, with more than one in four cars registered in the ACT being a Holden. Other popular brands were Ford, Volkswagen, Morris, and Austin. In 2012, Toyota has replaced Holden as the most common make of car registered in the ACT, with Mitsubishi and Mazda also being among the most common makes.

TOP FIVE MAKES OF CAR REGISTERED IN THE ACT - 1962 and 2012

1962
2012


Holden
4 333
Toyota
45 496
Ford
2 346
Holden
36 911
Volkswagen
2 116
Ford
32 876
Morris
1 423
Mitsubishi
19 948
Austin
1 002
Mazda
19 930


Total cars(a)
15,591
Total cars(a)
223,472
Cars per 1,000 people
224.2
Cars per 1,000 people
596.5

(a) Includes makes not listed.
Source: ABS 1962 & 2012 Motor Vehicle Census, ABS Australian Historical Population Statistics, 2008 (cat. no. 3105.0.65.001), ABS Australian Demographic Statistics, Sept 2012 (cat. no. 3101.0)

LOOKING AHEAD

In the last hundred years, Canberra has evolved from humble beginnings to become the established capital of the nation. This evolution continues with a new town centre - Molonglo - currently under development, following the development of previous town centres Woden (1964), Belconnen (1967), Tuggeranong (1973), and Gungahlin (1998). Molonglo Valley is planned to accommodate approximately 55,000 new residents over the next 30 years, (Endnote 11) continuing the story of Canberra's growth and transformation into the 21st century.

THE MEANING OF 'CANBERRA'

There is some debate on where the word Canberra comes from and what its meaning is. The area was originally known by European settlers as the Limestone Plains, and Canberra appears to be an English word derived from the name of the Aboriginal people who lived in the area at the time - the early settlers referred to them as the Ngambri, Kamberra or Nganbra people. The first non-Aboriginal landowner, Joshua John Moore, named his property 'Canberry Station' around 1824. The word has traditionally been explained to mean 'meeting place' and was also apparently used in reference to corroborees held during the seasonal migration of the Aboriginal people to feast on bogong moths. (Endnote 12) It signifies a ‘symbolic notion for the national capital – it was, from the earliest days of occupation and settlement (circa early 1800s), a meeting ground of two cultures.' (Endnote 13)

"A GOOD SHEEP STATION SPOILED?"

The quote above is one of the most famous jibes about Canberra, and was first coined by Charles Hawker (1894-1938) while he was a Member of the House of Representatives (1929 until his death in 1938). The Canberra suburb of Hawker is named after him.

From 1911 to the early 1970s, the number of sheep in the ACT outnumbered people. In 1973, the number of sheep were surpassed by the number of people and the gap between the two counts has continued to widen in people's favour to the present day. However, in 2011 the ACT still had a sheep flock of over 50,000.
ACT: NUMBER OF SHEEP(a) AND NUMBER OF PEOPLE, 1911-2011

(a) Number of sheep is unavailable for 1913, 1975-76, 1979-80 and 1982 and has been linearly interpolated.
Source: ABS Australian Historical Population Statistics, 2008 (cat. no. 3105.0.65.001), ABS Australian Demographic Statistics, Sept 2012 (cat. no. 3101.0), ABS Year Book Australia (cat. no. 1301.0), ABS Historical Selected Agriculture Commodities by State, 2009-10 (cat. no. 7124.0), ABS Agricultural Commodities, Australia, 2010-2011 (cat. no. 7121.0)

A CANBERRA EXCURSION

In their upper primary years, many Australian children participate in a school excursion to the national capital to visit our major national institutions.

Consistent with this, in 2011, 11 and 12 year olds were by far the largest group of visitors to the ACT on Census night of any age group. These young visitors were most commonly from Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Mudgee, and Parkes.

INTERSTATE VISITORS TO THE ACT ON CENSUS NIGHT, BY AGE - 2011

Source: ABS 2011 Census of Population and Housing

JERVIS BAY: THE ACT's SEAPORT

In 1909, as per the Constitution, the Premier of NSW surrendered 900 square miles for the formation of the Federal Capital Territory. In 1915, in accordance with constitutional requirements, approximately 2300 acres were surrendered for the purposes of a Commonwealth seaport, in the area known as Jervis Bay. The Royal Australian Naval College was established in this area on a site known as Captain's Point. From this time, data for the Jervis Bay Territory was included with the Australian Capital Territory in all standard national ABS products and population counts produced up to and including the release of the 1991 Census, despite being over 200 kilometres from the ACT. From July 1993, Jervis Bay Territory was treated as a separate entity from the ACT. (Endnote 14)

According to the 2011 Census, 377 people lived in Jervis Bay Territory. Although not part of the ACT, ACT laws apply in Jervis Bay and the ACT courts have jurisdiction. Jervis Bay is also part of the Commonwealth Electoral Division of Fraser (ACT), and many services are delivered by ACT government agencies. (Endnote 15)

TIME LINE - 100 YEARS OF CANBERRA

YearEvent

1913Naming of the Canberra-Yass region as the official Federal Capital Territory by Governor-General Lord Dudley Denman, Lady Gertrude Denman, Prime Minister Andrew Fisher, and the Minister for Home Affairs, King O'Malley.
1926First edition of The Canberra Times is published.
1927Old Parliament House is opened - while it was originally intended as a temporary building, it would remain Parliament House until 1988.
1938Federal Capital Territory is renamed The Australian Capital Territory after an amendment to the Seat of Government (Acceptance Act) 1938.
1941Australian War Memorial is opened.
1963Monaro Mall, the first fully enclosed, multi-storey shopping mall in the southern hemisphere and also the first fully-air conditioned shopping centre in Australia is opened.
1964Lake Burley Griffin is filled.
1967Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station is built for the Apollo manned missions to the Moon.
1971Flash flooding claims the lives of 7 Canberrans on Australia Day.
1980Black Mountain Tower is built.
1988New Parliament House is opened.
1989ACT self-government is proclaimed.
2003Bushfires devastate the ACT region, killing four people and destroying 500 homes.
2013Centenary of Canberra - Canberra celebrates

DATA SOURCES AND DEFINITIONS

This article mainly uses data from the 2011 Census of Population and Housing. It also presents data from previous Censuses for comparison purposes.

Occupations are based on the main job held in the week prior to Census night and are coded according to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO).

All standard national products produced up to and including the 1991 Census included data for the Jervis Bay Territory with the Australian Capital Territory. From July 1993, Jervis Bay Territory was treated as a separate entity from the ACT in the Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC) and instead, is included in the Other territories category (with Christmas Island and Cocos Islands).

ENDNOTES

1. Australasian Legal Information Institute, Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act - sect 125, <http://www.austlii.edu.au/>.

2. Roger Pegrum, 1983, The Bush Capital, Watermark Press.

3. National Capital Authority, 2010, Fact Sheet: 'The Siting and Naming of Canberra', <http://www.nationalcapital.gov.au/>.

4. The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995), Friday 10 September 1954, page 2.

5. Eric Sparke, 1988, Canberra 1954-1980 , page 3, Australian Government Publishing Services.

6. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1963, Year Book Australia 1963: Canberra: Fifty years of development, cat. no. 1301.0, <http://www.abs.gov.au/>.

7. Australian Alps National Parks, 2012, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, <http://www.australianalps.environment.gov.au/index.html>.

8. Australian Alps National Parks, 2012, Namadgi National Park, <http://www.australianalps.environment.gov.au/index.html>.

9. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011, Reflecting a Nation: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and the Census after the 1967 Referendum, cat. no. 2071.0, <http://www.abs.gov.au/>.

10. Ellis Connolly and Christine Lewis, 2010, Structural Changes in the Australian Economy, Reserve Bank of Australia, <http://www.rba.gov.au/>.

11. ACT Planning and Land Authority: Environment and Sustainable Development, 2013, Molonglo Valley Planning, <http://www.actpla.act.gov.au/home>.

12. National Capital Authority, 2010 , Fact Sheet: Ngunnawal Country, <http://www.nationalcapital.gov.au/>.

13. Campbell Phillips, 2013, On this day: Australia's capital city names, Australian Geographic, <http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/>.

14. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1921, Census of the Commonwealth of Australia: Census Bulletin No 6 Federal Capital Territory, cat. no. 2111.0, <http://www.abs.gov.au/>.

15. Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport, 2012, Jervis Bay Territory Governance and Administration, <http://www.regional.gov.au/index.aspx>.

Bookmark and Share. Opens in a new window

Commonwealth of Australia 2014

Unless otherwise noted, content on this website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia Licence together with any terms, conditions and exclusions as set out in the website Copyright notice. For permission to do anything beyond the scope of this licence and copyright terms contact us.