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2914.0.55.002 - 2006 Census of Population and Housing: Media Releases and Fact Sheets, 2006  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/06/2007  First Issue
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MEDIA FACT SHEET
June 27, 2007
Embargoed 9.30 am (AEST)
70/2007
Australians overall claim more than 250 ancestries, speak 400 languages at home: Census
Ancestries
  • In the 2006 Census, Australians reported more than 250 different ancestries, with many people claiming two ancestries. The most common ancestry was Australian, with 7.4 million, or 37% of all people, choosing this as at least one of their ancestries. The next most popular ancestries were English (6.3 million or 32%), Irish (1.8 million or 9.1%) and Scottish (1.5 million or 7.6%), reflecting the dominant sources of migrants to Australia since European settlement. Italian, German and Chinese were the next most common ancestries.
  • Around 64% of Australian residents identified with only one ancestry, while 28% selected two ancestries.
  • Of the people who selected two ancestries, the most common combinations were English-Australian (with around 1.26 million persons), English-Irish (753,000) and English-Scottish (504,000).

Languages
  • The 2006 Census also recorded that almost 400 different languages were spoken in homes across Australia. Close to 79% of Australia's population spoke only English at home, a decrease from 82% in 1996.
  • As in 1996, the three most common languages other than English in 2006 were Italian (accounting for 1.6% of the population), Greek (1.3%) and Cantonese (1.2%). Of these, Cantonese was the only language which had an increase in the number of speakers since 1996 (21% growth), while Italian and Greek speakers declined in number by around 16% and 7% respectively.
  • The recent growth of Asian languages and the decline of those from Europe in Australia reflects the recent trends in the birthplaces of Australia's overseas-born. Of Australia's main non-English languages*, Mandarin and Hindi have experienced the fastest proportional growth – both more than doubling in speakers since 1996. Conversely, German speakers declined the most in number, falling by around 24%.
  • Between 1996 and 2006, except for Darwin, the proportion of each capital city's non-English speakers increased. In 2006, Sydney had the largest proportion of its residents speaking non-English languages at home (around 29% or 1.2 million people), while Hobart had the smallest proportion (5.1% or 10,000 people).

*Languages with more than 50,000 speakers (who speak it when at home).

NB: The figures in this fact sheet exclude overseas visitors. Where an answer to a question has not been provided (i.e. not stated) these occurrences form a separate category in the data and therefore some percentages do not total to 100%.

Source: ABS 2006 Census.

Table 1. 2006 Census: Top 15 ancestries, Australia

Persons
Proportion of total population(a)
'000
%

Australian
7 371.8
37.1
English
6 283.6
31.6
Irish
1 803.7
9.1
Scottish
1 501.2
7.6
Italian
852.4
4.3
German
811.5
4.1
Chinese
669.9
3.4
Greek
365.2
1.8
Dutch
310.1
1.6
Indian
234.7
1.2
Lebanese
181.8
0.9
Vietnamese
173.7
0.9
Polish
163.8
0.8
New Zealander
160.7
0.8
Filipino
160.4
0.8

(a) As respondents can identify with up to two ancestries, proportions for all ancestries do not add up to 100 per cent.

Table 2.1. 2006 Census: Top ten ancestry combinations, Australia

Rank Ancestry combination
Persons ('000)

1 English-Australian
1 263.1
2 English-Irish
753.4
3 English-Scottish
503.9
4 Australian-Scottish
278.7
5 Australian-Irish
257.3
6 English-German
241.1
7 Scottish-Irish
213.1
8 Australian-German
118.8
9 Australian-Italian
116.0
10 English-Italian
95.3

Table 2.2. 2006 Census: Top ancestry combinations, Australia

Top ancestry combinations (excluding British, Irish and Australian ancestries)
Persons ('000)

Italian-German
15.2
Italian-Greek
10.5
German-Polish
9.9

Table 3. 2006 Census: Top 10 languages spoken at home, Australia

Persons
Proportion of total population
Language
'000
%

English
15 581.3
78.5
Italian
316.9
1.6
Greek
252.2
1.3
Cantonese
244.6
1.2
Arabic
243.7
1.2
Mandarin
220.6
1.1
Vietnamese
194.9
1.0
Spanish
98.0
0.5
German
75.6
0.4
Hindi
70.0
0.4

Table 4. Top 15 languages spoken at home, Australia - 1996 Census - 2006 Census

1996
2006
Growth (1996-2006)
Language
'000
'000
%

English
14 564.9
15 581.3
7.0
Italian
375.8
316.9
-15.7
Greek
269.8
252.2
-6.5
Cantonese
202.5
244.6
20.8
Arabic
177.6
243.7
37.2
Mandarin
92.4
220.6
138.9
Vietnamese
146.3
194.9
33.2
Spanish
91.3
98.0
7.4
German
98.8
75.6
-23.5
Hindi
34.0
70.0
106.0
Macedonian
71.3
67.8
-4.9
Croatian
69.2
63.6
-8.0
Korean
29.9
54.6
82.6
Turkish
46.2
53.9
16.6
Polish
62.8
53.4
-14.9

Table 5. Language other than English spoken at home, capital cities - 1996 Census - 2006 Census(a)

1996
2006
Change in persons (1996-2006)
%
%
'000

Sydney
26.4
29.3
223.1
Melbourne
25.7
26.3
133.7
Brisbane
9.2
10.7
53.9
Adelaide
14.9
15.2
11.8
Perth
13.5
13.9
33.0
Hobart
4.9
5.1
0.9
Darwin
15.7
12.5
0.9
Canberra
13.7
14.6
6.3

(a) Capital City Statistical Division.


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