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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1996  
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Contents >> Population >> Population Growth: Capital city growth and development

Population Growth: Capital city growth and development

The growth of Australia's capital cities has slowed since the late 1980s. Although natural increase contributed most to capital city growth, net migration caused most of the differences in growth between capital cities.

Australia is one of the most highly urbanised countries in the world. 63% of all Australians lived in state and territory capital cities in 1994. The character of Australia's capital cities is shaped by the increasingly diverse range of people who live in them.

Recent government policy initiatives relating to urban development include the Building Better Cities Program and the Australian Urban and Regional Development Review. These have sought to integrate urban and regional planning and to improve urban management, particularly relating to social equity, economic efficiency and environmental quality1.


Capital cities

The boundaries of a city are often difficult to determine and invariably change over time. Choosing the exact area which represents a city affects the estimation of that city's population size and growth.

In this review capital city refers to the statistical division surrounding a state or territory capital. Statistical divisions are large regional geographic units. They represent relatively homogeneous regions characterised by identifiable social and economic links between the inhabitants and between the economic units within the region, under the unifying influence of one or more major towns or cities. Over the period 1986-1994 capital city statistical divisions have changed to correspond to changes in capital city areas. Data in this review are based on the 1994 boundaries.


Capital city populations
In 1994 the largest capital city in Australia was Sydney with a population of 3.7 million. Melbourne was the next largest with 3.2 million. 39% of Australia's total population lived in Sydney or Melbourne. Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth all had populations over one million.

The proportion of the state population living in state capitals varied according to the city. 41% of Tasmanians lived in Hobart, whereas South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria had high proportions (72-73%) of their populations living in their capital cities.

While a large proportion of Australia's population lives in capital cities these cities still have relatively small populations compared to other cities in the world. In 1994 Tokyo was the largest city in the world with 26.5 million people, more than the entire population of Australia. New York was the second most populous city, and the largest in the United States of America. It had a population similar in size to all of Australia (16.3 million)2. Sydney has a similar population to Frankfurt in Germany and some of the smaller cities in the United States such as Detroit and Dallas. Sydney is currently ranked 57th of all cities in the world in terms of population size.

POPULATIONS OF CAPITAL CITIES AT 30 JUNE

1986
1994


Capital cities
Population
% of state
Population
% of state
'000
%
'000
%

Sydney
3,471.6
62.8
3,736.7
61.8
Melbourne
2,967.8
71.3
3,197.8
71.5
Brisbane
1,217.3
46.4
1,454.4
45.5
Perth
1,050.1
72.0
1,238.8
72.8
Adelaide
1,003.5
72.6
1,076.1
73.2
Hobart
182.1
40.8
194.2
41.1
Darwin
75.4
48.8
78.1
45.6
Canberra
257.9
99.6
300.5
99.9
All capital cities
10,225.6
63.8
11,276.6
63.2
Australia
16,018.4
. .
17,838.4
. .

Source: Estimated Resident Population (unpublished data)


Growth of capital cities
Within the capital cities, population growth has been uneven. The populations of some inner suburbs have declined as the people living there have aged and died, and their children have grown up and left. Meanwhile, the populations of other inner suburbs have grown due to urban renewal. Many outer suburbs have grown due to an influx of younger families to these areas.

Between 1986 and 1994 the population living in capital cities grew by 10%. However, the annual rate of growth decreased over this period. In 1993-94 the annual growth rate of all capital cities was 0.8% compared to 1.6% in 1986-87.

Between 1986 and 1994 the fastest growing cities were Brisbane and Perth with total growth of 19% and 18% respectively. However, their annual growth rates varied over the period. Perth grew most quickly in the early part of the period with annual growth rates of about 3% in the late 1980s. In the 1990s, the annual growth rate slowed and was 1.4% in 1993-94. Higher growth in the late 1980s compared to the 1990s was a common pattern for most capital cities.

Brisbane was the only capital city whose annual growth rate was over 2% in 1993-94. Although its annual growth rate declined in 1989-1991 it never fell below the 1986-87 level. Canberra also experienced annual growth rates at around 2% in the early 1990s. However Canberra's growth rate declined to 0.9% in 1993-94.

Darwin, Adelaide and Hobart continued to have low growth rates but Darwin was the only capital to have a decline in its population during this period. This was in 1987-88 when the population fell by 1.5%. This decline was the result of a large loss due to net migration.

CAPITAL CITY POPULATION ANNUAL GROWTH RATES(a)

1986-87
1987-88
1988-89
1989-90
1990-91
1991-92
1992-93
1993-94
Capital cities
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

Sydney
1.6
1.8
0.9
0.6
0.8
0.7
0.4
0.6
Melbourne
1.2
1.3
1.4
1.3
1.0
0.7
0.3
0.3
Brisbane
1.7
2.1
2.8
2.4
2.0
2.2
2.5
2.3
Adelaide
0.8
0.9
1.2
1.1
1.2
0.9
0.4
0.5
Perth
2.8
2.9
3.3
2.4
1.1
1.4
1.3
1.4
Hobart
0.7
0.5
1.0
1.7
1.0
0.7
0.5
0.5
Darwin
2.2
-1.5
0.2
0.7
0.3
0.8
0.7
0.2
Canberra
2.5
2.5
1.6
2.1
2.5
1.8
1.5
0.9
All capital cities
1.6
1.7
1.6
1.3
1.1
1.0
0.8
0.8

(a) Refers to growth between June in the two years specified.

Source: Estimated Residential Population (unpublished data)


Components of growth
Population growth comprises natural increase (the difference between the number of births and the number of deaths) and net migration (the difference between those moving in and those moving out). Between 1986 and 1994 natural increase was the major contributor to growth in capital city populations, accounting for almost two-thirds of the total growth. However this proportion varied considerably between capitals, from 34% of Brisbane's growth to 83% of Hobart's, Melbourne's and Sydney's growth.

Darwin had the highest rate of natural increase in the period 1986-1994. However, the large net migration outflow resulted in very low growth overall.

Like Darwin, Canberra had a high rate of natural increase. However it also had a sizeable gain through net migration, giving it the third highest level of growth for capital cities over the period 1986-1994.

Brisbane's high net migration (13%) contributed to it having the highest population growth of any capital city in the period 1986-1994. Perth also had a high rate of net migration and consequently the second highest overall growth rate. In 1993-94 Brisbane continued to have high net migration (1.5%) although Perth's had slowed to 0.6%.

COMPONENTS OF CAPITAL CITY POPULATION GROWTH, 1986-1994

Natural increase
Net migration
Growth
Capital cities
%
%
%

Sydney
6.3
1.3
7.6
Melbourne
6.4
1.3
7.8
Brisbane
6.7
12.8
19.5
Adelaide
4.5
2.7
7.2
Perth
7.5
10.5
18.0
Hobart
5.6
1.1
6.7
Darwin
12.2
-8.6
3.6
Canberra
10.3
6.0
16.2
All capital cities
6.5
3.8
10.3

Source: Estimated Resident Population (unpublished data)


Age structure
Capital cities differ slightly in the median ages of their populations. There is a dynamic relationship between the median age of a city's population and its growth due to natural increase. Younger populations are likely to produce children. This will both increase the city's total population and lower the median age. In contrast, older populations produce fewer children and have higher death rates which decrease a city's population and raise the median age.

In 1994 Darwin had the youngest population with a median age of 29.4. It had the lowest proportion of people aged 65 or over (3% of the population compared to 12% of the population of all capital cities). It also had the highest proportion of people of prime working age (25-44) with 37% of its population in this group. This reflects a tendency for people to move to Darwin for work and leave on retirement. As a consequence of the numbers of working age adults in Darwin, this city also had a higher proportion of children than other cities.

Canberra also had a young median age (30.4 years) compared to the other capital cities. Like Darwin, it had a low proportion of people aged 65 and over and a high proportion of people of prime working age. It also had a high proportion of people aged 15-24, a consequence of the numbers of young people who move to Canberra for study or work purposes as well as high birth rates in Canberra in the 1970s.

Adelaide with a median age of 34.8 years, had the largest proportion of people aged 65 or over of any capital city. Hobart also had a relatively high proportion of older inhabitants. As the populations of Adelaide and Hobart age, natural increase will slow further and the median age will continue to rise.

MEDIAN AGE OF THE POPULATION IN CAPITAL CITIES, JUNE 1994


Source: Estimated Residential Population (unpublished data)


Birthplace
The proportions of the population who were born overseas varies for different capital cities. In 1991, 29% of people living in capital cities had been born in an overseas country. However, between cities, this ranged from 13% in Hobart to 34% in Perth.

8% of the population of Australia's capital cities had been born in the United Kingdom (UK). This group formed the largest proportion of the overseas born population in every capital city. In Hobart, Perth and Adelaide almost half of the overseas born were from this country.

3.2% of the population in Melbourne and 2.7% of those in Adelaide had been born in Italy. On average over all capital cities, 2.1% of the population were from Italy.

People born in New Zealand were also well represented in the population of capital cities. However, their proportions varied greatly between cities. In Brisbane they accounted for 3.4% of the population and in Darwin 2.7%. A large number of New Zealanders also lived in Sydney although they accounted for only 1.9% of the population in that city.

BIRTHPLACES OF CAPITAL CITY POPULATIONS, 1991

Sydney
Melbourne
Brisbane
Adelaide
Perth
Hobart
Darwin
Canberra
All capital cities
Selected birthplaces
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

Australian born
68.8
69.7
79.1
73.5
65.8
87.1
74.4
76.0
71.0
Overseas born
31.2
30.3
20.9
26.5
34.2
12.9
25.6
24.0
29.0
    United Kingdom
6.1
6.2
7.2
11.6
15.2
5.7
6.9
7.0
7.8
    Italy
1.7
3.2
0.6
2.7
2.1
0.5
0.6
1.0
2.1
    New Zealand
1.9
1.2
3.4
0.8
2.3
0.8
2.7
1.3
1.8
    Yugoslavia
1.4
1.9
0.4
0.8
1.0
0.3
0.2
1.4
1.3
    Greece
1.2
2.2
0.2
1.2
0.3
0.3
1.3
0.6
1.2
    Viet Nam
1.4
1.5
0.6
0.9
0.7
0.1
0.4
0.7
1.2
    Germany
0.6
0.8
0.6
1.1
0.7
0.6
0.8
1.0
0.8
    China
1.2
0.7
0.3
0.3
0.3
0.1
0.5
0.5
0.7
    Lebanon
1.5
0.5
0.1
0.1
0.1
0.0
0.0
0.1
0.6
    Malaysia
0.5
0.7
0.3
0.4
1.4
0.2
0.8
0.6
0.6
Total population
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
Total population(a)
3,538.8
3,022.4
1,333.9
1,023.6
1,143.3
181.8
78.4
279.0
10,601.2

(a) Includes birthplace not stated.

Source: 1991 Census - Community profiles, Australia (cat. no. 2722.0)


Dwellings
The mix of dwelling types in a city depends on the population growth of the city, the availability of land, the city's planning and development, and the quality and flexibility of urban infrastructures such as roads and public transport3. Australia's capital cities are characterised by high proportions of separate houses, 76% overall in 1994. However the mix of other dwelling types reflects the different growth patterns of the cities.

High proportions of flats, units and apartments tended to be in the cities which had grown in the post-war period and were particularly popular in the 1960s when there was a spate of flat building3. 20% of Sydney's dwellings and 16% of Melbourne's dwellings were flats, units or apartments. Adelaide and Perth had the highest proportions of semi-detached, row or terrace houses or town houses (17% and 13% respectively), reflecting the growth of these cities during the 1970s and early 1980s.

High proportions of separate houses reflect in part the geography of a city and the availability of land. In some cities they may also reflect recent housing growth as detached housing gained an increasing share of the residential construction market in the 1980s and this was expected to continue into the 1990s3. In 1994 in Brisbane, Hobart and Canberra, separate houses accounted for over 80% of all occupied dwellings.

The age of the dwellings also reflects the growth of a city. Cities with recent high population growth rates had the highest proportions of younger housing stock. In 1994, 8% of Brisbane's housing stock was less than 2 years old. Perth and Canberra also had high proportions of dwellings less than 2 years old. Conversely only 2% of Sydney's dwellings and 1% of Hobart's dwellings were aged less than 2 years.

TYPE OF OCCUPIED DWELLINGS IN CAPITAL CITIES, 1994

Separate houses
Semi-detached, row or terrace and town houses
Flats, units and apartments
Total(a)
Total(a)
Capital cities
%
%
%
%
'000

Sydney
70.2
10.1
19.6
100.0
1,360.2
Melbourne
77.5
7.0
15.6
100.0
1,170.5
Brisbane
84.0
4.5
11.6
100.0
560.2
Adelaide
75.4
17.3
7.0
100.0
438.9
Perth
78.2
13.2
8.1
100.0
475.3
Hobart
81.3
7.8
10.6
100.0
75.4
Darwin
* *
* *
* *
* *
* *
Canberra
81.3
9.4
9.3
100.0
110.6
All capital cities
75.8
9.5
14.5
100.0
4,257.6

(a) Includes other dwelling structures such as caravans, houseboats and houses or flats attached to a shop.

Source: Australian Housing Survey (unpublished data)

DWELLINGS LESS THAN 2 YEARS OLD IN CAPITAL CITIES(a), 1994



(a) Darwin figures not available.
(b) Canberra figures are for ACT.

Source: Australian Housing Survey (unpublished data)


Endnotes
1 Australian Urban and Regional Development Review (1995), Australian cities and regions: a national approach.

2 United Nations (1994), World Urbanisation Prospects.

3 Paris, C. (1993), Housing Australia, MacMillan Education, Melbourne.


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