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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.
5.15 POPULATION(a) DISTRIBUTION - 30 June 2003
(a) Estimated resident population.
Source: Regional Population Growth, Australia and New Zealand (3218.0).
Regional population change
The fastest population growth of all states and territories in 2002-03 was recorded in Queensland, which increased by 2.3%. Queensland's increase in population of 85,800 people was also the largest population increase of all the states and territories in 2002-03. Population growth in Victoria has accelerated in recent years, reaching 1.2% in 2002-03; Victoria experienced the second largest increase of the states and territories, increasing by 60,200 people. New South Wales remained the most populous state, with 6.7 million people, and experienced the third largest increase in population in 2002-03, of 52,500 people. The Northern Territory's annual growth rate of -0.2% in 2002-03 was the lowest growth rate of all the states and territories, and was the first annual decrease recorded in the Northern Territory since 1974-75 when the population decreased by over 10,000 people due to large net interstate migration losses as a result of Cyclone Tracy in December 1974.
Table 5.16 sets out the estimated resident population in major population regions at 30 June 1998 and 30 June 2003. At June 2003, capital city statistical divisions (SDs) were home to 12.7 million people, or around two-thirds (64%) of Australia's population. The largest growth among the capital city SDs between 1998 and 2003 occurred in Sydney SD, followed by Melbourne and Brisbane SDs. Of the capital city SDs, Brisbane was the fastest growing capital city in Australia between 1998 and 2003, increasing by an average 2% per year, followed by Perth (1.4%) and Darwin and Melbourne (each 1.3%).
Generally, the largest growth outside capital city SDs occurred in coastal Australia. Table 5.16 shows the largest growth recorded between 1998 and 2003 was in the Gold Coast-Tweed Statistical District. This region also experienced the second fastest growth, increasing by 3.7% on average per year between 1998 and 2003. Western Australia had the Statistical District with the fastest growing population - Mandurah (4%) - and the Statistical District with fastest population decrease - Kalgoorlie/Boulder (-0.4%). In New South Wales there were increases in population for many coastal Local Government Areas (LGAs) outside the Sydney SD, with the largest occurring in Tweed (A), Hastings (A) and Port Stephens (A). The Victorian LGAs of Bass Coast (S) and Surf Coast (S) continued to experience strong growth in 2002-03.
Many of Australia's inner city areas experienced high levels of growth during 2002-03. The LGA of Melbourne (C) recorded an annual growth rate of 7.9%, while the LGAs of Perth (C) and Sydney (C) also experienced rapid growth, increasing by 7.2% and 5.9% respectively in 2002-03. Elsewhere, other inner city areas to experience high levels of growth were the Brisbane statistical local areas (SLAs) of City - Inner, City - Remainder and Newstead, the Darwin SLA of City - Inner and the Canberra SLAs of City, Turner and Braddon.
Much of Australia's growth occurred in the outer LGAs of capital city SDs. In Sydney SD, the LGAs of Baulkham Hills (A), Blacktown (C) and Liverpool (C) experienced large growth (up 4,100, 3,400 and 2,300 people respectively), while the largest growth within Melbourne SD occurred in the fringe LGAs of Casey (C), Wyndham (C) and Melton (S) (up 10,900, 7,300 and 6,900 people respectively). Melton also recorded Australia's fastest annual growth rate during 2002-03, of 11.8%.
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. The five fastest declining LGAs were Dundas (S), in South Eastern SD in Western Australia, and Dalwallinu (S), in Midlands SD, Western Australia (down 7.2% and 6.2% respectively), Blackall (S), in Central West SD in Queensland and Millmerran (S), in Darling Downs SD, Queensland (down 4.3% and 3.6% respectively), and Karoonda East Murray (DC) in Murray Lands SD in South Australia (down 3.8%).
In 1901, 64% of Australians lived outside capital cities. This proportion fell steadily and by 1962 only 40% lived outside capital cities. Between 1976 and 2003 the decline appeared to have halted, with a slight increase in the proportion of people living in the balance of states and territories (graph 5.17), 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 2002-03, 398,500 people moved from one state or territory to another, 14,400 more than in the previous year.
In 2002-03 Queensland and Tasmania recorded net interstate migration gains. Queensland continued a 20-year trend of positive net interstate migration, whereas 2002-03 was the first year since 1991 that Tasmania's net interstate migration was positive. Victoria had little net interstate migration in 2002-03, and all other states and territories experienced net losses due to interstate migration, although this was offset in most cases by growth due to natural increase and net overseas migration (table 5.18).