ABS celebrates diversity of migrants on Harmony Day

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21 March 2017
Embargoed: 11.30 am (Canberra time)
ABS celebrates diversity of migrants on Harmony Day

More than 60 per cent of migrants who arrived in Australia after 2010 had a non-school qualification and Mandarin is the most common language spoken in Australian homes after English, reveals information released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to mark Harmony Day.

In 2011, 3 per cent of Australians reported they were Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, according to the 238.0 - Estimates and Projections, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2001 to 2026 release.

Harmony Day on 21 March celebrates cultural diversity and coincides with the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

ABS collects information for approximately 250 countries of birth, 270 ancestries, 240 languages and 120 religions across Australia. Without the ABS, determining the extent of Australia's cultural wealth becomes a guessing game. Questions in Census about birthplace, ancestry, languages spoken and religion are used by a variety of organisations for allocating and targeting services to particular cultural groups such as language support services.

Here is a selection of ABS statistics to celebrate Harmony Day:

Country of birth

According to Migration, Australia, 2014-15, 28 per cent of the estimated resident population was born overseas (6.7 million persons). In 2005, 24 per cent of the population was born overseas (4.9 million persons).

Graph showing the top overseas 5 countries of birth for Australian residents, based on 2015 data.

Persons born in the United Kingdom continued to be the largest group of overseas-born residents, accounting for 5.1 per cent of Australia's total population at 30 June 2015, followed by persons born in New Zealand (2.6 per cent), China (2.0 per cent), India (1.8 per cent), the Philippines and Vietnam (both 1.0 per cent).


According to the 2011 Australian Census of Population and Housing, 81 per cent of Australians aged 5 years and over, spoke only English at home while 2 per cent did not speak English at all. The most common languages spoken at home (other than English) were Mandarin (1.7 per cent), Italian (1.5 per cent), Arabic (1.4 per cent), Cantonese (1.3 per cent) and Greek (1.3 per cent).

Graph showing the top 10 languages spoken at home, based on 2011 data.


In 2015, among people aged 15 – 64 years, 73 per cent of adult migrants( aged at least 15 years on arrival in Australia) had a non-school qualification compared with 58 per cent of those born in Australia according to the survey of Qualifications and Work, Australia, 2015. The proportion of adult migrants who had a Bachelor degree or higher on arrival had increased from 23 per cent for those who migrated before 2001 to 45 per cent for those who migrated after 2010.


According to the 2011 Australian Census of Population and Housing, over half of the overseas-born population (56 per cent) reported a Christian denomination; the two most commonly reported were Catholicism (24 per cent) and Anglicanism (12 per cent). Non-Christian religions were reported by 19 per cent of the overseas-born population, with Buddhism (6.8 per cent), Islam (5.4 per cent) and Hinduism (4.3 per cent) being the most prevalent. The proportion of the overseas-born population who reported 'No religion' was 20 per cent, slightly lower than the level for the Australian population as a whole (22 per cent) .

For details of Harmony Day activities visit www.harmony.gov.au.

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