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Most of Australia's population is concentrated in two widely separated coastal regions. By far the largest 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.
5.14 POPULATION(a) DISTRIBUTION - 2001
(a) Estimated resident population.
Source: ABS data available on request, 2001 Census of Population and Housing.
New South Wales remained the most populous state, with 6.6 million people at June 2001. From 1996 to 2001 the fastest growth occurred in the Northern Territory, which grew over the five years by a total of 10.0%, followed by Queensland (8.9% over five years) and Western Australia (8.0% over five years). Tasmania's population declined over the five years to June 2001 (down by -0.3% over five years) (see table 5.15).
The main factor changing the distribution of Australia's population has been internal migration. During 2000-01, 380,600 people moved from one state or territory to another, 13,200 more than in the previous year (367,400).
In 2000-01, Victoria, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory recorded net interstate migration gains. All other states, and the Northern Territory, experienced net losses due to interstate migration, although this was offset in all cases by growth due to natural increase and net overseas migration.
Table 5.16 sets out the estimated resident population in major population centres at June 1996 and 2001. Australia's capital cities accounted for 66% of Australia's population growth between 1996 and 2001, the most significant increases being on the outskirts of these metropolitan regions. Of all the capital cities, Sydney and Melbourne had the largest growth in the five years to 2001, with increases of 273,600 and 205,500 people respectively. The fastest capital city population growth over the 1996-2001 period occurred in Darwin, by an average of 2.5% per year, followed by Brisbane (1.7%).
Many of Australia's inner city areas, especially in the larger cities, grew rapidly in the five years to June 2001. The Local Government Area (LGA) of the City of Sydney recorded Australia's highest average annual growth rate of 18.1%. The LGAs of Perth (up 7.3% per year) and Melbourne (up 5.6% per year) also experienced rapid growth between 1996 and 2001. The inner-Brisbane SLAs of Fortitude Valley - Inner and City - Inner were among the fastest-growing SLAs in Queensland over this period.
Other major population centres experiencing significant population increases between 1996 and 2001 were the Statistical Districts of Gold Coast-Tweed on the Queensland-New South Wales border, and Mandurah in Western Australia, both of which grew by 3.8%, while Sunshine Coast in Queensland and Bunbury in Western Australia increased by an average 3.5% and 3.4% per year respectively. Rapid population growth was also recorded in most LGAs elsewhere along the Queensland, New South Wales and Victorian coastline and in some LGAs in the south-west corner of Western Australia.
Some areas of Australia have experienced significant population decline in recent years. While some of the population declines have occurred in established suburbs within capital cities and major urban centres, the fastest population decline has 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.
In 1901, 64% of Australians lived outside capital cities. This proportion fell steadily, and from 1962 only 40% lived outside capital cities. Between 1976 and 2001 the decline appeared to have halted, with a slight increase in the proportion of people living in the balance of states and territories (see graph 5.17), which may have been due to people moving to coastal regions and other urban centres.