More growth in the regions during the pandemic

Media Release

The population of regional Australia grew by 70,900 people during 2020-21, in contrast to a decline of 26,000 for the capital cities, according to figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

ABS Director of Demography Beidar Cho said: "This is the first time since 1981 that Australia's regional population grew more than the capital cities, due to changing migration patterns during the pandemic." 

"Regional New South Wales (up 26,800) and regional Queensland (24,100) led the way in terms of population growth over 2020-21, with regional Victoria (15,700) also increasing." 

In contrast, Melbourne declined by 60,500 people and Sydney by 5,200.   

In 2020-21, the overall decrease of 26,000 reflects increases in four capital cities (Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Canberra) offset by declines in the other four. This is the first overall population decline for the capitals ever recorded by the ABS. 

The capital city decline was due to COVID-19 related international border closures, and increased movements to the regions.

Capital cityChange 2020-21 Population 30 June 2021RegionalChange 2020-21Population 30 June 2021
Sydney-5,2005,361,500New South Wales26,8002,827,200
Adelaide1,9001,378,400South Australia1,200395,000
Perth16,2002,141,800Western Australia1,900540,400
Darwin-330147,000Northern Territory098,900
All capitals -26,00017,377,000Regional Australia70,9008,361,200

Despite Sydney and Melbourne having overall population losses, the largest growth areas in the country were outer-suburban areas within these two capitals where population growth was driven by net internal migration gains.

Riverstone - Marsden Park in Sydney's outer north-west grew by 7,400 people over 2020-21, while Cranbourne East in Melbourne's south-east grew by 5,000. 

Inner city populations declined the most over 2020-21. The largest declining area was inner Melbourne, whose population decreased by 5,900, while Sydney - Haymarket - The Rocks declined by 1,700. 

State/TerritoryArea with largest increaseChange
30 June 2021
Area with largest decreaseChange
30 June 2021
New South WalesRiverstone - Marsden Park7,40048,000Sydney - Haymarket - The Rocks-1,70031,500
VictoriaCranbourne East5,00060,500Melbourne-5,90047,200
QueenslandPimpama2,80024,900St Lucia-77013,800
South AustraliaMunno Para West - Angle Vale1,10016,700Unley - Parkside-39020,700
Western AustraliaEllenbrook1,70047,700Nedlands - Dalkeith - Crawley-39019,300
TasmaniaRokeby3107,300Sandy Bay-43012,500
Northern TerritoryPalmerston - South6707,200Brinkin - Nakara-1903,200
Australian Capital TerritoryDenman Prospect7801,700Civic-2704,600

Media notes

  • Unless otherwise stated, capital cities mentioned in this release are Greater Capital City Statistical Areas and areas are Statistical Areas Level 2 as defined in the 2016 Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS).
  • When reporting ABS data you must attribute the Australian Bureau of Statistics (or the ABS) as the source.
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