Cultural diversity: Census

Latest release

Information on country of birth, year of arrival, ancestry, language and religion

Reference period
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First release

Key statistics

  • 27.6 per cent of the population were born overseas.
  • 61,860 international visitors were in Australia during the Census collection period. 
  • Top 5 languages used at home, other than English, were Mandarin (2.7 per cent), Arabic (1.4 per cent), Vietnamese (1.3 per cent), Cantonese (1.2 per cent) and Punjabi (0.9 per cent). 
  • Top 5 ancestries were English (33.0 per cent), Australian (29.9 per cent), Irish (9.5 per cent), Scottish (8.6 per cent) and Chinese (5.5 per cent). 
  • Top 5 religious affiliations were No religion (38.9 per cent), Catholic (20 per cent), Anglican (9.8 per cent), Islam (3.2 per cent) and Hinduism (2.7 per cent).

Top 5 countries of birth (excluding Australia)

Map of the world with top 5 countries of birth highlighted. 1 England, 2 India, 3 China (excludes SARs and Taiwan), 4 New Zealand, 5 Philippines

Top 5 countries of birth (excluding Australia)

This image includes a map of the world with the top 5 countries of birth (excluding Australia) listed. 1 England, 2 India, 3 China (excludes SARs and Taiwan), 4 New Zealand, 5 Philippines

Based on place of usual residence. Excludes overseas visitors.

Source: Country of birth of person (BPLP)

Top 5 countries of birth (excluding Australia)(a), 2021 Census
CountryCensus population count
India 673,352
China (excludes SARs and Taiwan)549,618
New Zealand530,492
  1. Based on place of usual residence. Excludes overseas visitors.

Source: Country of birth of person (BPLP)

Religious affiliation, Count of persons for 1996, 2016 and 2021(a)
Other religions(b)652,2181,920,8352,538,587
No Religion(c)2,948,8887,040,7179,886,957
  1. Based on place of usual residence. Excludes overseas visitors.
  2. Other religions includes Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and other religions.
  3. No religion includes Secular Beliefs (e.g. Atheism) and Other Spiritual Beliefs (e.g. New Age). In 2016 the order of the response categories changed on the Census form, no religion was moved to the first response. This may result in higher responses reported for the 'No religion' category.

Source: Religious affiliation (RELP)

Census data stories and concepts

Articles and information papers that related to this topic include:

How Census data is used

Learn how Census data helps community groups, businesses and governments make important decisions.

Casey Cardinia Public Libraries uses Census data to develop library collections for Punjabi speakers

The City of Casey is one of Victoria’s largest and fastest growing areas. Casey Cardinia Libraries, with seven branches and a popular mobile library, provides services to the diverse community of more than 420,000 people. From Hampton Park right through to Pakenham, the libraries offer meeting places where people gather, share news and make connections. Library Information Services Coordinator, Michelle McLean, said they use Census data to help identify language needs in the local community.

“In 2016, Census data for the local government area showed a dramatic increase in Punjabi speakers,” said Mrs McLean. “The data showed 6,695 people stated they spoke Punjabi at home compared to 2,531 people in 2011.”

Given the number of Punjabi speakers moving into the local Cranbourne area, the team used this data, along with survey information, to source Punjabi books and materials.

“We invited Punjabi speaking locals to an event so they could recommend items from the sample collection that interested them,” said Mrs McLean. A new language collection was then launched and continues to be used by this growing community.

“We use Census data about languages people speak at home to tell us which communities may benefit from library services,” said Beth Luppino, General Manager Customer Experience.

“We look at the top four or five languages spoken in our communities, as well as emerging ones.” The library team noticed a trend in the use of the less common Oromo language, an Afroasiatic dialect.

“While it’s only a small number of library users, we added to our bilingual book collection and sourced other language support materials to cater for this group,” said Ms Luppino.

“Census data helps us form a picture of the community,” said Ms Luppino.

“It helps tell us who our audience is so we can plan relevant activities, programs and collections. It also encourages people who are newly arrived in Australia to get a free library membership.”

See more Census stories.

Key questions in 2021 Census

  • What is the person’s ancestry?
  • In which country was the person born? 
  • In what year did the person first arrive in Australia to live for one year or more? 
  • In which country was the person’s father born? 
  • In which country was the person’s mother born? 
  • Is the person an Australian citizen? 
  • Does the person use a language other than English at home? 
  • How well does the person speak English? 
  • What is the person's religion? 

The questions from the 2021 Census are output into variables. To see descriptions of the variables, including data use considerations, relevant to this topic see the 2021 Census dictionary: Cultural diversity.

Data downloads

Data table for Cultural diversity summary

Data table for Census article - Religious affiliation in Australia

Other relevant data downloads can be found on the following pages:

Snapshot of Australia

  • Country of birth of person by state and territory of usual residence - 2016 and 2021
  • Selected countries of birth of person by state and territory of usual residence - 2021
  • Religious affiliation - 1996, 2016 and 2021

Other ABS links

To access more 2021 Census data, see Search Census data or to build your own data sets, see Census data tools.

Explore other ABS data: 

Post release changes

15/11/2022 - Census article Religious affiliation in Australia

Table of Religious affiliation of recent migrants: Corrected count of Not Stated in Number of migrants column and proportions of Christianity, Other religions and No religious affiliation in Proportions of migrants column to reflect counts and proportions of migrants who arrived in Australia from 2017 to 10 August 2021. 

27/07/2022 - Census article Religious affiliation in Australia

Graph of Count of people with Christian affiliation in 2016 and 2021, age at 2016 and graph of Count of people reporting No religion in 2016 and 2021, age at 2016: Corrected labelling of 2016 data in both graphs to make 'age at 2016' accurate and updated data points for persons at age accordingly.  

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