Latest release

Location: Census

Information on place of usual residence, migration and place of work

Reference period
2021
Released
28/06/2022
Next release Unknown
First release

Key statistics

  • New South Wales is home to 31.8 per cent of the national population.
  • The Australian Capital Territory had the largest population growth with a 14 per cent increase since 2016.
  • Western Australia has a highly urbanised population with almost 80 per cent based in the capital city.
  • Tasmania has the highest proportion of the population living outside a capital city.

Information on internal migration (where people have moved to and from in Australia) will be released in October 2022

    Capital cities versus regional population(a)

    Pie graph showing: 66.9% of the population live in Greater Capital Cities, and 33.1% live in the Rest of Australia.

    Capital cities versus regional population(a)

    This pie graph shows that 66.9 per cent of the population live in Greater Capital Cities, and 33.1% of the population live in the Rest of Australia.

    (a) Based on place of usual residence. Excludes overseas visitors. Rest of Australia includes Other Territories.

    Source: Place of usual residence (PURP)

    State and Territories

    Usual resident count by state and territory(a), 2016 and 2021 Census
     20162021
    New South Wales7,480,2288,072,163
    Victoria5,926,6246,503,491
    Queensland4,703,1935,156,138
    South Australia1,676,6531,781,516
    Western Australia2,474,4102,660,026
    Tasmania509,965557,571
    Northern Territory228,833232,605
    Australian Capital Territory397,397454,499
    Australia(b)23,401,89225,422,788

    Note there are small random adjustments made to all cell values to protect the confidentiality of data. These adjustments may cause the sum of rows or columns to differ by small amounts from table totals.

    (a) Excludes overseas visitors. 

    (b) Includes Other Territories.

    Source: Place of usual residence (PURP)

    Greater Capital City Statistical Areas

    Usual resident count by Greater Capital City Statistical Areas(a), 2016 and 2021 Census
     20162021
    Greater Sydney4,823,9915,231,147
    Greater Melbourne4,485,2114,917,750
    Greater Brisbane2,270,8002,526,238
    Greater Adelaide1,295,7141,387,290
    Greater Perth1,943,8582,116,647
    Greater Hobart222,356247,086
    Greater Darwin136,828139,902
    Australian Capital Territory396,857453,890
    Total Greater Capital Cities15,575,61817,019,956

    Note there are small random adjustments made to all cell values to protect the confidentiality of data. These adjustments may cause the sum of rows or columns to differ by small amounts from table totals.

    (a) Excludes overseas visitors.

    Source: Place of usual residence (PURP), Greater Capital City Statistical Area (GCCSA)

    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.

    Census data helps regional planners understand what attracts people to live in regional Australia

    The Regional Australia Institute gathers and analyses data to help governments and regional leaders make strategic planning decisions for regions.

    Regional Australia encompasses all areas outside the five major cities and Canberra. It is home to 8.8 million people, accounts for one-third of national output and provides employment to one in three working Australians.

    Kim Houghton, Chief Economist at the Regional Australia Institute said Census data was at the heart of providing social and economic evidence about regional areas.

    “Census data showed that regional cities had 7.8 per cent population growth between 2011 and 2016,” said Dr Houghton. “Incomes and qualification rates rose and the proportion of regional young people completing Year 12 increased.”

    Dr Houghton said Census data gives unparalleled coverage at small area scale.

    “No other data source gives a clearer picture of how people and places differ and are changing across regional Australia.  

    “Our research looks at national patterns and trends, combined with information from the ground to provide local scale analysis. For example, we use data on population growth and median age to investigate issues of workforce change in the health and disability services industries.

    “Census data indicates that the over-65 population is growing in many regions. This is a combination of ageing in place and in-migration of retirees. While retiree migration helps boost local spending, working age population growth is needed for the region to remain resilient,” said Dr Houghton.

    Regional Australia offers a great lifestyle with good work opportunities, low-cost housing and few commuting nightmares.

    “Data tells us there are typically around 40,000 job vacancies in regional places each month, with most of these in highly skilled trades and professions,” said Dr Houghton. “There is a great range of jobs available for young people looking to accelerate their career, or families looking to cut their stress levels.”

    This information combined with Census data boosts the view that regional Australia offers an attractive and viable lifestyle choice, while taking the pressure off the overcrowded major cities.

    Dr Houghton said Census data is essential to its Pathfinder research that identifies a region’s strengths and weaknesses and benchmarks them to identify strategic directions.

    “Census data is integral to economic strategic planning and helping stakeholders view a region as a whole. For instance, we worked with the Cradle Coast Authority to create a unified approach across the region for a ‘more jobs and better jobs’ campaign.”

    The regularity of the Census also helps the Institute prepare its analysis of upcoming trends.

    “When the 2021 Census data is released we’ll be looking closely at mobility patterns in regional Australia to find out how Australians ‘vote with their feet’ in choosing to move to regional places with particular attributes,” said Dr Houghton.

    “We will analyse mobility data alongside social, cultural, environmental and economic measures to look for important ‘attraction ingredients’ to help explain the flows of people to desirable places.

    “We rely on the Census and value it highly in providing insights into the many local and regional differences that we are trying to identify and understand.”

    See more Census stories.

    Key questions in 2021 Census

    • What is the address of this dwelling?
    • Where does the person usually live? 
    • Where did the person usually live one year ago (at 10 August 2020)? 
    • Where did the person usually live five years ago (at 10 August 2016)? 
    • For the main job held last week, what was the employer’s business name?  
    • For the main job held last week, what was the person’s workplace address?

    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: Location.

    Data downloads

    Data table for Location data summary

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

    Snapshot of Australia
    • State and territory of usual residence - 1996 -2021
    • Greater Capital City Statistical Areas - 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: