2070.0 - A Picture of the Nation: the Statistician's Report on the 2006 Census, 2006  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 29/01/2009  First Issue
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January 29, 2009
Embargoed 11.30am (AEDT)

Smarter, secular and city dwellers says ABS

Each successive generation is more likely to live in a city and to hold a university qualification, but less likely to report religious beliefs according to A Picture of the Nation: the Statistician’s Report on the 2006 Census, released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

A Picture of the Nation provides a rich source of stories on our changing Australian society. It also provides an in-depth analysis of population census data, complementing the extensive range of other Census products already available free from the ABS website.

Some of the findings detailed in A Picture of the Nation include:
  • At the 1911 Census, 42% of the population were living in rural areas. By 2006, only 12% of Australians were located in rural areas, while just over three quarters (77%) were in towns and cities within 50 km of the coast.
  • Women have closed the gap in university qualifications - in 2006, more women than men in Generation X and Y held a Bachelor degree or higher (28% compared with 21%).
  • In 2006, more than three quarters of the Lucky Generation were affiliated with a Christian denomination, compared with just over one half of Generation X and Y.
  • Between 2001 and 2006, 43% of people aged 5 and over in Australia had changed their location.
  • Between 1986 to 2006 the number of people working part-time more than doubled, from 1.2 million to 2.7 million.
  • More than half the people who cared for children who were not their own were aged 50 and over, many of these were caring for their grandchildren

More details can be found in A Picture of the Nation (cat. no. 2070.0) <https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/2070.0>

Story leads have also been provided to assist reporting.


Media requests and interviews
Larissa Sette (02) 6252 6566
Kate Gilrane (02) 6252 6403; 0447 693 708

Statistical clarification
Darryl Miller (02) 6252 5382


  • Australians are living longer with the proportion of older Australians (aged 65 and over) increasing from 4% in 1901 to 13% in 2006.
  • The proportion of children (aged under 15) declined from 35% in 1901 to 20% in 2006.
  • Generation X and Y are the most highly qualified generation, with one in four having a Bachelor Degree or above in 2006.
  • Between 2001 and 2006, Australia’s population increased by over one million people, with about half from overseas migration and half from natural increase.
  • Young Australians continue to leave rural areas. Over a quarter of people leaving country inland areas in 2006 were aged 15-24. The loss of young people makes it difficult to sustain population levels in these areas.

  • Almost half (44%) of all Australians were either born overseas or has at least one parent born overseas.
  • About one-third of Australia’s Indigenous population are living in Major Cities.
  • In 2006, Australia’s Greek and Croatian born population had the highest citizenship rates with 97% and 96% respectively. Japan born residents had the lowest citizenship rate with 15%.
  • Over 200 languages were spoken in Australian homes in 2006. The most common non-English languages were Italian (1.8%), Greek (1.4%), Cantonese (1.3%), Arabic (1.3%) and Mandarin (1.2%).

  • The proportion of young couple families without children has remained constant over the last 20 years (14%). However fewer of these couples are getting married - 44% in 2006 compared with 75% in 1986.
  • In 2006 two-thirds of all people living in group households were aged between 15 and 34 years.
  • In 2006, one in 10 people in Australia were living alone, but half the population lived in a two parent family with children.
  • In 2006, 24,000 children lived with their grandparents, with no parent in the family.

  • In 2006, more women had volunteered than men and people born in Australia were more likely to volunteer than those born overseas (22% compared with 15%).
  • In 2006, 1.3 million people provided unpaid care for another child, who was not their own. Two thirds of these were women.
  • 4.4% of Australians needed daily assistance with core activities such as self-care, moving around or communicating, because of a long term health condition, a disability or old age.

  • One in four Australians attended an educational institution in 2006.
  • There were 1.7 million primary school students and 1.3 million secondary school students in 2006: a 2% decline in the number of primary students and a 5% increase in the number of secondary students since 1996.
  • The number of Indigenous students attending primary school increased by 17% to 72,000 between 1996 and 2006. Over the same period, the number of Indigenous secondary students increased by 46% to 40,000.
  • The most common fields of study for people’s highest non-school qualification were Engineering and related technologies (21%) and Management and commerce (20%) of all people with non-school qualifications.

  • Labour force participation for women increased from 48% to 58% between 1986 and 2006. Over the same period the participation rate for men fell from 75% to 72%.
  • In 2006, more people worked very long hours than in 1986: 19% reported that they worked 49 hours or more per week, compared with 15% of all employed people in 1986.
  • 8 out of 10 people travelled to work by motor car on Census day 2006.

  • The family home is the main asset for many Australians: 70% of households owned their own home with or without a mortgage: a similar rate to the past 40 years.
  • In 2006, more than two thirds (67%) of people who were employed full-time in higher skill level occupations (which included managers and professionals) had higher incomes.

  • Between 1986 and 2006, the number of private dwellings in Australia increased by 45% (or 2.6 million dwellings), while the number of people living in private dwellings increased by substantially less at 28%.
  • The median weekly rent for public housing was $90.