Australia is a very big and a very diverse place. The Geographical Information section is designed to help you understand a bit about the lay of the land – where things are, where people live, and what the weather’s like. This section looks at the population.
Australia: Large in Size, Small in Population
Despite its size, Australia has a relatively small population. Overall, it’s about the same size as the US (if you don’t include Alaska), it has 25,760km of coastline, a wealth of mineral resources, very little arable land and it supports about 22.5 million people.
Australia is an island continent – sometimes considered both the Earth’s largest island and it’s smallest continent. At some 7.7 million kilometres square, it is a nation state that shares not borders with any other country. Rather, the waters of the Indian, Pacific, Southern oceans and the Timor, Arafura, Coral and Tasman seas mark its borders. The Australian territories include several islands, the largest of which is Tasmania.
Australia is made up of six states and two territories – all of which are subordinate to the Federal Government, known as the Commonwealth of Australia. It’s capital, Canberra, is the seat of the federal parliamentary democracy. There’s more about this in our General Introduction section.
Australia’s State Abbreviations
States in Australia are commonly referred to by an abbreviation. The abbreviations are as follows:
- NSW: New South Wales
- VIC: Victoria
- QLD: Queensland
- WA: Western Australia
- SA: South Australia
- TAS: Tasmania
- ACT: Australian Capital Territory
- NT: Northern Territory
Australian’s Population Distribution
Most of Australia’s population lives along the eastern and south-eastern coast – particularly the cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
State-by-State Population Distribution
- About 7.3 million people live in New South Wales
- 5.6 million live in Victoria
- 4.5 million live in Queensland
- 2.3 million in Western Australia
- 1.6 million in South Australia
- About 500,000 people live in Tasmania
- 229,000 in the Northern Territory
- 361,000 in the Australian Capital Territory
City Versus Country Population Distribution
Most Australians live in capital cities and most cities are quite close to the coast. The vast Australian inland is far more sparsely populated but there are major country centres in each state.
Some of these centres qualify as cities in their own right. More than 546,000 people live in Newcastle in NSW, 178,000 live in Geelong in Victoria and 172,000 live in Townsville in far north Queensland. You can find articles showing major country centres and their populations online.
Where regional centres are located and why they have been successful depends on the industries that support it. Many support farming or mining communities. Others started as small fishing villages or grew around ports or tourist attractions.
Australian Population Demographics
Australia’s life expectancy (at 79 years for men and 84 for women) is one of the best in the world.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates:
• one new Australian is born every 105 seconds
• one international migrant arrives every 116 seconds
• one Australian dies every three-and-a-half minutes.
Australia’s Multicultural Society
Australians come from all over the world. About 90 per cent of Australia’s population is of European descent and about eight per cent of people have Asian heritage. To give you a better idea about the multicultural composition of Australia, consider this:
- About 1.15 million Australians were born in Britian
- About 476,000 were born in New Zealand
- 220,000 in Italy
- 203,000 in China
- 180,000 in Vietnam
- 153,000 in India
- 135,000 in the Philippines
- 125,000 in Greece
- 118,000 in South Africa
There are also significant populations from Germany, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Lebanon, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka.
See the Religion section for more information about how Australians worship.
You can find more information about Australian Geography or visit our Living and Working in Australia section for more articles about living in Australia.