Australia is sparsely populated and the residents are very unevenly spread geographically. Two thirds of the country is largely uninhabited and a significant area is sparsely populated rural. Four-fifths of the residents live in cities and towns along the east and south coasts and around Perth in the southwest. After a downturn in the 1990s, immigration increased at the beginning of the 2010s and then decreased somewhat again.
The majority of Australians are of European, mainly British or Irish, origin. For a long time, immigration through the so-called White Australia policy was limited to mainly British and Irish. After the Second World War, Europeans also came from the war-torn Central and Eastern Europe.
- COUNTRYAAH.COM: Key populations estimated size and data of Australia, including population density of how many people per square mile. Also included are facts for population and language.
Only in the 1970s was the country opened for immigration from Asia. In recent years, Australia has mainly granted residence permits to educated immigrants to work in the country. Most of them come from India, China and the UK. Chinese and Indians are fast-growing minorities. In 2016, more than one in four Australians was born abroad. Over the past two decades, 12,000 −13,000 refugees have been granted asylum annually in the country. During the second half of the 2010s, Australia received a few thousand more refugees from Syria and Iraq.
At the same time, during the 2010s, Australia has received heavy criticism from, among other things, human rights organizations for the harsh treatment of refugees. To stop the influx of boat refugees who arrived via Indonesia, for example, the Australian military began patrolling offshore areas and sending back refugees. From 2013, refugees who tried to enter the country were also sent by boat or flight to camps in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, where they were locked in waiting to have their cases assessed. Reports of violence and abuse and harsh conditions in the camps fueled criticism from the outside world. In the fall of 2017, a disputed refugee camp in Papua New Guinea was closed after a court in the country decided that it violated the constitution. However, it was unclear where the 600 asylum seekers staying in the camp would take the road:
About 650,000 people (about 3 percent of the population) belong to the indigenous population, the Aborigines and the residents of the islands in the Torres Sound (about 6,000), which are of Melanese origin. The indigenous population has higher birth rates than the rest of the population but also significantly shorter life expectancy, the median age was only 23 years in 2016 (which was nevertheless an increase of two years compared to 2011). A change in attitude causes more people than before to choose to identify themselves as Aborigines.
Aborigines are believed to have lived in Australia for about 50,000 years and were still just over two centuries since the continent’s only residents. They probably immigrated from Southeast Asia and then divided themselves into ethnic groups and clans. When the British began colonizing the continent at the end of the 18th century, an estimated 300,000 to one million Aboriginal people lived there.
The Europeans pursued the Aborigines harshly and in the 1920s the number had dropped to 60,000. Thereafter, the group was actively marginalized by being denied their basic human rights. It was not until 1967 that they were granted citizenship and voting rights.
By the mid-1900s, the authorities had invested in “adapting Aborigines”. This meant that the indigenous people were uprooted from their traditional way of life in order to be integrated into modern society. Thousands of children were taken from their parents and placed in institutions where they were often treated poorly. These children, the lost generation, suffer even more from this trauma, which has, however, gained increasing attention.
Today, however, Aborigines are still the most disadvantaged group in the country from all points of view (see Labor market and Social conditions). For example, there are few Aborigines in politics. In the 2010 election, however, for the first time, an aboriginal, Ken Wyatt, became a member of the lower house, and in early 2017 Wyatt was named minister, the first ever of Aboriginal descent. In 2013, the first Aboriginal woman entered parliament.
Two thirds of the indigenous population live in the eastern parts of the country. One third of them live in major cities. But there are still Aborigines living in reserves or in traditional settlements, mainly in the Northern Territory, where in some areas they make up the majority of the population.
State support for the urinals increased significantly in the early 1990s and in 1992 Aborigines won an important victory when the Supreme Court ruled that Aborigines can claim ownership of land in state ownership. In doing so, the former legal notion was lifted that the continent was uninhabited (terra nullius) when the Europeans arrived.
At the same time as the new land rights of the Aborigines became law, however, Parliament allowed for shared rights to the land for Aborigines and mining companies. In order that important investments would not be threatened, the urinals were given only negotiating rights over how the land would be used. Since then, several agreements have been reached between mining companies and Aborigines, and other indigenous peoples. For example, in 2011, British-Australian mining company Rio Tinto signed an agreement with Aborigines in Western Australia for continued extraction rights on their land for 40 years against Aboriginal profits and at least 14 per cent of the company’s employment. On the other hand, in 2008, after a complaint by Aborigines, the Federal Court denied a British-Swiss company the right to expanded zinc mining in the Northern Territory. Zinc mining was questioned, among other things, for environmental reasons, as it meant, among other things, the redirection of a river on Aboriginal land. In other cases, planned mining projects have been delayed due to litigation over the rights of indigenous peoples, such as a controversial planned coal mine in Queensland. Indigenous peoples in the area have appealed in various rounds during the 2010s against a decision by the Australian government and the state government to grant Indian mining company Adani licenses to run the project, which also received harsh criticism from environmental organizations.
In 1999, Parliament adopted a declaration of “deep and sincere repentance” for former Aboriginal injustices. However, no official apology from the government came until the beginning of 2008, after a new Labor government took office. At a historic meeting in May 2017, 250 leaders of the indigenous people demanded that the indigenous peoples be given special representation in Parliament and that a formal treaty be signed on their land rights (see also Political system).
English is the official language and mother tongue of most Australians. The largest languages besides English (languages most commonly spoken at home) are Mandarin, Arabic, Cantonese and Vietnamese. The English spoken language in Australia contains many expressions that are unique to the country and the pronunciation is distinctive, often severely compressed. The dialect is called Aussie English or Strine, which is a summary of the word “Australian”.
Among the Aborigines are spoken Australian languages, which are divided into a northern and a southern main group. In 2016, one in ten indigenous people stated that they spoke an Australian language at home, while most of them could also speak English. There are 150 Australian languages still used. They all have a vocabulary rich in expression of concrete things but poor in abstract words. Writing language is missing in most cases. The largest languages have thousands of users. Many Aborigines communicate with each other using mixed language.
FACTS – POPULATION AND LANGUAGE
92% white, mainly of British and Irish origin, 6% Asians, 2% Aborigines and others
Number of residents
24 598 933 (2017)
Number of residents per square kilometer
Percentage of residents in the cities
85.9 percent (2017)
Nativity / birth
12.5 per 1000 residents (2016)
Mortality / mortality
6.5 per 1000 residents (2016)
1.6 percent (2017)
1.8 number of births per woman (2016)
Percentage of women
50.2 percent (2017)
83 years (2016)
Life expectancy for women
85 years (2016)
Life expectancy for men
81 years (2016)
English is officially language 1
- Aborigines also speak Australian language