Boom and bust: five census maps that show how Australia has changed

In many parts of regional Australia, the population of country areas around towns has declined while the population of the town itself has increased. This trend is particularly noticeable in the eastern states and South Australia, with towns such as Narrabri (NSW), Horsham (Victoria) and Loxton (SA) increasing in population while the region around them has decreased.

Before going any further, it’s worth pointing out that the areas in these maps are designed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics for the specific purpose of collecting statistics – the areas are called “Statistical Area Level 2”, or SA2. Some of these areas did not exist in previous censuses, and have been created due to the rise in new suburbs or population in those areas. The ABS has then determined the population for the new area over time based on previous census results, allowing comparisons between 2006, 2011 and 2016.

Other areas have very small populations, so even a minor change in the demographics can look like a large percentage change from 2006 to 2016. To reduce the impact of this, these maps only show areas that had at least 100 people in 2016.

The population in the northern fringe of Melbourne has increased dramatically as farmland has been converted to housing. One newly created area, Craigieburn West, went from 75 people in 2006 to 14,152 in 2016, representing a 18,769% increase over 10 years.

Two areas that had large declines in population from 2006 to 2016 were both in South Australia, with the area of western South Australia that covers the Nullarbor declining from 105 people to 79, while the regional area around the town of Loxton declined in population by 34%.

Getting older generally, but younger in some urban areas

Mostly, Australia is getting older. But in a number of inner city areas, such as in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane, the median age has decreased over 10 years:

Fewer people own their own homes …

Nationally, the proportion of people who own their homes outright decreased from 32.6% in 2006 to 29% in 2016. The proportion of homes owned outright has increased in the urban fringes of capital cities, where new development is happening. It has also increased in remote inland areas, such as the statistical areas covering large parts of the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

… and more people are renting, particularly in cities

Nationally, the proportion of homes that were rented increased from 27.1% in 2006 to 29.4% in 2016. City suburbs generally had an increased proportion of rentals, as did some regional areas associated with the resources industry, such as northern NSW, and parts of inland Queensland and Western Australia.