Census 2016: Australia hits 'tipping point' as Melbourne is set to overtake Sydney

Melbourne is set to overtake Sydney as Australia's most populous city; for the first time in history the majority of us born overseas are from Asia not Europe; and there has been a 39 per cent surge in the number of people declaring themselves in a same-sex relationship.

That is the verdict of the 2016 census, released by Australian Bureau of Statistics on Tuesday, which found Australia's population has grown by 8.8 per cent to 24.4 million people since the last time the national clock was measured in 2011.

Of all Australia's states and territories, the ACT had the largest population growth, adding more than 40,000 new residents in the past five years, an increase of 11 per cent.

Melbourne is growing faster than Sydney. Photo: Jessica Shapiro

Melbourne is growing faster than Sydney. Photo: Jessica Shapiro

State v State

NSW might still be Australia's most populous state with 7.5 million people, but Melbourne is fast becoming Australia's most populous city.

In August, 4,485,211 Melburnians filled out census forms online and on paper, 4,823,991 did the same in Sydney, while 600,000 Australians were overseas.

But that gap is being cut down by the week. Since 2011, 1656 new people called Sydney home every seven days as 1859 arrived in Melbourne.

Australians are getting older. Photo: P Bottrell

Australians are getting older. Photo: P Bottrell

An ageing population

Australians are also older.

"Australia has developed a case of middle-aged spread," said the bureau's director of census data Sue Taylor.

People aged 65 and over now make up 16 per cent of the population. Those aged 85 plus number half-a-million.  

The proportion of children and teenagers has shrunk in almost all areas except for among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders where the majority of growth has come from Australia's youngest citizens.

The indigenous population has risen. Photo: Glenn Campbell

The indigenous population has risen. Photo: Glenn Campbell

Indigenous population surges

The number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders has jumped by 18 per cent since 2011 to 649,171 to now make up 2.8 per cent of the population.

The median indigenous age has also grown. Half-a-century after Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders were first legally counted in the census, the median age has grown by three years, from 20 to 23.

For non-indigenous Australians the median age in 2016 is 38.

The number of people declaring a religion has fallen. Photo: Louise Kennerley

The number of people declaring a religion has fallen. Photo: Louise Kennerley

Losing our religion

Australia might still remain a predominantly religious country but over two decades the number of people declaring their spirituality has plunged. 12.9 per cent said they had no religion in 1991 compared to 30.1 per cent in 2016.

Of those who did declare, 52.1 per cent said they were Christian, down from 88.2 per cent in 1966.

Catholics are no longer the nation's largest religious affiliation. People with no religion now make up 7 per cent more of the population than Catholics and more than double the number of Anglicans, Australia's largest religious group until 1986. 

From 0.7 per cent half a century ago, other religions now make up 8.2 per cent of our population. Buddhists are now most likely to come from Vietnam (26 per cent) while Muslims are now most likely to hail from Pakistan (14 per cent) and Afghanistan (11 per cent).

But none of those countries are where Australia gets most of its migrants from.

An increasing number of immigrants come from Asia. Photo: supplied

An increasing number of immigrants come from Asia. Photo: supplied

Australia's 'tipping point'

More than one-quarter of Australians are now born overseas, with England remaining the dominant single source of expatriates.

But, for the first time, the majority of people born overseas are from Asia, not Europe.

China, India and the Philippines now round out the top five for the largest number of migrants after England and New Zealand.

In the past five years 1.3 million new migrants have arrived, with China (191,000) and India (163,000) making up the largest numbers of most recent arrivals.

"It is a tipping point," said Ms Taylor. "Almost half of all Australians are either born overseas or have one parent born overseas."

"[The trend] is very obvious," she said. "There are two groups of migrants to be looking at, the European-born who came in the 1970s are much older than the Asian born".

Most migrants live in NSW where they make up 28 per cent of the population.

At home, 72.7 per cent of people speak only English, 2.5 per cent speak Mandarin, and 1.4 per cent speak Arabic.

Those homes are also becoming more diverse.

More Australians have declared themselves to be in a same sex relationship. Photo: Getty Images

More Australians have declared themselves to be in a same sex relationship. Photo: Getty Images

The family home

There are now 46,000 same sex couples in Australia after the number of people declaring themselves in a same sex relationship surged by 39 per cent since 2011.

Among all couples, 45 per cent of families have children, while 37.8 per cent of couples have no children.

Those couples are also getting separated more often, particularly after the age of 45.

The total number of single parent families has now grown 15.8 per cent and female single parents make up 81.8 per cent of those still looking after children.

Rising rents are contributing to tighter household budgets. Photo: Tanya Lake

Rising rents are contributing to tighter household budgets. Photo: Tanya Lake

The family home

Rising rents and mortgage coupled with stagnant wage growth are making us work harder on tighter budgets.

The median personal income of Australians has grown to $662 a week across Australia, $664 in NSW and $644 in Victoria. The ACT is the wealthiest of all the states with a median of $998 dollars per week.

But Melbourne, Sydney and Perth have the highest proportion of homes spending more than 30 per cent of their incomes on a mortgage, while 22 per cent of Sydney households are spending more than a third of their monthly income on rent.

Since 2011 the number of NSW renters has increased from 30.1 to 31.8 per cent while Victoria has increased from 26.5 per cent to 28.7 per cent.

In 2016, 31 per cent of Australians owned their homes outright, 34.5 per cent owned them with a mortgage and 30.9 per cent rented. 25 years ago, 41.1 per cent owned homes outright, 27.5 per cent had a mortgage and 26.9 per cent rented.

#Censusfail

Despite widespread criticism after a cyber attack meant many people were locked out of completing the census online, up to 95.1 per cent of Australian eventually filled out the nationwide survey, with 63 per cent doing so online.

Australian Statistician David Kalisch said the range of Census data would provide insights into the makeup of the Australian population and will be used to guide critical decisions over the coming years.

More to come