ACT State of the Environment 2007

Indicator: Population


The increase in the Territory's population at the 2006 Census moves its growth rate from behind the national average (4.2% to 6% nationally in 2001) to marginally ahead (6.2% to 6% nationally). 1 More men than women account for the increase (4.7% males), contrasting with the national increase where the rate of growth is higher for women (5.5%) and reversing the previous trend.

The media age of the ACT population (34.4 years) is still Australia's second lowest, with the Northern Territory having the lowest (30 years). The proportion aged under 15 years (18.7%) is less than for the total Australian population (19.6%) and continued the decline over the last decade (22% in 1996 and 20.5% in 2001).

What the results tell us about the ACT

Canberra's growth now above the national average

Canberra remains the eighth largest population centre in Australia, with 1.6% of the national population – Hobart and Darwin are the smaller capital cities.

The 2006 Census recorded 334,225 people in the ACT, an increase of 6.2% since 2001, slightly higher than the overall national population increase of 6%, while in the previous Census period (1996–2001) the ACT growth rate of 4.2% was behind the national average of 6%. The rate of increase between this reporting period and the last has doubled (Table 1).

Table 1: Population growth, ACT 1997, 2001–07
2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 1997
Population 339,865 334,225 330253 327,562 325,719 322,695 319,317 309,047
Change since previous year 5640 3972 2691 1843 3024 3378 2502 N/A
% 1.7 1.2 0.8 0.5 0.8 1.0 0.8 N/A

Note: All figures are from June Quarters
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics Australian Demographic Statistics, cat. no. 3101.0

The Territory's estimated resident population at June 2006 was 334,225, an increase of 14,908 people since June 2001 (Table 1). The annual population growth rate since 2001 averages 0.9% per annum, compared with the average national growth rate of 1.3%. The ACT rate has trended upwards since 2004, with a growth of 1.2% in 2005–06 and 1.7% in 2006–07.

Areas show different trends

From June 2001 to June 2006, most of the Territory's population growth occurred in the northernmost suburban area of Gungahlin–Hall, with the increase of 8,200 mostly due to high-density development in the area. The suburbs showing the largest growth include the new suburb of Gungahlin with 3,914 followed by Dunlop with 3244 (17.0%) and Amaroo with 2357 (11.2%) (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2007c). Inner northern Turner recorded the fourth highest with 1300 (11.0%) and Banks on the outer southern suburban fringe was 5th with 1249 (5.9%) (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2007c).

The Tuggeranong area recorded the three largest declines for 2001–06, with all three suburbs – Kambah, Wanniassa and Chisholm – in continuous decline since 1996. Kambah with 16,100 people remained the most populous suburb, even with the largest fall of 930 (1.1%) (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2007c). Wanniassa followed with a decrease of 510 (1.2%) people and Chisholm recorded a loss of 390 (1.4%). Evatt, in the north, recorded the fourth highest decline with a loss of 388 (1.3%) followed by Kaleen, down 360 (0.9%) (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2007c).

Demographic trends shift slightly

Females outnumber males but trend reversed

The 2006 Census showed the gender balance in the ACT still slightly in favour of females, consistent with the national trend. However, the ACT rate of population increase since 2001 is higher for males (4.7%) while nationally the female rate (5.5%) is slightly higher (Table 2). This is a reversal from the ACT gender trend in the 1996–2001 Census (4.7% female and 3.8% male) while the national rate was 4.9% female and 5.1% male.

Table 2: Population composition by gender, Census 2006, ACT and Australia
Population counts ACT Australia
Males 2006 % 49.5 49.4
No. 165,500 9,799,252
Females 2006 % 50.5 50.6
No. 168,800 10,056,036
Increase since 2001 % 4.7 males 5.4 males
% 4.4 females 5.5 females
Increase since 1996 % 3.8 male 5.1 males
% 4.7 female 4.9 female

Source: 2006 Census of Population and Housing

Figure 1: Age and sex distribution, Australian Capital Territory, 1986 and 2006

Graph of age and sex distribution, Australian Capital Territory, 1986 and 2006

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2007, Australian Capital Territory in Focus, cat. no. 1307.8

Figure 2: Age and sex distribution, Australian Capital Territory, 2001 and 2006

Graph of age and sex distribution, Australian Capital Territory, 2001 and 2006

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006, Population by Age and Sex, Australia, cat. no. 3235.0

Not getting any younger

The 2006 Census showed that the rounded median age – the age at which half the population is older and half younger – of the Territory's population, while lower than that nationally, had risen at roughly the same rate as the national rate since 1981 (Table 3).

Table 3: Rounded median age, ACT and Australia
Census date ACT Australia
2006 34 37
2001 32 35
1996 30 34
1991 29 32
1981 27 30

Source: 2006 Census of Population and Housing

The Territory's population is generally younger than the total Australian population, with a median age in June 2006 of 34.4 years when the national median age was 36.6 years.

Within the ACT, the Gungahlin–Hall area had the youngest population at June 2006 (median age 31.3 years), followed by North Canberra (32.3 years), Tuggeranong (33.4 years), and Belconnen (33.9 years). Woden Valley (39.7 years), Weston Creek–Stromlo (39.2 years), and South Canberra (38.7 years) had the highest median ages.

At June 2006 as in 2001 and 1996, the ACT had lower proportion of people at all ages over 58 years than the national average. The proportion of young adults (18–36 years) in the ACT is particularly high compared with Australia, reflecting the number of people of these ages who move to Canberra for tertiary education or employment (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Age distribution, ACT and Australia, 30 June 2006

Graph of age distribution, ACT and Australia, 30 June 2006

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006, Population by Age and Sex, Australia, cat. no. 3235.0

While the data from all jurisdictions show an ageing trend reflecting the combined effects of the post World War II 'baby boom', lower birth rates and increased life expectancy, the ACT has the second lowest median age (34.4 years) in Australia. The Northern Territory has the lowest median age (30 years).

There were 62,600 people aged under 15 years in the ACT at June 2006, making up 18.7% of the population. This was less than the Australian proportion of 19.6%. It was also less than the proportion of children in the ACT in June 1996 (22.0%) and June 2001 (20.5%).

Around one-quarter of the populations of both Gungahlin–Hall (25.2%) and Tuggeranong (22.3%) were aged under 15 years in June 2006. The suburbs with the highest proportion of population under 15 years were Amaroo (30.0%) and Conder (28.7%). North Canberra had the lowest proportion of people aged under 15 years at 12.7%, with Acton (0.2%) the lowest suburb.

There were 239,900 people aged 15 to 64 years in the ACT at June 2006, making up 71.8% of the population. The highest proportion of people in this age group was in the North Canberra area (75.5%) followed by the Belconnen grouping (72.6%). Woden Valley had the lowest proportion (67.5%).

Of the larger suburbs (more than 1000 people), the three with the highest proportion of people aged 15 to 64 were those with large student populations: Acton (99.2%), with the Australian National University; Duntroon (91.5%), with the Australian Defence Force Academy; and Belconnen Town Centre (97.7%), with the University of Canberra.

Acton and Duntroon also had the highest proportions of working aged people in June 1996 and June 2001. The suburbs of Deakin and Hughes had the lowest proportions of working age people with 62.7% each in June 2006.

There were 31,800 people aged 65 years and over in the ACT at June 2006, making up 9.5% of the population. The highest proportions of people aged 65 years and over were in the areas of Woden Valley (16.0%), South Canberra (14.6%) and Weston Creek–Stromlo (13.4%). The Gungahlin–Hall area had the lowest proportion with 4.6%. Almost one-quarter (22.2%) of the population of Page in the Belconnen area was aged 65 years and over.

There were 3400 people aged 85 years and over in the ACT at June 2006, making up 1.0% of the population. The highest proportion of people aged 85 years and over was in South Canberra (2.5%). Gungahlin–Hall had the lowest proportion (0.2%). The suburb of Page had the highest proportion (5.7%) of its population aged 85 years and over, as it did in June 2001.

Indigenous population increasing

Of the total ACT population, 1.2% (3873) were Indigenous people, compared with 2.3% (324,035) nationally. In the 15 years since the 1991 Census, the number of ACT residents identifying themselves as of Indigenous origin increased by 143.3%. Most of this increase cannot be explained by migration and natural increase and may reflect both more knowledge of family following initiatives to enhance access to government records, and increasing ease of identification for Indigenous people (Table 4).

The ACT Indigenous population is relatively young, with a median age of 21 years compared with the median age of 34 years for the total population.

Taking the Canberra–Queanbeyan area of the 2006 Census, 4757 usual residents of Canberra–Queanbeyan indicated they were of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin, representing 1.4% of the total population, similar to the 2001 Census (1.3%).

The median age of the Indigenous population in Canberra–Queanbeyan was 21 years, considerably lower than for the total Canberra–Queanbeyan population (34 years). Of the Indigenous Australians living in Canberra–Queanbeyan, 36.8% were children aged 0–14 years, almost double the proportion in this age group for the total population (19.4%). The reverse was the case for people aged 65 years and over, with just 1.6% of the Indigenous Australians in this age group, compared with 9.6% of all Canberra–Queanbeyan residents.

The Indigenous population was most likely to live in Queanbeyan, with the highest proportions in the suburbs of Karabar (5.3%) and Letchworth (3.3%). The ACT suburb with the next highest proportion of Indigenous Australians was nearby Symonston (2.9%), just over the border from Queanbeyan. There was also a small number of Indigenous Australians living in the Belconnen and Tuggeranong areas (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2008b).

Fewer ACT people born overseas

At the 2006 Census, more than one in five residents of Canberra–Queanbeyan (22.5% or 75,977 people) were born overseas, similar to 2001 (22.4%). Of these, 28.5% were born in the United Kingdom and Ireland and 10.2% were born in other parts of Europe. A further 15.7% were born in South-East Asia, 10.6% in North-East Asia, and 7.0% were born in New Zealand.

Overall, 35.8% of the overseas-born population in Canberra–Queanbeyan were born in Asia while 27.4% of the Australian population were Asian-born. Generally, higher proportions of overseas-born people lived in and around the city centre area, extending from North Canberra through to the Belconnen area. In particular, higher concentrations were evident near the universities with Acton (53.6%), Canberra City (38.8%), Braddon (35.4%) and Turner (30.3%). In the suburbs of Belconnen and Bruce the proportions of people born overseas were 35.1% and 31.4% respectively (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2008b)

Two of Canberra's main universities are located in Acton and Bruce. There were also a high proportion of overseas-born people to the south, in the Woden suburb of O'Malley, and a growing proportion of overseas-born people in the newer suburbs of the Gungahlin area in the north.

Table 4: Population diversity, 1996, 2001 and 2006
2006 2001 1996
Australian born
ACT 73% (236,458) 73.9% 74.90%
Australia 70.9% (14,072,944) 71.8% 73.90%
Indigenous people
ACT 1.2% (3873) 1.2% 1%
Australia 2.3% (455,031) 2.2% 2%
English only language spoken at home
ACT 77.2% (262,450 82.4% 84.1%
Australia 78.5% (15,581,332) 79.10% 81.40%

Source: 2006 Census of Population and Housing

More households, fewer with children

The 2006 Census recorded 84,509 families in the ACT, most being couples with children (Table 5); statistical projections for the most common family type in 2011 was 'couples without children'.

Table 5: Family structure in the ACT, 2001 and 2006
Family type 2006 2001
Couples with children
ACT 47% (39,740) 49%
Australia 45.3% (2,362,582) 47%
Couples without children
ACT 36.2% (30,627) 34%
Australia 37.2% 1,943,643 35.7%
Single parent families
ACT 15.1% (12,796) 16%
Australia 15.8% (823,254) 15.4%
Other families (such as siblings living together)
ACT 1.6% (1,346) 2%
Australia 1.7% (89,686) 1.8%

Source: 2006 Census of Population and Housing

In June 2006 there were an estimated 130,000 households in the ACT, a lower increase (about 6.5%) since 2001 than nationally (about 9.4%). Statistical projections expect the number of households in the ACT to increase to between 151,900 and 166,400 by the year 2021 (a 20-year increase of about 30%).

Between 2001 and 2006 the proportion of family households fell in the ACT (1.4%) while the proportion of group houses rose (0.6%) and the proportion of single person households fell (0.1%). The change in family households corresponds to the national figure while the percentages for lone person and group households remained constant from 2001 (Table 6).

Table 6: Composition of households in 1996, 2001 and 2006 censuses
Household type 2006 2001 1996
Family households
ACT 67.9% (83,503) 69.3% 71.1%
National 67.4% (5,122,760) 68.8% 70.6%
Single person households
ACT 22.1% (27,118) 22.2% 21.0%
Nationally 22.9% (1,740,481) 22.9% 22.1%
Group houses
ACT 5.1% (6,292) 4.5% 5.6%
Nationally 3.7% (280,856) 3.7% 4.1%

Source: 2006 Census of Population and Housing

People living alone

In 2006, 30,584 people aged 15 years and over were living alone in Canberra–Queanbeyan, being 10.6% of all people aged 15 years and over, or 23.7% of all households, the same as in 2001. People living alone were more likely to be in the older age groups (27.4% aged 65 years and over) and female (56.0%). People living alone were clustered in several areas of Canberra–Queanbeyan, including the older parts of Queanbeyan, the eastern part of South Canberra, Woden Valley and a corridor along Northbourne Avenue through North Canberra. This corridor encompasses three of the suburbs with the highest proportions: Canberra City (55.7%), Braddon (45.4%) and Reid (45.2%), all with high proportions of medium- and high-density housing. Areas with high proportions of people living alone tend to be close to town centres, with a South Canberra cluster around Kingston and Manuka. Areas with high proportions of people living alone generally also had high proportions of low-income households, except in South Canberra (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2008b).

One-parent families with dependent children

There were 9,982 one-parent families with dependent children in Canberra–Queanbeyan at the time of the 2006 Census, which represented 10.7% of all families. This was a decrease from 2001, when they represented 11.6% of all families (10,193 one-parent families). One-parent families were scattered across most of Canberra–Queanbeyan although they were more prominent in the outer areas. The suburbs with the highest proportions were Charnwood in Belconnen (18.6%); and Gilmore, Greenway and Richardson in Tuggeranong (all between 15% and 16%). Oaks Estate near Queanbeyan had the highest proportion (23.9%) although the total number of families in this suburb was relatively small. In the majority (82.3%) of one-parent families, the single parent was female. Around 23% of all single parents were not in the labour force. Of those who were employed, 33.1% were employed part-time (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2008b).

Couples with dependent children

In 2006 there were 40,503 couples in Canberra–Queanbeyan with no dependent children, or 43.5% of all families, compared with 40.8% in 2001.2 These families were spread throughout most of Canberra–Queanbeyan, with higher concentrations in the inner city areas, such as Canberra City, Barton, Kingston, Turner and Braddon (over 60% of all families in these suburbs).

Most couples in these areas were younger, with at least one partner aged less than 39 years. In O'Malley and Mawson in the Woden area, couples with no dependent children tended to be older (at least one partner aged 60 years and over). Areas with high proportions of couples with no dependent children tended to also have high proportions of either rented dwellings or high-income households (but not both), as well as higher proportions of people who undertook unpaid voluntary work (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2008b).

Data sources and references

ACT Government 2007, A Social Overview of the ACT, Report for the Community Inclusion Board, available at < >

ACT Government 2007, Canberra Social Plan Progress Report, available at < >

Australian Bureau of Statistics Australian Bureau of Statistics 2001-2007, Australian Demographic Statistics, cat. no. 3101.0.

Australian Bureau of Statistics Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006, Population by Age and Sex, Australia, 2006, cat. no. 3235.0, available at < Features112006?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=3235.0&issue=2006&num=&view=>

Australian Bureau of Statistics Australian Bureau of Statistics 2007a, Regional Population Growth, Australia 1996 to 2006, cat. no. 3218.0, available at < Notes11996%20to%202006?OpenDocument>

Australian Bureau of Statistics Australian Bureau of Statistics 2007b, 2006 Census of Population and Housing, cat. no. 2914, available at <>

Australian Bureau of Statistics Australian Bureau of Statistics 2007c, Australian Capital Territory in Focus 2006, cat. no. 1307.8, available at OpenDocument>

Australian Bureau of Statistics Australian Bureau of Statistics 2007d, Australian Social Trends 2007, cat. no. 4102.0, available at < Release12007?opendocument& tabname=Summary&prodno=4102.0&issue=2007&num=&view=>

Australian Bureau of Statistics Australian Bureau of Statistics 2008a, 2006 Census Community Profile Series: Australian Capital Territory, available at < =8&issue=2006&producttype=Community+Profiles&textversion=true&navmapdisplayed=true&&breadcrumb=PLD& >

Australian Bureau of Statistics Australian Bureau of Statistics 2008b, Canberra : a social atlas 2006, cat. no. 2030.8 available at <>


1 The current reporting period crosses a Census period so, unless otherwise shown, statistical data used reflect changes between the 2001 and the 2006 Census figures, rather than comparison with the previous reporting period.
2 These couples may have non-dependent children still at home.

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