Census 2021: Increase in Aussies born overseas and First Nations people getting older

By Anna Macdonald

June 28, 2022

Andrew Leigh
Assistant minister for competition, charities and treasury Andrew Leigh said the ABS and Gruen have engaged an independent panel to review and report on its data quality. (AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi)

The 2021 Census has shown an increase in both the number of Australians born overseas and the number of languages spoken at home other than English.

Census data helps inform public policy decisions until the next one in five years, 2026. 

The top five countries that people were born in, excluding Australia, were: England (927,490), India (673,352), China (549,618), New Zealand (530,492), and the Philippines (293,892).

The country of birth with the largest increase since the 2021 Census was India, with an increase of  217,963 people, followed by Nepal, with 67,752 people, doubling the number of people from the landlocked Asian nation. 

For ancestries, the top five were English (33%), Australian (29.9%), Irish (9.5%), Scottish (8.6%), and Chinese (5.5%).

The top five languages spoken at home other than English were Mandarin (2.7%), Arabic (1.4%), Vietnamese (1.3%), Cantonese (1.2%) and Punjabi (0.9%). 

Overall, the number of people who spoke a language other than English increased by 792,062, to over 5.5 million people. 

Australian statistician Dr David Gruen said the census collected information for over 250 ancestries and 350 languages.

“The information collected in the Census provides important data to help plan services and support for culturally and linguistically diverse communities at the local level. For example, by understanding the growing population groups in their area, community groups can provide in-language services at the local level,” Gruen commented.

The Census has found an increase in the age of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with the median age up to 24, up from 23 in 2016, and 21 in 2011. There was also an increase of 25% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over 25. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people made up 3.2% of the population, with 812,729 identifying as such. 

There were 167 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages used at home in 2021 by 76,978 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Arnhem Land and Daly River Region Languages (14.5%) and Torres Strait Island Languages (12.0%) were the largest language groups. 

“The Census collects vitally important information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities that will help governments and local organisations plan for health, education and community services into the future,” Gruen said.

The statistician added the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) was undertaking further analysis of the census data and would be releasing its analysis at a later date. 

Assistant minister for competition, charities and treasury Andrew Leigh said the ABS and Gruen have engaged an independent panel to review and report on its data quality. 

“It is a true honour to launch the 2021 Census data today alongside so many capable and talented people from the ABS and the broader Australian Public Service. Thank you to those who have worked hard to deliver the 2021 Census,” Leigh added when launching the Census. 

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