Australia's cultural diversity

Overview  |  Diversity of birthplace  |  Diversity of language  |  Diversity of religion and spiritual beliefs

Diversity of birthplace

Australians come from over 200 countries according to the 2011 Census. Each of these groups has its own cultural diversity as a result of history, regional differences, internal and external population movements, as well as variations related to factors such as class, gender, intermarriage and urban and rural environments.

Indigenous Australians

The term Indigenous is a term that has evolved through international law to acknowledge the particular relationship of the original inhabitants of a country or geographical region to their lands. In Australia, the term Indigenous refers to people who are of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin. The Indigenous community of Australia is diverse and comprised of a wide range of cultural groups speaking many different languages.

The following data is derived from the 2011 Census:

  • 495,755 people or 2.5% of the Australian population identified as being of Indigenous origin. Between the 2006 and 2011 Censuses, the Indigenous population increased by 17% or 90,000 people.
  • Of this group, 495,755 people (90.4%) stated they were of Aboriginal origin only and 31,407 people (5.7%) reported to be of Torres Strait Islander origin only. 21,205 people (3.9%) reported to be of both origins.
  • The States/Territories with the highest Indigenous populations are New South Wales (172,622 or 31.5% of the total Indigenous population of Australia), Queensland (155,825 or 28.4%), Western Australia (69,669 or 12.7%) and the Northern Territory (56,777 or 10.4%).
  • 26.8% of people in the Northern Territory are of Indigenous origin. In all other States/Territories [3] , Indigenous Australians comprise less than 4% of total state populations.
  • Most Torres Strait Islander people (64%) live in Queensland. 15.2% live in New South Wales and 6.9% live in Victoria.
People of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Origin 2011
State/Territory Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Both Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander
Proportion of
total population
New South Wales 164610 4768 3244 2.5
Victoria 34947 2158 882 0.7
Queensland 122897 20095 12833 3.6
South Australia 28831 1039 560 1.9
Western Australia 67063 1309 1297 3.1
Tasmania 17742 1171 714 4.0
Northern Territory 54571 674 1532 26.8
Australian Capital Territory 4858 188 138 1.5
Other Territories 235 6 4 8.1
Australia 495754 31408 21204 2.5

Overseas born

The birthplace of overseas-born residents gives some indication of the diversity of ethnicity of a population. When Australian born residents with one or both parents born overseas are combined with overseas born a fuller picture of cultural diversity emerges.

The following data is derived from the 2011 Census:

  • 24.6% of Australians were born overseas and 70% were born in Australia. [4]
  • 8.5% of people were born in non-English speaking countries compared to 21.6% who were born in English speaking countries [5]  other than Australia.
  • The largest overseas born group comprised people born in the United Kingdom [6]  (1,101,082 people or 5.1% of the population) followed by New Zealand (483,398 people or 2.2%), then China [7]  (318,969 people or 1.5%) and India (295,363 people or 1.4%). No other country accounted for more than 1%.
  • The State with the largest number of overseas born (1,778,544 people) was New South Wales followed by Victoria (1,405,332 people) and Queensland (888,636 people). Western Australia had the highest proportion of overseas born residents (30.7%) excluding other territories [8]  (41.6%).
Top 30 birthplaces of the Australian population 2011
Country Persons % Total population
Australia 15017846 69.83
England 911594 4.24
New Zealand 483398 2.25
China (excludes SARs and Taiwan) 318969 1.48
India 295363 1.37
Italy 185402 0.86
Vietnam 185039 0.86
Philippines 171233 0.80
South Africa 145683 0.68
Scotland 133432 0.62
Malaysia 116196 0.54
Germany 108002 0.50
Greece 99938 0.46
Sri Lanka 86412 0.40
United States of America 77010 0.36
Lebanon 76450 0.36
Netherlands 76046 0.35
Hong Kong (SAR of China) 74956 0.35
Korea, Republic of (South) 74538 0.35
Ireland 67318 0.31
Indonesia 63159 0.29
Fiji 56978 0.26
Croatia 48828 0.23
Poland 48677 0.23
Singapore 48647 0.23
Iraq 48169 0.22
Thailand 45464 0.21
Malta 41274 0.19
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) 40222 0.19
Canada 38871 0.18
Egypt 36533 0.17

Top Ten Countries of Birth Outside Australia
NSW VIC QLD SA WA TAS ACT NT Other Territories
England England New Zealand England England England England England Australia
China (excludes SARs and Taiwan) India England Italy New Zealand New Zealand China (excludes SARs and Taiwan) New Zealand Malaysia
New Zealand China (excludes SARs and Taiwan) South Africa India South Africa Scotland India Philippines Iran
India New Zealand India China (excludes SARs and Taiwan) India Netherlands New Zealand India Afghanistan
Vietnam Italy Philippines Scotland Scotland Germany Vietnam United States
of America
Iraq
Philippines Vietnam China (excludes SARs and Taiwan) New Zealand Malaysia China (excludes SARs and Taiwan) Philippines Greece Singapore
Lebanon Greece Scotland Vietnam Italy South Africa United States
of America
Indonesia England
Italy Sri Lanka Germany Germany Philippines India Germany Timor-Leste Pakistan
Korea, Republic of (South) Malaysia Vietnam Greece China (excludes SARs and Taiwan) United States
of America
Sri Lanka Germany New Zealand
South Africa Philippines United States
of America
Philippines Ireland Philippines Malaysia China (excludes SARs and Taiwan) Indonesia
Hong Kong (SAR of China) Scotland Netherlands Netherlands Singapore Malaysia Scotland Scotland Thailand
Ancestry

A person's ancestry, when used in conjunction with the person's birthplace, language and religion and birthplace of their parents, provides a good indication of their ethnic background. This is particularly useful for identifying distinct cultural groups such as Maoris and South Sea Islanders and groups which are spread across countries such as Kurds or Indians.
In the 2011 Census, respondents were asked to mark their ancestries back as far as two generations. Respondents were asked to report at least one ancestry, but no more than two.

The following data is derived from the 2011 Census:

  • About 50% of respondents indicated that both parents were born in Australia.
  • About 43% of respondents indicated that at least one of their parents was born overseas.
  • About 25% of responses indicated that the respondent was of Australian ancestry.
  • The most common ancestries other than Australian identified by respondents were English, Irish, Chinese, Italian, Scottish and German. Other common ancestries identified were Indian, Greek, Vietnamese, Filipino and Dutch.
Ancestry by Birthplace of Parents 2011
Place of Birth Both parents born overseas Father only born overseas Mother only born overseas Both parents born in Australia Not stated - birthplace for either or both parents not stated Total
Australia 1807093 1319047 917508 10590665 383534 15017847
United States of America 60223 7330 3474 5046 935 77008
China (excludes SARs and Taiwan) 311924 416 609 471 5551 318971
Croatia 47527 178 87 38 999 48829
Netherlands 73042 1077 478 358 1092 76047
England 850860 21040 14066 11647 13978 911591
Philippines 163550 385 2822 514 3961 171232
France 22975 649 381 270 399 24674
Germany 103556 1520 863 408 1655 108002
Greece 96128 935 274 212 2388 99937
Hungary 18596 68 36 15 376 19091
India 287923 807 541 807 5283 295361
Ireland 64336 896 622 200 1265 67319
Italy 178143 1396 415 345 5102 185401
Lebanon 73167 686 254 126 2217 76450
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) 38833 237 105 43 1004 40222
Malta 39792 312 142 87 941 41274
New Zealand 436967 16873 12734 5603 11221 483398
Poland 47509 79 80 37 974 48679
Russian Federation 17812 30 116 18 300 18276
Serbia 19679 120 51 8 410 20268
Scotland 127178 2030 1268 791 2166 133433
Singapore 43528 1005 1156 2287 672 48648
South Africa 140608 1613 1155 559 1749 145684
Spain 12296 231 127 94 307 13055
Turkey 31618 258 101 38 830 32845
Vietnam 177968 278 534 413 5845 185038
Wales 27486 470 267 94 359 28676
Other 8351758 1423307 1008306 10781224 1517859 23082454
Not stated 81095 11269 9866 111756 981742 1195728

Refugees

The information in this section is derived from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship fact sheets.

Refugees and people seeking residency in Australia for humanitarian reasons make up an important and sizeable component of the overall migrant intake. The Humanitarian Programme, a component of Australia's immigration program, assists people affected by international humanitarian crises including refugees and other people suffering human rights violations.
Since World War II, over 740,000 refugees and people in humanitarian need have been resettled in Australia including people from Eastern Europe, South East Asia, Central America, the Middle East and Africa.

According to Humanitarian Programme statistics for 2010-[9] :

  • 13,799 visas were granted, significantly lower than 2006 with 14,144.
  • Of these, 8,971 visas were granted to persons overseas and 4,828 visas were granted to people in Australia.
  • 20.71% of visas were granted to people from Africa, 39.11% were granted to people from the Middle East and South West Asia and 39.60% were granted to people from the rest of the world. A small number of visas were also granted to people from Europe and the Americas.
Offshore resettlement programme, grants by region 2006-2011
Countries Number of visas granted
Iraq 2151
Myanmar/Burma 1443
Afghanistan 1027
Bhutan 1001
Congo (DRC) 565
Ethiopia 381
Sri Lanka 289
Iran 271
Sudan 243
Somalia 190


Humanitarian programme, grants by category: 2008-09 to 2012-13Humanitariam programme grants by category

Offshore visa grants by top ten countries of birth: 2012–13

Offshore visa grants by top ten countries of birth

Australia's cultural diversity:  Overview  |  Diversity of birthplace  |  Diversity of language  |  Diversity of religion and spiritual beliefs