From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Australian people in the world.svg
Map of the Australian diaspora in the world
Regions with significant populations
 United States94,000–200,000[2][3]
 United Kingdom113,000[4]
 Hong Kong90,000[5][6]
 New Zealand70,000[7]
 Singapore20,000 (2011)[12]
 South Africa12,000[13]
 Papua New Guinea10,000[13]
Australian English · Australian Aboriginal languages · Other minority languages[14]
52% Christian (Catholicism, Anglicanism and other denominations)[15]
8% Various non-Christian religions[15]
30% None[15][A]
Related ethnic groups
New Zealanders, Aboriginal Australians

Australians, colloquially referred to as "Aussies", are the citizens, nationals and individuals associated with the country of Australia. This connection may be residential, legal, historical or cultural. For most Australians, several (or all) of these connections exist and are collectively the source of their being Australian. Australian law does not provide for a racial or ethnic component of nationality, instead relying on citizenship as a legal status.

Between 1788 and the Second World War, the vast majority of settlers and immigrants came from the British Isles (principally England, Ireland and Scotland), although there was significant immigration from China and Germany during the 19th century. Many early British settlements were penal colonies to house transported convicts. Immigration of "free settlers" increased exponentially from the 1850s, following a series of gold rushes. In the decades immediately following the Second World War, Australia received a large wave of immigration from across Europe, with many more immigrants arriving from Southern and Eastern Europe than in previous decades.

Since the end of the White Australia policy in 1973, Australia has pursued an official policy of multiculturalism and has the world's eighth-largest immigrant population, with immigrants accounting for 30 percent of the population in 2019.[16][17] A large and continuing wave of immigration to Australia from across the world has continued into the 21st century, with Asia now being the largest source of immigrants.[18] A smaller proportion are descended from Australia's indigenous peoples, comprising Aboriginal Australians, Aboriginal Tasmanians and Torres Strait Islanders.

The development of a separate Australian identity and national character began in the 19th century, linked with the anti-transportation and nativist movements and the Eureka Rebellion during the colonial period and culminated in the federation of the Australian colonies in 1901. The primary language is Australian English. While strongly influenced by Anglo-Celtic origins, the culture of Australia has also been shaped by multi-ethnic migration that has influenced all aspects of Australian life, including business, arts, cuisine, sense of humour and sporting tastes.[19]


The majority of Australians or their ancestors immigrated within the past four centuries, with the exception of the indigenous population and others from outlying islands who became Australian through expansion of the country. Despite its multi-ethnic composition, the culture of Australia held in common by most Australians can also be referred to as mainstream Australian culture, a Western culture largely derived from the traditions of British and Irish colonists, settlers, and immigrants.[citation needed]

The Colony of New South Wales was established by the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1788, with the arrival of the First Fleet, and five other colonies were established in the early 19th century, now forming the six present-day Australian states. Large-scale immigration occurred after the First and Second World Wars, with many post-World War II migrants coming from Southern and Eastern Europe introducing a variety of elements. Immigration from the Middle East, south and east Asia, Pacific Islands, Africa, and Latin America has also been having an impact.[citation needed]

The predominance of the English language, the existence of a democratic system of government drawing upon the British traditions of the Westminster system of government, Parliamentarianism and constitutional monarchy, American constitutionalist and federalist traditions, Christianity as the dominant religion, and the popularity of sports originating in (or influenced by) the British Isles, are all evidence of a significant Anglo-Celtic heritage. Australian culture has diverged significantly since British settlement. Sporting teams representing the whole of Australia have been in existence since the 1870s.

Australians are referred to as "Aussie" and are may be referred to as "Antipodean" by those in the northern hemisphere.[20][21] Prior to the introduction of Australian citizenship, Australians had the status of "British subjects".[22]

As a result of many shared linguistic, historical, cultural and geographic characteristics, Australians have often identified closely with New Zealanders in particular. Furthermore, elements of Indigenous, American, British, and more recent immigrant customs, languages, and religions have also combined to form the modern Australian culture.[19]


In the 2016 Australian census, the most commonly nominated ancestries were:[N 1][23][24]

  • English (36.1%)
  • Australian (33.5%)[N 2]
  • Irish (11.0%)
  • Scottish (9.3%)
  • Chinese (5.6%)
  • Italian (4.6%)
  • German (4.5%)
  • Indian (2.8%)
  • Indigenous (2.8%)[N 3]
  • Greek (1.8%)
  • Dutch (1.6%)
  • Filipino (1.4%)
  • Vietnamese (1.4%)
  • Lebanese (1%)


Today, Australians of European (including Anglo-Celtic) descent are the majority in Australia, estimated at approximately 76% of the total population in 2016.[26][27][28][29] Historically, European immigrants had great influence over Australian history and society, which resulted in the perception of Australia as a Western country.[30][31]

Since soon after the beginning of British settlement in 1788, people of European descent have formed the majority of the population in Australia.

Although some observers stress Australia's convict history, the vast majority of early settlers came of their own free will.[32] Far more Australians are descended from assisted immigrants than from convicts, the majority being British and Irish.[33] About 20 percent of Australians are descendants of convicts.[34] Most of the first Australian settlers came from London, the Midlands and the North of England, and Ireland.[35][36][37] Settlers that arrived throughout the 19th century were from all parts of the United Kingdom and Ireland, a significant proportion of settlers came from the Southwest and Southeast of England, from Ireland and from Scotland.[38] Anglo-Celtic Australians have been highly influential in shaping the nation's character. By the mid-1840s, the numbers of freeborn settlers had overtaken the convict population. In 1888, 60 percent of the Australian population had been born in Australia, and almost all had British ancestral origins. Out of the remaining 40 percent, 34 percent had been born in the British Isles, and 6 percent were of European origin, mainly from Germany and Scandinavia.[39] In the 1840s, Scots-born immigrants constituted 12 percent of the Australian population. There were 1.3 million British migrants to Australia in the period from 1861 to 1914, of whom 13.5 percent were Scots. 5.3 percent of the convicts transported to Eastern Australia between 1789 and 1852 were Scots.[40] By 1850, there were 290,000 Aboriginal Australians. The European population grew from 0.3 percent of the population of the continent at 1800 to 58.6 percent in 1850.[41] Germans formed the largest non-British community for most of the 19th century.[42] The census of 1901 showed that 98 percent of Australians had Anglo-Celtic ancestral origins, and was considered as "more British than Britain itself".[43] Between 1901 and 1940, 140,000 non-British European immigrants arrived in Australia (about 16 percent of the total intake).[44] Before World War II, 13.6 percent were born overseas, and 80 percent of those were British.[45] In 1939 and 1945, still 98 percent of Australians had British/Anglo-Celtic ancestral origins.[46] Until 1947, the vast majority of the population were of British origin.[47] During the 1950s, Australia was the destination of 30 per cent of Dutch emigrants and the Netherlands-born became numerically the second largest non-British group in Australia.[48] In 1971, 70 percent of the foreign born were of European origin. Abolition of the White Australia Policy in 1957 led to a significant increase in non-European immigration, mostly from Asia and the Middle East.[citation needed]

Melburnians during the live music rally in 2010


At the 2016 census, there were 3,514,915 nominations of ancestries classified by the Australian Bureau of Statistics as falling within the geographical categories of East Asia, Southeast Asia and Central and Southern Asia.[49] This represents 16.15 percent of persons who nominated their ancestry.[50] 2,665,814 persons claimed one of the six most commonly nominated Asian ancestries, namely Chinese, Indian, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean and Sri Lankan, at the 2016 census.[51] Persons claiming one of these six ancestries alone represented 12.25 percent of the total population who nominated their ancestry.[51][B]

Chinese, Indian, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean and Sri Lankan are the most commonly nominated Asian ancestries in Australia.[51] Chinese Australians constituted 5.6 percent of the Australian population and Indian Australians constituted 2.8 percent at the 2016 census.[citation needed]


Aboriginal Australians, 1981

Indigenous Australians are descendants of the original inhabitants of the Australian continent.[52] Their ancestors are believed to have migrated from Africa to Asia around 70,000 years ago[53] and arrived in Australia around 50,000 years ago.[54][55] The Torres Strait Islanders are a distinct people of Melanesian ancestry, indigenous to the Torres Strait Islands, which are at the northernmost tip of Queensland near Papua New Guinea, and some nearby settlements on the mainland. The term "Aboriginal" is traditionally applied to only the indigenous inhabitants of mainland Australia and Tasmania, along with some of the adjacent islands. Indigenous Australians is an inclusive term used when referring to both Aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders, i.e.: the "first peoples".

Dispersing across the Australian continent over time, the ancient peoples expanded and differentiated into hundreds of distinct groups, each with its own language and culture.[56] More than 400 distinct Australian Aboriginal peoples have been identified across the continent, distinguished by unique names designating their ancestral languages, dialects, or distinctive speech patterns.[57]

In 1770, fearing he had been pre-empted by the French, James Cook changed a hilltop signal-drill on Possession Island in Torres Strait, into a possession ceremony, fabricating Britain's claim of Australia's east coast.[58] Eighteen years later, the east coast was occupied by Britain and later the west coast was also settled by Britain. At that time, the indigenous population was estimated to have been between 315,000 and 750,000,[59] divided into as many as 500 tribes[citation needed] speaking many different languages.

At the 2016 census, 649,171 people (2.8% of the total population) identified as being IndigenousAboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders.[N 4][60] Indigenous Australians experience higher than average rates of imprisonment and unemployment, lower levels of education, and life expectancies for males and females that are, respectively, 11 and 17 years lower than those of non-indigenous Australians.[61][62] Some remote Indigenous communities have been described as having "failed state"-like conditions.[63]

Country of birth[]

In 2019, 30% of the Australian resident population, or 7,529,570 people, were born overseas.[16]

The Australian resident population consists of people who were born in the following countries:

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics (2019)[64]
Place of birth Estimated resident population[C]
Total Australian-born 17,836,000
Total foreign-born 7,529,570
England England[D] 986,460
Mainland China Mainland China[E] 677,240
India India 660,350
New Zealand New Zealand 570,000
Philippines Philippines 293,770
Vietnam Vietnam 262,910
South Africa South Africa 193,860
Italy Italy 182,520
Malaysia Malaysia 175,920
Sri Lanka Sri Lanka 140,260
Scotland Scotland[F] 133,920
Nepal Nepal 117,870
South Korea South Korea 116,030
Germany Germany 112,420
Greece Greece 106,660
United States United States 108,570
Hong Kong Hong Kong SAR[G] 101,290

For more information about immigration see Immigration to Australia and Foreign-born population of Australia.

Historical population[]

The data in the table is sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics[65][66] The population estimates do not include the Aboriginal population before 1961. Estimates of Aboriginal population prior to European settlement range from 300,000 to one million, with archaeological finds indicating a sustainable population of around 750,000.[67]


Australian citizenship did not exist before 26 January 1949. Before then, people born in Australia were British subjects. People born in Australia (including Norfolk Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island) on or after 20 August 1986 are Australian citizens by birth if at least one parent was an Australian citizen or a permanent resident at the time of the person's birth.[68]

Statistics do not exist as to the number of Australians who currently are dual citizens. In 2000, it was estimated to be 4 to 5 million people.[69]

Current population[]

The current Australian resident population is estimated at 26,409,000 (12 September 2021).[70] This does not include an estimated 1 million Australians living overseas, but it includes Australians born overseas. There are an estimated 1 million Australians (approximately 5 percent of the population) residing outside Australia. The Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement facilitates open migration to and from New Zealand.[71]



Although Australia has no official language, English has always been entrenched as the de facto national language.[72] Australian English is a major variety of the language with a distinctive accent and lexicon,[73] and differs slightly from other varieties of English in grammar and spelling.[74] General Australian serves as the standard dialect.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2016 census, English is the only language spoken in the home for close to 72.7 percent of the population. The next most common languages spoken at home are:[75]

  • Mandarin (2.5 percent)
  • Arabic (1.4 percent)
  • Cantonese (1.2 percent)
  • Vietnamese (1.2 percent)
  • Italian (1.2 percent).

A considerable proportion of first- and second-generation migrants are bilingual.

Over 250 Indigenous Australian languages are thought to have existed at the time of first European contact, of which less than 20 are still in daily use by all age groups.[76][77] About 110 others are spoken exclusively by older people.[77] At the time of the 2006 census, 52,000 Indigenous Australians, representing 12 percent of the Indigenous population, reported that they spoke an Indigenous language at home.[78] Australia has a sign language known as Auslan, which is the main language of about 5,500 deaf people.[79]


Australia has no official religion; its Constitution prohibits the government from establishing one, or interfering with the freedom of religion.[80]

Australians have various religions and spiritual beliefs. Majority (52.1 percent) were Christian, while 30.1 percent of the population reported as having no religion, of those reporting as having religious affiliations according to the 2016 census.[81] As in many Western countries, the level of active participation in church worship is lower than would be indicated by the proportion of the population identifying themselves as Christian; weekly attendance at church services was about 1.5 million in 2001,[82] about 7% of the population (21.5 million[83]) that year.

See also[]


  1. ^ Religion was an optional question on the Census, so the percentages do not sum to 100%
  2. ^ As such, this represents the lowest possible proportion of the Australian population constituted by persons claiming an Asian ancestry as defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
  3. ^ Only countries with 100,000 or more are listed here.
  4. ^ The Australian Bureau of Statistics source lists England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland separately although they are all part of the United Kingdom. These should not be combined as they are not combined in the source.
  5. ^ In accordance with the Australian Bureau of Statistics source, Mainland China, Taiwan and the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau are listed separately.
  6. ^ The Australian Bureau of Statistics source lists England and Scotland separately although they are both part of the United Kingdom. These should not be combined as they are not combined in the source.
  7. ^ In accordance with the Australian Bureau of Statistics source, Mainland China, Taiwan and the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau are listed separately.
  1. ^ As a percentage of 21,769,209 persons who nominated their ancestry at the 2016 census. The Australian Census collects information on ancestry, but not on race or ethnicity.
  2. ^ The Australian Bureau of Statistics has stated that most who nominate "Australian" as their ancestry are part of the Anglo-Celtic group.[25]
  3. ^ Of any ancestry. Includes those identifying as Aboriginal Australians or Torres Strait Islanders. Indigenous identification is separate to the ancestry question on the Australian Census and persons identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander may identify any ancestry.
  4. ^ Includes those identifying as Aboriginal Australians or Torres Strait Islanders. Indigenous identification is separate to the ancestry question on the Australian Census and persons identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander may identify any ancestry.


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