Report on the Audit of Health Workforce in Rural and Regional Australia

2.5.1 Population changes

Page last updated: April 2008

Australia's estimated resident population at June 2006 was 20.7 million people4. The three most populous states recorded the largest population growth in the five-year period to June 2006. Queensland experienced the largest growth (462,600 people), followed by Victoria (323,600) and New South Wales (242,000). The fastest population growth in the five years to June 2006 was in Queensland, with the population increasing by 2.4% per year on average. Western Australia also experienced fast growth, recording an average population increase of 1.6% per year over the five years to 2006.

At 30 June 2006, capital cities were home to over 13.2 million people, making up almost two-thirds (64%) of Australia's population. The combined population of capital cities increased by 815,600 people in the five years to June 2006, accounting for 63% of Australia's total growth since June 2001. In the five years to June 2006, Melbourne recorded the largest growth of all capital cities, increasing by 272,700 people. Brisbane recorded the second largest growth, increasing by 191,300 people, followed by Sydney (up 156,100) and Perth (up 126,500).

Capital city growth outpaced growth in the state balances (those areas outside of capital cities) in all states and territories except Queensland and South Australia in the five years to June 2006, although the growth rate in the balance of New South Wales almost equalled that of Sydney. In the five years to June 2006, as in the previous five-year period, the largest state balance growth occurred in the balance of Queensland, which increased by 271,300 people. This growth was over three times larger than that of the next largest state balance growth in New South Wales (85,900 people) and over five times larger than the third largest state balance growth in Victoria (50,800 people).

The state balance population increased by 472,700 people during the five years to June 2006 to reach 7.53 million, making up 36% of Australia's population at June 20065. The state balance population grew by 1.3% per year on average in the five years to June 2006, which was slightly higher than the 1.1% average annual growth rate in the preceding five years.

Trends vary across Australia. Outer suburbs continue to grow. Inner Sydney is experiencing movement away to other regions, particularly South East Queensland coast (including Brisbane). This is probably a reflection of the growth in housing prices in Sydney. There is general movement to coastal areas as part of the sea change, particularly to the Hunter to Sunshine Coast and Wide Bay areas of Queensland.

Generally speaking, non-coastal regions are seeing the lowest levels of net population growth, but the population growth is positive. Exceptions include areas of severe drought such as western New South Wales and south-central Queensland. Flow on effects from increased property and rental prices in coastal areas may see lower income residents displaced to inland country centres, although this is not yet apparent in the data.

4 Access Economics, 2008. Population projections.
5 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2007. Regional Population Growth Australia, 1996-2006.