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Australia Facts and Figures

Australia Basics

Politically, Australia is divided into six states and two territories 2.

State/Territory
Abbrev
Capital City
New South Wales
NSW
Sydney
Victoria
VIC
Melbourne
Queensland
QLD
Brisbane
South Australia
SA
Adelaide
Western Australia
WA
Perth
Tasmania
TAS
Hobart
Northern Territory
NT
Darwin
Australian Capital Territory
ACT
Canberra
 
Colour coded political map of Australian states and territories

 

 

¹ Source: ABS - Australian Demographic Statistics, Sep 2011 (3101.0)
² States have a higher degree of self-government than territories, but for the purposes of this site, they are treated equally.

Geography

Most people realise Australia is a pretty big place. It's actually the sixth largest country in the world.

The land mass for each state and Australia in total is shown in the table. But to give you a visual indication of its size, we have superimposed the map of Australia over Europe and the USA (below).

Australia is about three-quarters the size of either of these.

 
Rank
State/Territory
Land Area
(km²)
% of
Australia
1
WA
2,529,875
32.9%
2
QLD
1,730,648
22.5%
3
NT
1,349,129
17.5%
4
SA
983,482
12.8%
5
NSW
800,642
10.4%
6
VIC
227,416
3.0%
7
TAS
68,401
0.9%
8
ACT
2,358
0.0%
Total
Australia
7,691,951
100 %
Land Area Comparison of Australia to Europe
 
Land Area Comparison of Australia to USA

Population

Australia has a population approaching 23 million¹.

As can be seen from the table and the illustration below, some 77% of the population is concentrated in three eastern states (New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland).

Urbanisation

Despite having an average population density of only 3 people per km², Australia is actually one of the most urbanised countries in the world, with over 80% of the population living in cities of 50,000 or more.

Coastal Living

Over 80% of Australians also live within 50km of the coast. This is not surprising when you consider the quality of the beaches and what is generally a more pleasant climate near the coast.
 
Rank
State/
Territory

Population
% of
Australia
1
NSW
7,317,500
32.2%
2
VIC
5,640,900
24.9%
3
QLD
4,599,400
20.3%
4
WA
2,366,900
10.4%
5
SA
1,659,800
7.3%
6
TAS
511,000
2.3%
7
ACT
366,900
1.6%
8
NT
231,200
1.0%
Total
Australia
22,696,000
100 %

Population of Australia by state or territory

Population Growth

Across Australia, the population grew by about 1.4% last year2, as a result of natural increase and net overseas migration.

There was a wide range of growth rates between the various states, as shown in the table below. WA grew the fastest, as a result of strong overseas and interstate migration. The ACT, Queensland and Victoria also showed the same trend.

Interestingly, New South Wales experienced strong overseas migration, but there was a significant number of people already living in NSW who moved to other states (WA,QLD and VIC).

Rank
State
Natural
Increase
Overseas
Migration
Interstate
Migration
Population
Growth
%
Growth
1
WA
18,870
30,805
6,163
55,838
2.4%
2
ACT
3,441
1,981
1,355
6,777
1.9%
3
QLD
36,433
31,266
7,150
74,849
1.7%
4
VIC
34,647
45,744
3,759
84,150
1.5%
5
NSW
45,186
50,186
-13,218
82,154
1.1%
6
SA
6,795
8,667
-2,613
12,849
0.8%
7
TAS
2,290
995
-47
3,238
0.6%
8
NT
2,820
630
-2,549
901
0.4%
Aus
150,500
170,300
320,800
1.4%
1ABS - Australian Demographic Statistics, Sep 2011 (3101.0)
2DIAC - Population Flows, 2010-11

Climate

Australia lies in the southern hemisphere, so the seasons are the reverse of northern hemisphere countries;

Summer - December to February
Autumn - March to May
Winter - June to August
Spring - September to November.

Because Australia is so big, there are several distinct climates. You can find out a lot more about this on the Bureau of Meteorology website. But on this page we will stick to the basics, which is what most people will want to know about each area;  How warm is it?  How sunny is it?  How wet is it?

There are a few obvious points that jump out from the three charts below:

  • The hottest AND wettest city is Darwin - no surprise as it's basically a tropical climate.
  • Canberra has significantly lower minimums than anywhere else - that's because it's inland.
  • Perth has the most sunshine and significantly more clear sunny days than elsewhere.
  • Melbourne and Hobart have much fewer clear days than anywhere else, but interestingly not very high rainfall.
  • Sydney has the narrowest temperature range, so less extreme hot or cold. Sydney also has a lot of rain - the most rainy days of all cities and second in annual rainfall.
Mean maximum and minimum temperatures for Australian capital cities
Sunshine hours and clear days for Australian capital cities
Rainy days and annual rainfall for Australian capital cities

Government

Australia is a member of "The Commonwealth". It was originally a British colony and became an independent nation - "The Commonwealth of Australia" - in 1901.

Head of State

The reigning British monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth II) is Australia's Head of State. Because the monarch is not resident in Australia, she appoints the "Governor-General" as her representative.

Constitutionally, the monarch has overriding powers, but in everyday life, it's the elected Australian government which runs the country.

Federal Government

The Australian Government, more properly known as the "Federal Government", is based in Canberra and has power in many areas, including Defence, Taxation, Immigration and so on.

It is elected by the people and holds office for a maximum of three years. Voting is compulsory for all Australian citizens over the age of 18. Currently, the Labour Party is in government and the head of government (The Prime Minister) is Julia Gillard.

State Governments

Each state also has its own government, which is elected by the residents of the state every four years. The state government, led by "The Premier", has power in areas such as Education, Law enforcement, Health, Transport and Agriculture.

Local Governments

Each state is further broken down into local government areas, governed by Town/City Councils. Councillors are also elected by the residents and they and council departments administer over such matters as building approvals, municipal facilities (libraries, parks, leisure centres, etc), waste disposal and so on.

Currency

The currency is the Australian Dollar, with banknotes in denominations of $100, $50, $20, $10 and $5.
 
Australian Bank Notes
There are 100 cents to the dollar of course, and there are coins in denominations of $2, $1, 50¢, 20¢, 10¢ and 5¢.
 
Australian Coins

The Australian Economy

Compared to much of the developed world, Australia's economy is in pretty good shape.Throughout the Global Financial Crisis, Australia's resource-based economy has continued to grow, largely as a result of China's demand for iron ore and other natural resources.

- Key Economic Indicators
Indicator
Latest value
Bank Base Rate
3.50%
Inflation
1.6%
Economic Growth
4.3%
Employment
Weekly Earnings
$1,346 AUD
Annual Earnings
$69,992 AUD
Earnings Growth
4.3%
Unemployment Rate
5.1%
National Accounts
GDP (billion)
$1,488.2 USD
GDP per capita
$65,477 USD
National Debt (billion)
$329.6 AUD
National Debt as % GDP
22.86%
 
Compare:compare with UKcompare with UScompare with NZ
Indicator
Latest value
Bank Base Rate
0.50%
Inflation
3.5%
Economic Growth
-1.0%
Employment
Weekly Earnings
£464 GBP
Annual Earnings
£24,128 GBP
Earnings Growth
1.6%
Unemployment Rate
8.2%
National Accounts
GDP (billion)
$2,417.6 USD
GDP per capita
$38,592 USD
National Debt (billion)
£1,243.7 GBP
National Debt as % GDP
82.50%
Indicator
Latest value
Bank Base Rate
0.25%
Inflation
1.7%
Economic Growth
1.9%
Employment
Weekly Earnings
$870 USD
Annual Earnings
$45,230 USD
Earnings Growth
1.9%
Unemployment Rate
8.2%
National Accounts
GDP (billion)
$15,094.0 USD
GDP per capita
$48,387 USD
National Debt (billion)
$15,537.4 USD
National Debt as % GDP
102.94%
Indicator
Latest value
Bank Base Rate
2.50%
Inflation
1.6%
Economic Growth
1.4%
Employment
Weekly Earnings
$1,006 NZD
Annual Earnings
$52,312 NZD
Earnings Growth
4.3%
Unemployment Rate
6.5%
National Accounts
GDP (billion)
$161.9 USD
GDP per capita
$36,648 USD
National Debt (billion)
$75.8 NZD
National Debt as % GDP
37.04%

State and Territory Economies

Australia's economic growth is not spread evenly; there is something of a two-speed economy (the resources sector and everything else) and this is reflected in the growth rates of the states' economies (see the table below3).

Basically, the states which have the most mineral resources (WA, NT & QLD) are growing strongly while the others are experiencing moderate or even negative growth.

State/
Territory
GDP
Growth
Unemployment
Rate
Avg Weekly
Earnings
Avg Annual
Earnings
ACT
3.0%
3.4%
$1,553.20
$80,766
WA
14.5%
3.8%
$1,514.30
$78,744
NT
16.9%
4.0%
$1,383.50
$71,942
NSW
1.9%
5.0%
$1,338.30
$69,592
QLD
7.5%
5.7%
$1,330.50
$69,186
VIC
2.7%
5.4%
$1,311.90
$68,219
SA
2.3%
5.1%
$1,220.60
$63,471
TAS
-0.8%
6.6%
$1,183.30
$61,532
Aus
4.4%
5.1%
$1,346.00
$69,992
1 Reserve Bank of Australia June 2012.
2 ABS 5206.0 - Australian National Accounts. Released 6th June 2012
3 ABS 6302.0 - Average Weekly Earnings, Australia, Feb 2012. Released 7 June 2012.
4 ABS 6202.0 - Labour Force, Australia, May 2012. Released 7 June 2012.
5 IMF World Economic Outlook Database, April 2012.

Migration to Australia

In the year to June 2011, a total of 213,409 new migrants settled in Australia¹.

The table to the right shows these migrants by their state of intended residence. As well as the actual headcount, we see the percentage of the Australian total. The three states at the top (NSW, Vic, Qld) are also the most populated states, and have received the most new migrants for many years.

We also see the numbers as a percentage of each state's population (ie, the state's growth rate due to overseas migration) and this shows that the "resource boom" states of WA and NT are currently growing at the fastest rates.

The same numbers are also represented in the illustration below.

 
Rank
State/
Territory
New
Migrants
% of
Australia
% of
State
1
NSW
65,735
0.3%
0.9%
2
VIC
53,204
0.2%
0.9%
3
QLD
38,852
0.2%
0.8%
4
WA
34,233
0.2%
1.4%
5
SA
11,721
0.1%
0.7%
6
ACT
3,087
0.0%
0.8%
7
NT
2,675
0.0%
1.2%
8
TAS
1,673
0.0%
0.3%
Total
Australia
213,409
0.9 %
Migrants to Australia 2010-2011 by state or territory

Where are the Migrants Coming From?

The table below shows us the top 10 countries of birthplace for new migrants to Australia.

Rank
Country
of Birth
New
Migrants
% of total
1
China
29,397
0.1%
2
New Zealand
25,787
0.1%
3
India
21,932
0.1%
4
United Kingdom
20,581
0.1%
5
Philippines
11,075
0.1%
6
South Africa
9,230
0.0%
7
Vietnam
5,060
0.0%
8
Sri Lanka
5,014
0.0%
9
Malaysia
5,004
0.0%
10
Korea (south)
4,405
0.0%
All other countries
75,924
35.6 %
Total
All Countries
213,409
100 %
¹ Source: Dept of Immigration & Citizenship - Immigration Update 2010-11. "New Migrants" (our term) equates to the totals of "Settler Arrivals" plus "Onshore Grants". Smaller Australian territories have been ignored.