The 50 largest cities and towns in Australia, by population | 2018 update

Glenn - The Census Expert

Glenn is an ABS data expert with huge intellect and capacity to convert demographic data into profound insights about places. He has contributed numerous blogs and consulting projects covering economic development, housing consumption and affordability, migration, fertility, ageing, role and function of ‘place’, communities of interest and more. Glenn works with over 120 councils bringing the client perspective into the development of our information products. He is a Census data expert, having worked at the Australian Bureau of Statistics for 10 years. If there's anything Glenn doesn't know about the Census, it's probably not worth knowing - so ask Glenn!

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14 Responses

  1. OSS Perth says:

    Generally speaking, population of societies are increasing rapidly so are the needs. Need of food, shelter and cloth is the top priority of each men out there struggling for their life. Then main thing they wanted is a security assurance for their life that is obvious and they should be provided by that.

  2. OSS Perth says:

    Generally speaking, population of societies are increasing rapidly so are the needs. Need of food, shelter and cloth is the top priority of each men out there struggling for their life. Then main thing they wanted is a security assurance for their life that is obvious and they should be provided by that.

  3. George says:

    Interesting figures, and it’s amazing that Melbourne is both the second largest city in the country (by a small margin) and the also fastest growing city (by a large margin) in both absolute and percentage terms.

  4. Alex says:

    That sounds a bit of a spurious measure to use. What is contiguous in this context? How do you measure major gaps by this standard? Is Windsor part of the Sydney urban area? Or if Windsor is then how about Richmond? Both are on the suburban train line but there are a few farms between them and between Rouse Hill too. By the same token if you look at Central Coast it is just a few Km from Palm Beach on Sydney’s Northern Beaches to Ettalong across Broken Bay ie a short ferry ride and also has suburban trains running to Central on regular timetables through the day. When can Melton be considered part of Melbourne – how big is the gap allowed to be and how is that specific number decided? In summary contiguous urban area seems a pretty whimsical way of defining a city’s extent particularly in Australia with its large distances between capital cities and low density urban areas and as the urban fringe shifts and changes. In the end it doesn’t accord with the idea of a city as a collection of people living close enough together to interact daily with each other in economic and social activities rather than as a physical built up area. That’s why the “greater metropolitan area” standard is a more appropriate definition for Australia at least.

    • Hi Alex – thanks for the comment – some good questions in there! Contiguous urban is a difficult thing to define. The ABS says that “Significant Urban Areas are based on Urban Centres and Localities, but are based on the larger SA2 units”

      The issue of what’s contiguous was considered by Dr G J R Linge in the 1960s, and ever since, urban centres in Australia have been defined by using the “Linge Criteria”. These set out what can be considered contiguous urban development. Mainly based on things like a population density over 200 people per square km, some things about land use etc. They allow for outlying urban centres to be subsumed into larger ones (eg. your Windsor example) if there is a gap of less than 3km in contiguous development. Importantly though this gap has to be by road, so the Palm Beach-Ettalong one certainly doesn’t qualify.

      So based on that, in a few years it’s very likely that Melton would become part of Melbourne. Before 2011 Census, Pakenham, on the other side of Melbourne, was a separate urban area, but this was swallowed up by Melbourne based on these criteria.

      The use of SA2s to define the Significant Urban Areas slightly extends the UCL definition for the practical reasons that UCLs change too much over time, and are only defined at each Census – so SA2s enable a little more stability, and for other datasets such as the ERP used in this article to be produced on those boundaries.

      For capital cities – the larger GCCSA boundaries are more commonly used, but the use of SUAs allows for comparable definitions for all the regional centres as well, so in this way it is very useful for exactly the sort of information that this blog is intending to convey. The main point is that no geographic boundary is a perfect representation of a community and many statements such as “Sydney is bigger than Melbourne” really depend a lot on where you draw that line.

  5. Alex says:

    Thanks for the explanation Glenn! I know this blog is about the UCL but it makes reference to GCCSA as well, and I had a question in that regard. I was wondering, if Central Coast is considered as part of Greater Sydney, why is Wollongong not similarly included? From what I can tell its labour market is as connected to Sydney as Central Coast is, and geographically it is closer as well. Do you have any suggestion why there is this seeming incongruity in the ABS definition of GCCSA?

    • The main rationale seems to be Labour Force – if an area is relatively self-contained and contributes relatively little of its labour to Sydney, it will not be included. Wollongong is more self-contained, while Central Coast has a large share of its labour commuting into Sydney.

  6. Ewan says:

    Rockhampton Regional Council lost about 37,000 of its local government population when a de-amalgamation occurred in 2014.

    I am wondering whether this change which decreased its population from approximately 115,000 also effectively demoted its by 5 places from 18th to 23rd?

    • No, these areas don’t have anything to do with LGA boundaries – they are defined based on contiguous urban areas. It’s possible that the definition of Rockhampton has changed but it’s unlikely to be by that much. Most likely other areas have just grown by more, pushing it down a few spots.

  7. Tony says:

    Brisbane and Gold Coast are now joined and contiguous. They function cooperatively in trade and commerce and are connected by the one suburban rail network That represents a population mass of over 3 million. ABS should really combine the figures.

  8. Dean says:

    I find the change in the population calculations for Geelong between this version (260K) and the 2014 version (180K) interesting, especially as the 5 year growth rate is about 30K.

    Presumably some areas that weren’t included in the previous calculation are included in this. My guess is that Torquay (and probably Leopold) is now considered as part of the Geelong SUA instead of separate.

  9. Zach says:

    Hi Glenn,

    Thanks for the thoughtful analysis. Could you link to the ABS dataset you used here? Curious to dig in more — specifically looking to disaggregate each SUA into the areas that comprise it

  10. Charles Fortune says:

    Thank you for an interesting, clear, and informative article

  1. August 7, 2018

    […] demographers at have compiled their annual list form the ABS data and come up with the following […]

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