Which parts of Australia are experiencing population decline?

Which parts of Australia are experiencing population decline?

In an era of almost unprecedented population change in Australia, there was one local government area in Australia that managed to maintain a stable population of exactly 92,888 people in the year to June 2019. This is just one remarkable insight from Glenn’s latest blog, which looks at the highlights from the recent Regional Population Growth figures from the ABS. In this piece, Glenn looks at the parts of the country that are experiencing population decline, and those that maintained a steady population over the last year.

These latest population figures are now in your local community profile. Instructions on how to find them here.

The annual release by the ABS of Regional Population Growth always provides a lot of interesting information. Every year we get an update on population change and exactly where that is occurring. On Monday, I wrote about the high level of growth in our capital cities, and showed the fastest and largest growth by Local Government Area in the year ended 2019. But not all areas are increasing. Let’s look at some of the areas with population decline.

Which parts of Australia are experiencing population decline?

Notably, in 2019, we had an entire territory -the Northern Territory – with a declining population, falling by 1,129 people, or 0.5% to 245,929 people.

Here are the Local Government Areas Australia-wide which had the largest declines in population from 2018 to 2019.

Local Government Area 2018 pop 2019 pop   Change % change
Darwin (NT) 84,500 82,886 - 1,614 -1.9%
Kalgoorlie/Boulder (WA) 29,989 29,469 - 520 -1.7%
Greater Geraldton (WA) 38,730 38,288 - 442 -1.1%
Mount Isa (Qld) 18,870 18,595 - 275 -1.5%
Port Augusta (SA) 14,102 13,862 - 240 -1.7%
Broken Hill (NSW) 17,715 17,479 - 236 -1.3%
Carnarvon (WA) 5,361 5,182 - 179 -3.3%
Joondalup (WA) 159,977 159,806 - 171 -0.1%
Southern Downs (Qld) 35,593 35,452 - 141 -0.4%
Northam (WA) 11,188 11,049 - 139 -1.2%
Source: ABS, Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2018-19 (3218.0)

Darwin tops the list, in fact accounting for more than 100% of the NT’s decline (meaning the rest of NT actually increased). The other areas are primarily rural and remote areas, affected by the movement of Australia’s population into cities.

Population declines in mining towns

The biggest losses are seen in larger regional centres based around mining, such as Broken Hill, Kalgoorlie and Mount Isa, or Agriculture (Southern Downs, Northam, Geraldton). Both these industries are actually becoming more productive, but employing fewer people over time. Young people, in particular, tend to leave remote towns for the cities, and this leaves an older and declining population.

Apart from Darwin, which is affected by the end of a major construction project, the only metropolitan LGA in the list is Joondalup, part of Perth. This has a different cause, with many suburbs settled in the 1980s and 1990s, having declining household sizes due to children leaving home and finding new housing elsewhere. This is a regular part of the suburb life cycle.

In percentage terms, the largest declines are some rural LGAs with very small populations. 9 of the top 10 percentage declines are in rural WA, predominantly the wheatbelt. Population sizes are small, and so relatively small changes are substantial in percentage terms. The total population decline across these 10 areas is only 561 people. The one area not in WA is Brewarrina, in north-western NSW.

Local Government Area 2018 pop 2019 pop   Change % change
Northampton (WA) 3,077 2,944 133 -4.3%
Morawa (WA) 698 674 24 -3.4%
Cue (WA) 148 143 5 -3.4%
Carnarvon (WA) 5,361 5,182 179 -3.3%
Wiluna (WA) 706 684 22 -3.1%
Three Springs (WA) 591 573 18 -3.0%
Coolgardie (WA) 3,505 3,404 101 -2.9%
Dundas (WA) 735 714 21 -2.9%
Perenjori (WA) 596 580 16 -2.7%
Brewarrina (NSW) 1,653 1,611 42 -2.5%
Source: ABS, Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2018-19 (3218.0)

Which places have stable populations?

Finally, what about those areas that have stayed very stable over the past year? Here is a list of all the LGAs which have had no change in population, or added or lost exactly 1 person, according to the ABS estimates.

Local Government Area 2018 pop 2019 pop Change
Bruce Rock (WA) 939 940 1
Mount Marshall (WA) 518 519 1
Belyuen (NT) 174 175 1
Balranald (NSW) 2,338 2,338 0
Carrathool (NSW) 2,799 2,799 0
Maralinga Tjarutja (SA) 64 64 0
Canning (WA) 92,888 92,888 0
Barcoo (Qld) 267 266 -1
Diamantina (Qld) 292 291 -1
Yalgoo (WA) 357 356 -1
Menzies (WA) 521 520 -1
Flinders Ranges (SA) 1,693 1,692 -1
Mount Remarkable (SA) 2,910 2,909 -1

Most of these are also small rural areas, however there is one standout. The City of Canning, in south-eastern Perth managed to stay exactly stable, with a population of 92,888 people in 2018 and no change at all in 2019. This is quite remarkable (and Mount Remarkable is almost as remarkable..) in a population that size, given the number of people who would’ve moved in and out in that time. Of course these are subject to review after the next Census and this will probably change, but for now I’m confident in naming Canning as the most stable area in Australia for the year!

Where can I find this up-to-date population data?

New Estimated Resident Population data has just been loaded into your Local Government Area’s community profile, and is available for the LGA and each suburb or district on your site. Find it in the menus under the “Population” heading.



Tags: Population
Glenn - The Census Expert

Glenn is our resident Census expert. After ten years working at the ABS, Glenn's deep knowledge of the Census has been a crucial input in the development of our community profiles. These tools help everyday people uncover the rich and important stories about our communities that are often hidden deep in the Census data. Glenn is also our most prolific blogger - if you're reading this, you've just finished reading one of his blogs. Take a quick look at the front page of our blog and you'll no doubt find more of Glenn's latest work. As a client manager, Glenn travels the country giving sought-after briefings to councils and communities (these are also great opportunities for Glenn to tend to his rankings in Geolocation games such as Munzee and Geocaching).

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