Regional population growing at the same rate as capital cities
A new data release from the ABS gives us insight into how population is changing in small areas across Australia. This post includes an interactive map of population growth and decline for all local government areas.
The ABS has just released their annual “Regional Population” dataset, which updates the current Estimated Resident Population (ERP) for all small areas in Australia. This includes Local Government Areas (LGAs), Significant Urban Areas, SA2s and others. It’s eagerly awaited each year, but particularly so this year because this one is for the 2021–22 financial year, which is:
- the first full year of population data after the 2021 Census (there were a lot of population revisions for June 2021 included last year from the 2021 Census but this is the first update since), and
- the first year of “post-pandemic” data, which includes the end of lockdowns in Sydney and Melbourne and the reopening of national borders from early 2022.
The state and national data comes out first (several months ago), so we already knew that Australia’s population had bounced back after the pandemic, with the population sitting at 25,996,100 in June 2022. This release breaks down that information locally.
Growth in regional Australia increases to match capital city growth
The biggest headline is that for the year, both regional Australia (outside capital cities) and the combined state and territory capitals grew at the same rate: 1.2%. The capital cities added 205,400 people, while regional areas added 102,700.
Australia remains a very urbanised society, with just over 2/3rds (67.1%) of population remaining in the capital cities. But regional Australia is now growing faster than previously because of continued movement out of the capitals in the pandemic. Capital cities tend to get overseas migration at far greater rates, and their population declined during the pandemic when the migration tap was turned off. Migration out of Melbourne and Sydney combined to other parts of Australia amounted to 78,000 people in net terms for the 2021-22 financial year alone.
At a capital city level, Brisbane was the fastest growing of our capitals, with 2.3% growth, and the largest numerical increase of 59,156 people. This was fuelled by interstate migration, particularly from New South Wales in the latter stages of the pandemic.
How did population growth play out across LGAs?
At a local level there are some fascinating trends here. Use this interactive map to see the population change for your local area (further analysis is below).
Fastest population growth 2021–2022
This table shows the fastest growing areas in Australia by percentage of population growth from June 2021 to June 2022.
|LGA||Population June 2022||Change 2021-2022||% increase|
|3||Adelaide Plains SA||10,461||+484||4.9%|
|8||Upper Gascoyne WA||187||+7||3.9%|
|11||Mount Barker SA||41,059||+1,432||3.6%|
The City of Melton is now the fastest growing area in Australia. It’s always been up there, but for the first time it’s #1, pipping Camden, NSW, by 0.01% (6.42% to 6.41%). Melton has recently been included in the definition of Melbourne’s Significant Urban Area (one definition for the size of a metropolitan area), so this is timely!
A surprise for the #3 fastest growing area is Adelaide Plains Council, SA. Spillover from development on the northern outskirts of Adelaide has been growing the population here for several years, but this is the first time it’s ranked that highly in percentage terms. It does demonstrate how percentages can sometimes be misleading though; with growth of 484 people it is off a low population base. Not quite so low as the #8 fastest growing area: remote Upper Gascoyne in WA added only 7 people (maybe one family moved in!) to reach 3.9% population on one of the smallest LGA sizes in the whole country, still under 200 people.
Other areas are predominantly fringe urban growth areas such as Wyndham, in Melbourne’s burgeoning west, Ipswich, similarly growing on the western edge of Brisbane, and Mount Barker in South Australia’s Adelaide Hills. The City of Melbourne returns to the fastest growing list after a huge population decline in 2020-21, but it’s still below the 2018 population here. The growth is likely to be students returning to the central city after the pandemic.
Fastest population decline 2021–2022
This table shows the biggest percentage declines in areas as a share of the total population.
|LGA||Population June 2022||Change 2021-2022||% decrease|
|2||Coober Pedy SA||1,576||-48||-3.0%|
|8||Hunters Hill NSW||13,416||-175||-1.3%|
After the 2020–21 declining areas were dominated by Melbourne and Sydney metro areas losing population in the pandemic, this year shows a return to predominantly smaller regional LGAs in more remote farming communities, which have had long-term decline. There are a few exceptions, however.
Brimbank in Melbourne and Fairfield in Sydney continue to fall in population, continuing trends from the pandemic. These areas get quite a lot of overseas migration, while losing population to places on the urban fringe with more affordable (and newer) housing. For Brimbank in particular, it’s notably right next to Melton, and is the established urban community from which many of Melton’s new residents move. So Melton is the fastest growing area in Australia, while neighbouring Brimbank has population declines as part of the same migration corridor in western Melbourne. The borders were still closed for close to half of the year 2021-2022, so the in-migration from overseas in Brimbank is not enough to offset the migration outwards. Added to that, both Brimbank and Fairfield have many areas that developed about 20 to 30 years ago, and children who grew up in these areas are now leaving home and seeking that new house on the urban fringe when they buy (that’s where it’s more affordable). So they leave their parents in the family home, and household size falls. This is a part of the suburb life cycle.
Population changes by numbers
Because percentage increases and decreases can be misleading for small population areas, we can also look at population change in raw number terms. In this case the City of Brisbane almost always comes up as the largest increase, as it is twice the population of any other LGA in Australia. Here are the largest growth and decline LGAs for each state/territory (except the ACT, which doesn’t have LGAs).
|State||Largest Growth LGA||Growth||% Growth||Largest Decline LGA||Decline||% Decline|
|Qld||Brisbane City||20,674||1.6%||Mount Isa||– 134||-0.7%|
|SA||Playford||2,847||2.8%||Port Pirie||– 106||-0.6%|
|WA||Swan||5,008||3.2%||East Pilbara||– 70||-0.7%|
The largest growth by LGA actually shows the top 4 nationwide all being in Queensland (Brisbane, Gold Coast, Logan and Ipswich) due to the large size of LGAs in South East Queensland in particular. Note that Brisbane City is not the same as Greater Brisbane, but it does encompass a large section of the metropolitan area. Logan and Ipswich along with Moreton Bay and Redland councils are also part of Greater Brisbane.
What do the new figures show about your local area? The new regional population data will be loaded into the .id tools (it’s part of profile.id and economy.id) in the next few days, and we’ll send through a product update when that’s done. If you’d like to subscribe to our updates to know when everything gets updated, you can use this link.