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Melbourne dominated Australia's population growth for the 15th year in a row as of 2017, adding 125,424 people between 2016 and 2017, and boomed past 5 million people in 2019. Population growth is however projected to significantly decline as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic slowdown.
Melbourne has the 10th largest immigrant population among world metropolitan areas. In Greater Melbourne at the 2016 census, 63.3% of residents were born in Australia. Melbourne is home to residents from 200 countries and territories, who speak over 233 languages and dialects and follow 116 religious faiths.
The earliest known inhabitants of the broad area that later became known as Melbourne were Indigenous Australians - specifically, at the time of European settlement, the Bunurong, Wurundjeri and Wathaurong tribal groups. Melbourne is still a centre of Aboriginal life -- consisting of local groups and indigenous groups from other parts of Australia, as most indigenous Victorians were displaced from their traditional lands during colonization - with the Aboriginal community in the city numbering over 20,000 persons (0.6% of the population).
Although Victoria's net interstate migration has fluctuated, the Melbourne statistical division was growing by approximately 50,000 people a year in 2003. Until 2020, Melbourne had attracted the largest proportion of international overseas immigrants (48,000) finding it outpacing Sydney's international migrant intake, along with having strong interstate migration from Sydney and other capitals due to more affordable housing and cost of living, which have been two recent key factors driving Melbourne's growth.
Melbourne's population density declined following the Second World War, with the private motor car and the lures of space and property ownership causing a suburban sprawl, mainly eastward. After much discussion both at general public and planning levels in the 1980s, the decline has reversed since the recession of the early 1990s.
Melbourne's Chinatown, established in 1854, is the oldest in Australia and one of the oldest in the world
The first European settlers in Melbourne were British and Irish. These two groups accounted for nearly all arrivals before the gold rush, and supplied most immigrants to the city until the Second World War.
Melbourne was transformed by the 1850s gold rush; within months of the discovery of gold in August 1852, the city's population had increased by nearly three-quarters, from 25,000 to 40,000 inhabitants. Thereafter, growth was exponential and by 1865, Melbourne had overtaken Sydney as Australia's most populous city.
Many Chinese, German and American nationals were to be found on the goldfields and subsequently in Melbourne. The various nationalities involved in the Eureka Stockade revolt nearby give some indication of the migration flows in the second half of the nineteenth century.
In 2018, the population of the Melbourne metropolitan area was 4,963,349.
Although Victoria's net interstate migration has fluctuated, the population of the Melbourne statistical division has grown by about 70,000 people a year since 2005. Until 2020, Melbourne had attracted the largest proportion of international overseas immigrants (48,000) finding it outpacing Sydney's international migrant intake on percentage, along with having strong interstate migration from Sydney and other capitals due to more affordable housing and cost of living.
After a trend of declining population density since World War II, the city has seen increased density in the inner and western suburbs, aided in part by Victorian Government planning, such as Postcode 3000 and Melbourne 2030, which have aimed to curtail urban sprawl. As of 2018, the CBD is the most densely populated area in Australia with more than 19,000 residents per square kilometre, and the inner city suburbs of Carlton, South Yarra, Fitzroy and Collingwood make up Victoria's top five.
As of the 2016 census, 62% of Melburnians speak only English at home.Mandarin (4.1%), Greek (2.4%), Italian (2.3%), Vietnamese (2.3%), and Cantonese (1.7%) are the most common foreign languages spoken at home by residents of Melbourne.
Melbourne exceeds the national average in terms of proportion of residents born overseas: 34.8% compared to a national average of 23.1%. In concordance with national data, Britain is the most commonly reported country of birth, with 4.7%, followed by Italy (2.4%), Greece (2.1%) and then China (1.3%). Melbourne also features substantial Vietnamese, Indian and Sri Lankan-born communities, in addition to recent South African and Sudanese influxes
Over two-thirds of people in Melbourne speak only English at home (68.8%). Italian is the second most common home language (4.0%), with Greek (3.8%) third and Chinese (3.5%) fourth, each with over 100,000 speakers.
Demographics and Cuisine
As a result of large migrant populations, Melbourne has a proliferation of areas where restaurants, cafes and services of similar international demographic establish, particularly Chinese, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese and Malaysian cuisines. Some of these areas include:
Lonsdale Street, Top End, Melbourne CBD - Greek cuisine
Lygon Street, Southern End, Carlton - Italian cuisine (Little Italy)
Sydney Road, Coburg/Brunswick - Lebanese and Turkish (Little Lebanon)
Johnston Street, western end, Fitzroy - Spanish/Latin-American
Caulfield & North Caulfield - Kosher Jewish cuisine
Oakleigh - Greek cuisine
Little Bourke Street, eastern end, Melbourne city - Chinese and East Asian cuisine (Chinatown)
Central Box Hill - Chinese and East Asian cuisine
Koornang Road, Carnegie - Korean cuisine
Central Footscray - Vietnamese, Sudanese and Chinese
Robinson, Walker and Foster streets, Dandenong - Indian (Little India)
Thomas Street, Dandenong - Afghan (Afghan Bazaar)
Central Springvale - Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Cambodian
Glen Waverley/Doncaster - Chinese, Malaysian and Sri Lankan cuisines
Victoria Street, Abbotsford/Richmond - Chinese, Vietnamese (Little Saigon)
Areas notable for large variety of mixed cuisine - Dandenong, St Kilda, Ormond, Brunswick, Melbourne CBD
In 1848, the first large group of Buddhists to come to Australia came as part of gold rush. The great majority stayed briefly for prospecting purposes rather than as permanent settlers. In 1856, a temple was established in South Melbourne by the Sze Yap group. The first specific Australian Buddhist group, the Buddhist Study Group Melbourne, was formed in Melbourne in 1938 but ended a short time later during the Second World War.
The largest religious group is Christianity. 64% of people from Melbourne consider themselves Christians but this is subdivided into a number of denominations of which over half are members of the Roman Catholic Church, followed by the Anglican, Eastern Orthodox and the Uniting churches. The city has two large cathedrals, St Patrick's (Roman Catholic), and St Paul's (Anglican). Both were built in the Victorian era and are of considerable heritage significance as major landmarks of the city.
There are approximately 500,000 Muslims living in Australia with over 100,000 settled in Melbourne. They are noted for their diversity with heritages from more than 60 countries.
The first Muslims to settle permanently in Australia were the cameleers, mainly from Afghanistan from as early as the 1860s.
Sikhism is a small but growing minority religion in Australia, that can trace its origins in the nation to the 1830s. The Sikhs form one of the largest subgroups of Indian Australians with 125,000 adherents according to the 2016 census, having grown from 17,000 in 2001 and 12,000 in 1996 . Most adherents can trace their ancestry back to the Punjab region of South Asia, which is currently divided between India and Pakistan.
Whereas, as per anecdotal evidence collected by Sikh Council of Australia Inc., there are approximately 100,000 Sikhs in Australia and the number of Punjabi speakers is even higher.
They are often mistaken for who they are not, due to Sikh men required to wear a "Turban" as one of the 5 articles of faith.
The largest Sikh community's are situated on the Eastern Sea Board, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, followed by Adelaide, Perth, Canberra, Cairns, Townsville. Sikh's also make up a significant population in the town of Woolgoolga near Coffs Harbour, NSW where they own Banana Plantations. There is also a significant Sikh population in Griffith NSW, Renmark SA, associated with Farming. Kahlon Estate's in Renmark which produce Australia's Premium Wines are owned by Sikh emigrants
Melbourne, like the rest of Australia, is partially irreligious, with the proportion of people identifying themselves as Christian declining from 96% in 1901 to 64% in 2006 and those who did not state their religion or declared no religion rising from 2% to over 30% over the same period.
Darker green indicate areas of higher household incomes. Suburbs immediately east of the centre tend to be more affluent
Areas within the Greater Melbourne area host varying groups of socio-economic background, inner city areas tend to be more affluent, gentrified or bohemian, suburban areas tend to house middle class residents, whilst outer suburban areas tend to house lower income residents.
Other points of note include increased property prices in public transport corridors, leading to many of these areas, particularly in the inner east, being more affluent.
^As a percentage of 4,207,291 persons who nominated their ancestry at the 2016 census.
^The Australian Bureau of Statistics has stated that most who nominate "Australian" as their ancestry are part of the Anglo-Celtic group.
^Of any ancestry. Includes those identifying as Aboriginal Australians or Torres Strait Islanders. Indigenous identification is separate to the ancestry question on the Australian Census and persons identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander may identify any ancestry.
^Maher, C.A. Division of National Mapping and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ed.). Melbourne - a social atlas [cartographic material]. 3 (Atlas of population and housing, 1981 census ed.). Canberra : Division of National Mapping and Australian Bureau of Statistics in association with the Institute of Australian Geographers, 1984. ISBN0-642-51634-0.
^Victoria. Dept. of Infrastructure (ed.). Report of the Advisory Committee on the Victoria planning provisions (VPPs) / Minister for and Local Government. [Melbourne] : Minister for Planning and Local Government, 1998.