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HUMAN CHARACTERISTICS THAT MAKE AUSTRALIA UNIQUE. Age structure Distribution Ethnic composition Gender Growth rates. Australian population records. Australia is the 52nd most populous country out of nearly 200, but it is expected to fall to 64th by 2050.

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human characteristics that make australia unique


Age structure


Ethnic composition


Growth rates

australian population records
Australian population records

Australia is the 52nd most populous country out of nearly 200, but it is expected to fall to 64th by 2050.

The median age—the age at which half the population is older and half is younger—was 36.4 in 2006.

Australia has a very low population density at 2.6 people per square kilometre.

Australia’s fertility rate is 1.7 children per woman.

The life expectancy for children born in 2006 was 78 years for boys and 83 for girls.

changes to ethnic distribution
Changes to ethnic distribution

Migration is the permanent or semi-permanent movement of people from one location to another. Immigration is the movement of people into a country and emigration is the movement of people out of a country. A migrant is different from a refugee: migrants elect to move to another country and are free to return. In contrast, refugees are forced to leave their country and cannot return, because of persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group. In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated that anyone in fear of persecution should be able to seek a safe refuge in another country. This is a basic human right.Australia has a non-discriminatory immigration policy — this means that anyone from any country can apply to migrate, regardless of ethnic origin, gender, race or religion. Each year, the government decides how many migrants are allowed into Australia and whether they can enter via the family, skilled or humanitarian categories. These decisions are made in consultation with states, territories and local governments, as well as with businesses, trade unions and environmental organisations. This process determines the migration levels that will contribute tosustainable development.

changes to ethnic distribution1
Changes to ethnic distribution

Change over time

Since 1788, immigration has contributed to Australia's increasing population. Over time, however, the number, the country of origin and the reasons people migrate to Australia have changed. In 1947, the proportion of the population born overseas was 10 per cent, and 81 per cent came from English-speaking countries. By 2006, 24 per cent of the population was born overseas, 33 per cent migrated from north-west Europe (mainly the United Kingdom and Ireland), 19 per cent from southern and eastern Europe, and 13 per cent from South-East Asia.

ten pound tourists
Ten pound tourists?

The changes to the immigration pattern started after World War II, when many Australians feared an invasion from countries located to the immediate north. The slogan ‘populate or perish’ was touted, and migrants and refugees from Europe were encouraged.

Many British citizens were seduced by advertisements of sun, surf and opportunities, and they emigrated to Australia as ‘ten pound tourists’. After the White Australia policy was abandoned in the 1970s, a larger proportion of migrants and refugees arrived from Asia, especially during the Vietnam War. Today the Asian region has become an increasingly important source of migrants, who bring with them a diversity of cultures.

international comparison of the sex ratio
International comparison of the sex ratio

Australia had slightly fewer men than women in 2003 and a similar sex ratio to other developed nations like the United States, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

However it was also comparable to Ethiopia, a developing nation. Countries that had large numbers of men compared to women included China, India, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar.

In China the One Child Policy and the importance of boys has led to an imbalance in the sex ratio

. In India, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar the inequality between men and women may mean that women could be less likely to receive medical treatment and adequate nutrition than the males do.

In countries like Cambodia, North Korea, Lebanon and Sierra Leone there are fewer men than women. This may be attributed to males in these countries being more involved in conflict.

factors that cause change in communities
Factors that cause change in communities

SNAPSHOT:YirrkalaYirrkala is an Indigenous coastal community in northeast Arnhem Land on the Gove Peninsula in the Northern Territory. It is located 600 kilometres east of Darwin and 18 kilometres south-east of Nhulunbuy at 12º24’S and 136º88’E. Yirrkala has a population of about 800 people who are mostly of the Yolngu tribe. It also is a centre for about 800 people who live in the surrounding areas known as the homeland. The homeland movement was begun in Arnhem Land and involves the Aboriginal people returning to their traditional lands and lifestyles without relying on western ways of life. These homeland sites have no mains electricity and nor all-weather road access. Traditional activities like hunting, fishing, gathering and ceremonies are encouraged in and around Yirrkala.

Indigenous people have lived at Yirrkala throughout history, but it increased in size when a Methodist mission was set up there in 1935. As the people of the region have only had contact with Europeans for about the last 60 years, their traditional cultural artistic and ceremonial activities are still strong. Local government is now led by the Yolngu-led Dhanbul which is similar to a shire council in non-Indigenous communities.

Yirrkala is best known for the following:

The birth of the Aboriginal land rights movement can be traced to this region. In the 1960s the government granted mining leases on Yolngu land. The bark petition was begun in Yirrkala and led to the establishment of the Woodward Royal Commission and the tabling of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1976.

It is home to some leading Indigenous artists whose art can be found in galleries across the world.

It is the traditional home of the didgeridoo.

It is home to members of YothuYindi (an indigenous rock band).

It is the setting for the movie Yolngu Boy (2001).

you can download these activities from the blog
You can download these activities from the blog



What are the differences between:

a a migrant and a refugee

b immigration and emigration?

Describe the changes in the number and country of origin of migrants entering Australia since 1901.

What are the factors that would cause people to migrate to Australia?THINKING AND APPLYING

People have different perspectives on whether Australia should increase or decrease the number of immigrants. Suggest what argument might be put forward by:

a a refugee from Afghanistan

b a Vietnamese restaurant owner

c a Department of Immigration employee

d an unemployed person

e an environmentalist.

Imagine you are a non-English-speaking migrant. Describe your life at school and in the Australian community.

How have migrants contributed to our ethnically diverse society? Take a tour around your local area and describe the impacts of migration. Illustrate your fieldwork with photographs.USING YOUR SKILLS

Refer to the graph in [[#ahead-4-5|Section 4.5]].

a What was the net migration to Australia during the gold rush period of the 1850s?

b List two factors that have greatly reduced the number of migrants coming to Australia.

Refer to the compound bar graphs of Australia's immigrant population.

a What was the percentage change in the people born in the United Kingdom and New Zealand between 1901 and 2006? Account for the change.

b From which countries did most migrants arrive following the end of World War II in 1945?

c List the countries that had the greatest number of migrants to Australia following the end of the White Australia policy in the 1970s.

d Name four countries that appear in 2006 but not in 1990. Suggest reasons for this change.

changes in indigenous populations
Changes in indigenous populations

The Indigenous people of Australia are Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. Their cultures are some of the oldest in the world. However, they are also one of the most deprived groups in Australia, with many living in poverty. Compared with many other Australians, Indigenous people are disadvantaged with respect to education, income, health, employment and housing.

change to the indigenous population 1911 2006
Change to the Indigenous population 1911–2006

After European settlement, the size of Australia's Indigenous population declined dramatically due to introduced diseases and displacement. When the Australian Constitution came into effect in 1901, Aboriginal people were not counted as part of the Australian population. It was not until the 1967 referendum that Australians voted to include Indigenous people in the census count. Today, with changing social and political developments and an increasing sense of pride in their Aboriginal origins, more people now identify themselves as Indigenous.

more babies but lower life expectancy
More babies but lower life expectancy

The Indigenous age–sex population structure is different from the total Australian structure. Indigenous people have higher fertility and higher death rates, and their population is younger than the total Australian population. Although fertility rates for Indigenous women fell to 2.1 babies per woman by 2006, this is still higher than the fertility rate of 1.7 babies per woman in the total Australian female population.The high death rate is reflected in a life expectancy of 59 years for males and 65 years for females. Only 3 per cent of the Indigenous population are over 65 years, compared with 13 per cent of the total population. This is a result of poorer health from higher rates of smoking, obesity, diabetes, asthma and kidney diseases compared with the rest of the population. On a positive note, more babies are reaching their fifth birthday with a decrease in the infant mortality rate, helped by government health services, non-government organisations (NGOs) and Indigenous community health programs.

distribution of indigenous people
Distribution of Indigenous people

Most of Australia's Indigenous people live in major urban and other urban areas. Compared with non-Indigenous people, however, a higher proportion of Indigenous people live in rural and remote areas. Today, more Aboriginal people are moving to rural areas, while the general population is moving to urban areas. About 27 per cent of the Indigenous population live in remote parts of Australia compared with only 2 per cent of non-Indigenous Australians. The remoteness of these communities has meant limited access to health services, adequate housing, education services and employment opportunities.

activities also on blog
Activities also on blog
  • Who are Australia's Indigenous people?
  • How are Indigenous people disadvantaged?
  • Where do most Indigenous people live today?
  • Why did Australia's Indigenous population decline after European settlement?THINKING AND APPLYING
  • What was the trend for the Indigenous population during the twentieth century? Suggest reasons for the trend.
  • What were the difficulties in determining the Indigenous population from 1788 until after the referendum in 1967 to include Indigenous people in the census count?
  • Refer to the table ‘An unequal country’. Use the internet and other resources to describe what can be done to improve Indigenous peoples’ quality of life.
  • In groups, select a well-known Indigenous person. Use the internet and other resources to describe the selected person. Outline why he or she is well known and the obstacles he or she had to overcome to become successful.USING YOUR SKILLS
  • Refer to the population pyramid. Compare the percentage of Indigenous people with the total Australian population for the following age groups:
    • a 0–4 years
    • b 45–49 years and over.
  • Suggest reasons for the differences.