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"Australian" redirects here. For other uses, see Australian (disambiguation).
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Total population
c. 24 million
Regions with significant populations
 Australia 23,534,699
 United Kingdom 400,000[1]
 United States 200,000[2]
 Greece 100,000[3][4]
 Hong Kong 90,000[5][6]
 New Zealand 70,000[7]
 Canada 35,000[8]
 Italy 30,000[8][9]
 Lebanon 20,000–25,000[10][11]
English · Other minority languages[12]
Christianity (Protestantism, Roman Catholicism)
No religion or agnosticism
Other minority religions[13]
Related ethnic groups

Australians (/əˈstrljənz/), colloquially known as Aussies (/ɒzz/), are an ethnic group and nation native to the continent of Australia, sharing a common history, culture, and language (Australian English). Legally, Australians are citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia, with their status governed by Australian nationality law.

The majority of Australians descend from the peoples of the British Isles – the Cornish, English, Irish, Manx, Scottish, and Welsh. The Colony of New South Wales was established by the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1788, with the arrival of the First Fleet, and five other colonies were established in the early 19th century, now forming the six present-day Australian states. Many early settlements were penal colonies, and transported convicts (and, later, ex-convicts) made up a significant proportion of the population in most colonies. Large-scale immigration did not occur until the 1850s, following a series of gold rushes. Further waves of immigration occurred after the First and Second World Wars, with many post-World War II migrants coming from southern and eastern Europe, the Middle East, south and east Asia, and the Pacific islands. Prior to British settlement, Australia was inhabited by various indigenous peoplesAboriginal Australians, Aboriginal Tasmanians, and Torres Strait Islanders, a Melanesian people. A small percentage of present-day Australians descend from these peoples.

The development of a separate Australian identity and national character is most often linked with the period surrounding the First World War, which gave rise to the concept of the Anzac spirit. The Eureka Rebellion of 1854 and various events of the Second World War, most notably the Kokoda Track campaign, are also frequently mentioned in association with Australian identity. However, Australian culture predates the federation of the Australian colonies by several decades – Australian literature, most notably the work of the bush poets, dates from colonial times, while sporting teams representing the whole of Australia have been in existence since the 1870s. As a result of their shared language, cultural and sporting links, and status in the British Empire, Australians have historically identified most closely with peoples deriving from the former British Empire, especially Canadians, New Zealanders, and southern Africans of British descent.

History of Australians[edit]


Australians are referred to as 'Aussie' and 'Antipodean'.[14][15] Australians were historically referred to as 'Colonials', 'British' and 'British subjects'.[16][17][18][19] Australian identity draws on a multicultural, European and British cultural heritage.[20]


Indigenous Australians are descendants of the original inhabitants of the Australian continent.[21] Indigenous Australians migrated from Africa to Asia around 70,000 years ago[22] and arrived in Australia around 50,000 years ago.[23][24] The Torres Strait Islanders are indigenous to the Torres Strait Islands, which are at the northernmost tip of Queensland near Papua New Guinea. The term "Aboriginal" is traditionally applied to only the indigenous inhabitants of mainland Australia and Tasmania, along with some of the adjacent islands, i.e.: the "first peoples". Indigenous Australians is an inclusive term used when referring to both Aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders.

Dispersing across the Australian continent over time, the ancient peoples expanded and differentiated into hundreds of distinct groups, each with its own language and culture.[25] More than 400 distinct Australian Aboriginal peoples have been identified across the continent, distinguished by unique names designating their ancestral languages, dialects, or distinctive speech patterns.[26]

James Cook claimed the east coast for Great Britain in 1770; also the west coast was later settled by Britain. At that time, the indigenous population was estimated to have been between 315,000 and 750,000,[27] divided into as many as 500 tribes[citation needed] speaking many different languages. In the 2006 Census, 407,700 respondents declared they were Aboriginal, 29,512 declared they were Torres Strait Islanders, and a further 17,811 declared they were both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.[28] After adjustments for undercount, the indigenous population as of end June 2006 was estimated to be 517,200, representing about 2.5% of the population.[27]

Modern era[edit]

Although some observers stress Australia's convict history, the vast majority of early settlers came of their own free will.[29] Far more Australians are descended from assisted immigrants than from convicts, the majority were British and Irish.[30] About 20% of Australians are descendants of convicts.[31] Most of the first Australian settlers came from London, the Midlands and the North of England, and Ireland.[32][33][34] Settlers that arrived throughout the 19th century were from all parts of the United Kingdom and Ireland, a significant proportion of settlers came from the Southwest and Southeast of England, from Ireland and from Scotland.[35] Anglo-Celtic Australians (Northern European settlers from England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland) have been highly influential in shaping the nation's culture. By the mid-1840s, the numbers of freeborn settlers had overtaken the convict population. In 1888, 60 percent of the Australian population had been born in Australia, and almost all had British ancestral origins. Out of the remaining 40 percent, 34 percent had been born in the British Isles, and 6 percent were of European origin, mainly from Germany and Scandinavia.[36] In the 1840s, Scots-born immigrants constituted 12 percent of the Australian population. There were 1.3 million British migrants to Australia in the period from 1861–1914, of which 13.5 percent were Scots. 5.3 percent of the convicts transported to Eastern Australia between 1789 and 1852 were Scots.[37] By 1850, there were 290,000 Aboriginal Australians. The European population grew from 0.3 percent of the population of the continent at 1800 to 58.6 percent at 1850.[38] Germans formed the largest non-British community for most of the 19th century.[39] The census of 1901 showed that 98 percent of Australians had British ancestral origins, which was considered as "more British than Britain itself".[40] Between 1901 and 1940, 140,000 non-British European immigrants arrived in Australia (about 16 percent of the total intake).[41] Before World War II, 13.6 percent were born overseas, and 80 percent of those were British.[42] In 1939 and 1945, still 98 percent of Australians had British/Anglo-Celtic ancestral origins.[43] Until 1947, the vast majority of the population were of British origin.[44] During the 1950s, Australia was the destination of 30 per cent of Dutch emigrants and the Netherlands-born became numerically the second largest non-British group in Australia.[45] In 1971, 70 percent of the foreign born were of European origin. Abolition of the White Australia Policy in the mid-1970s led to a significant increase in non-European immigration, mostly from Asia and the Middle East.

Almost one Australian in four was born elsewhere. In 1981, around 50 percent of immigrants were from Europe, and 2.7 percent were from Asia.[46] In 1998 about 40 percent of all immigrants to Australia had been born in Asia.[47] People from the United Kingdom remain the largest group amongst those born aboard.[48] In 2001 were 51 percent from Europe, 29 percent from Asia, 11 percent from Oceania, and 4 percent came from the Americas.[49]

In 1996, over 8 million Australians had at least three ancestries, and over 3 million had four or more.[50]

By 2000, a majority of Australia's population was native born, and over 90 percent were descended from people from the British Isles.[51] In 2007, more than 92 percent of all Australians descended from Europeans.[52]

In the 2006 Census 455,026 people (or 2.3% of the total Australian population) reported they were of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin.[28] 28 percent of the Australian population reported mixed or multiple ancestries in the 2006 census.[53] In 2006, 63% of the population had reported British ancestry.[54]

2011 Census[edit]

A census in 2011 showed 60.2% of Australia's population declared themselves as European ancestry. In addition, many of those who chose Australian ethnicity were not of indigenous ethnicity. The total indigenous population is estimated to be about 520,000 individuals, including people of mixed descent.[27] In the 2011 Census, Australians reported around 300 different ancestries. The most commonly reported ancestries were English (33.7 per cent) and Australian (33 per cent). A further 6 of the leading 10 ancestries reflected the European heritage in Australia – Irish (9.7 per cent), Scottish (8.3 per cent), Italian (4.3 per cent), German (4.2 per cent), Greek (1.8 per cent) and Dutch (1.6 per cent). Other most common ancestries in the top 10 were Chinese (4.0 per cent) and Indian (1.8 per cent).[55]

In the 2011 Census residents were asked to describe their ancestry, in which up to two could be nominated. Proportionate to the Australian resident population, the most commonly nominated ancestries were:[56][57]

In the 2011 census, 53.7% of people had both parents born in Australia and 34.3% of people had both parents born overseas.[12]

Historical population[edit]

The data in the table is sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics[58][59] Note that population estimates in the table below do not include the Aboriginal population before 1961. Estimates of Aboriginal population prior to European settlement range from 300,000 to one million, with archaeological finds indicating a sustainable population of around 750,000.[60]


Australian citizenship did not exist before 26 January 1949. Before then, people born in Australia were British subjects. People born in Australia (including Norfolk Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island) on or after 20 August 1986 are Australian citizens by birth if at least one parent was an Australian citizen or a permanent resident at the time of the person's birth.[61]

Statistics do not exist as to the number of Australians who currently are dual citizens. In 2000, it was estimated to be 4 to 5 million people.[62]

Current population[edit]

The current Australian population is estimated at 24,424,000 (26 March 2015).[63] This does not include an estimated 1 million Australians living overseas, but it includes the estimated 24% of Australians born overseas (in various nations, but predominantly the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Italy, China, Vietnam, India, the Philippines, and Greece).[64][65] There are an estimated 1 million Australians (approximately 5% of the population) residing outside Australia. The Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement facilitates open migration to and from New Zealand.[66]



Although Australia has no official language, English has always been entrenched as the de facto national language.[67] According to the 2011 census, 76.8% of people (16,509,291) spoke only English. 20.4% of the population (1,579,949) spoke two or more languages at home. Other languages spoken included Mandarin 1.6%, Italian 1.4%, Arabic 1.3%, Cantonese 1.2% and Greek 1.2%.[12]


Religion in Australia
religion percent
Roman Catholic
No religion
No response
Eastern Orthodox
Main article: Religion in Australia

Australians have various religions and spiritual beliefs. The Australian Bureau of Statistics gathers information on religious belief in the national census.[68] As in many Western countries, the level of active participation in church worship is lower than would be indicated by the proportion of the population identifying themselves as Christian; weekly attendance at church services is about 1.5 million, or about 7.5% of the population.[69]


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  2. ^ "Special Feature: Australians in New York". 
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  4. ^ "ERT online, Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation". 
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  15. ^ Oxford Dictionaries Online, 2011. "Antipodean". Retrieved 4 March 2011. 
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  38. ^ P. Harris, The History of Human Populations, Volume II. Migration, Urbanization and Structural Change, 2003, p. 444
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  68. ^ "2914.0.55.002 – 2006 Census of Population and Housing: Media Releases and Fact Sheets, 2006". 27 June 2007. Retrieved 7 September 2010. 
  69. ^ NCLS releases latest estimates of church attendance, National Church Life Survey, Media release, 28 February 2004