Australia People: Population

Australia's population is about 18 million. The most populous states are New South Wales and Victoria, each with a capital city (Sydney and Melbourne) with a population of around three million. The population is concentrated along the east coast from Adelaide to Cairns and in a similar, but smaller, coastal region in Western Australia. The centre of the country is very sparsely populated.

There are about 230,000 Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders, most heavily concentrated in central Australia and the far north. Aboriginal affairs are handled mainly by the Federal government body ATSIC (Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Commission).

Until WW II Australians were predominantly of British and Irish descent but that has changed dramatically. Since the war, heavy migration from Europe has created major Greek and Italian populations, also adding Yugoslavs, Lebanese, Turks and other groups.

More recently Australia has had large influxes of Asians, particularly Vietnamese after the Vietnam War. In comparison to its population Australia probably has taken more Vietnamese refugees than any other Western nation. On the whole these 'new Australians' have been remarkably well accepted and 'multiculturalism' is a popular concept in Australia.

If you come to Australia in search of a real Australian you will find one quite easily. He or she may be a Lebanese cafe owner, an English used-car salesperson, an Aboriginal artist, a Malaysian architect or a Greek greengrocer. And you will find them in pubs, on beaches, at barbecues, in mustering yards and at art galleries. And yes, you may meet a Mick (Crocodile) Dundee or two but he is strictly a rural model - the real Paul Hogan was a Sydney Harbour Bridge painter, a job where after you finish at one end you just start again at the other.