Australians, colloquially known as Aussies, are the citizens, nationals and individuals associated with the country of Australia. This connection may be residential, legal, historical or ethno-cultural. For most Australians, several (or all) of these connections exist and are collectively the source of their being Australian. Australian law does not provide for a racial or ethnic component of nationality, instead relying on citizenship as a legal status.
|25,739,256 in Australia (2019)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Australian diaspora: 577,255 (2019)|
|United Kingdom||165,000 (2021)|
|United States||98,969 (2019)|
|New Zealand||75,696 (2018)|
|South Korea||15,222 (2019)|
|Hong Kong SAR||14,669 (2016)|
|Mainland China||13,286 (2010)|
Primarily Australian English;
|Christianity (Catholicism, Anglicanism and other denominations), various non-Christian religions and irreligion[A]|
Between European colonisation in 1788 and the Second World War, the vast majority of settlers and immigrants came from the British Isles (principally England, Ireland and Scotland), although there was significant immigration from China and Germany during the 19th century. Many early settlements were initially penal colonies to house transported convicts. Immigration increased steadily, with an explosion of population in the 1850s following a series of gold rushes. In the decades immediately following the Second World War, Australia received a large wave of immigration from across Europe, with many more immigrants arriving from Southern and Eastern Europe than in previous decades. Since the end of the White Australia policy in 1973, a large and continuing wave of immigration to Australia from around the world has continued into the 21st century, with Asia now being the largest source of immigrants. A smaller proportion of Australians are descended from Australia's indigenous peoples, comprising Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders.
The development of a distinctive Australian identity and national character began in the 19th century and culminated in the federation of the Australian colonies in 1901. The primary language is Australian English. Australia is home to a diversity of cultures, a result of its history of immigration. Since 1788, Australian culture has primarily been a Western culture strongly influenced by early Anglo-Celtic settlers. Other influences include Australian Aboriginal culture, the traditions brought to the country by waves of immigration from around the world, and the culture of the United States. The cultural divergence and evolution that has occurred over the centuries since European settlement has resulted in a distinctive Australian culture.
The majority of Australians or their ancestors immigrated within the past four centuries, with the exception of the indigenous population and others from outlying islands who became Australian through expansion of the country.
The primary law governing nationality regulations is the Australian Citizenship Act 2007, which came into force on 1 July 2007. Regulations apply to all states and territories of Australia. All persons born in Australia before 20 August 1986 were automatically citizens at birth regardless of the nationalities of their parents. Individuals born in the country after that date receive Australian citizenship at birth if at least one of their parents is an Australian citizen or permanent resident. Foreign nationals may be granted citizenship after living in the country for at least four years while holding permanent residency and showing proficiency in the English language.
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 19th century, now forming the six present-day Australian states. Large-scale immigration occurred following a series of gold rushes in the 1850s and after the First and Second World Wars, with many post-World War II migrants coming from Southern and Eastern Europe. Since the end of the White Australia policy in 1973, immigrants to Australia have come from around the world, and from Asia in particular.
The predominance of the English language, the existence of a parliamentary system of government drawing upon the Westminster system, constitutional monarchy, American constitutionalist and federalist traditions, Christianity as the dominant religion, and the popularity of sports including cricket, rugby football and tennis are evidence of a significant Anglo-Celtic heritage derived from the descendants of early settlers who form an ethic group known as Anglo-Celtic Australians. As a result of many shared linguistic, historical, cultural and geographic characteristics, Australians have often identified closely with New Zealanders in particular. Australian citizenship prior to 1949 was a social, moral, and political concept. Prior to the introduction of Australian citizenship, Australians had the status of "British subjects".
European Australians are Australians of wholly or partially European descent. Australians of European descent are the majority in Australia, estimated at 76% of the total population in 2016. Historically, European immigrants had great influence over Australian history and society, which resulted in the perception of Australia as a Western country. Since soon after the beginning of British settlement in 1788, people of European descent have formed the majority of the population in Australia.
The largest statistical grouping of European Australians are Anglo-Celtic Australians, Australians whose ancestors originate wholly or partially in the British Isles. This includes English Australians, Irish Australians, Scottish Australians and Welsh Australians. Anglo-Celtic Australians have been highly influential in shaping the nation's character. By the mid-1840s, the numbers of freeborn settlers had overtaken the convict population. Although some observers stress Australia's convict history, the vast majority of early settlers came of their own free will. Far more Australians are descended from assisted immigrants than from convicts, the majority of Colonial Era settlers being British and Irish. About 20 percent of Australians are descendants of convicts. Most of the first Australian settlers came from London, the Midlands and the North of England, and Ireland. 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. 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. 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 to 1914, of whom 13.5 percent were Scots. 5.3 percent of the convicts transported to Eastern Australia between 1789 and 1852 were Scots.[better source needed] The census of 1901 showed that 98 percent of Australians had Anglo-Celtic ancestral origins. In 1939 and 1945, still 98 percent of Australians had Anglo-Celtic ancestral origins. Until 1947, the vast majority of the population were of British origin.
Germans formed the largest non-British Isles ancestry for most of the 19th century. Between 1901 and 1940, 140,000 non-British European immigrants arrived in Australia (about 16 percent of the total intake). Before World War II, 13.6 percent were born overseas, and 80 percent of those were British. Following the Second World War, large numbers of continental Europeans immigrated to Australia, with Italian Australians and Greek Australians being among the largest immigrant groups during the post-war era. 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. In 1971, 70 percent of the foreign born were of European origin.
Italian Australians are Australians of Italian ancestry, and comprise the largest non Anglo-Celtic European ethnic group in Australia, with the 2016 census finding 4.6% of the population (1,000,013 people) claiming ancestry from Italy be they migrants to Australia or their descendants born in Australia of Italian heritage. Australia's long-history of Italian immigration has given rise to an Italo-Australian dialect of the Italian language.
German Australians are Australians of German ancestry. The German community constitutes the second largest non-Anglo Celtic European ethnic group in Australia, numbering 982,266 or 3.8 percent of respondents in the 2016 Census. Germans formed the largest non-English-speaking group in Australia up to the 20th century. Old Lutherans emigrated in response to the 1817 Prussian Union and organized churches both among themselves and with other German speakers, such as the Kavel-Fritzsche Synod. Although a few individuals had emigrated earlier, the first large group of Germans arrived in South Australia 1838, not long after the British colonisation of South Australia. These "Old Lutherans" were from Province of Brandenburg (then a Prussian province), and were trying to preserve their traditional faith.
Asian Australians are Australians with ancestry wholly or partially from the continent of Asia and form the largest statistical grouping of ancestries in Australia after European Australians. At the 2016 census, there were 3,514,915 nominations of ancestries classified by the Australian Bureau of Statistics as falling within the geographical categories of East Asia, Southeast Asia and Central and Southern Asia. This represents 16.15 percent of persons who nominated their ancestry. 2,665,814 persons claimed one of the six most commonly nominated Asian ancestries, namely Chinese, Indian, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean and Sri Lankan, at the 2016 census. Persons claiming one of these six ancestries alone represented 12.25 percent of the total population who nominated their ancestry.[B]
Chinese Australians are Australians of Chinese ancestry, forming the single largest non Anglo-Celtic ancestry in the country, constituting 5.6% of those nominating their ancestry at the 2016 census. and numbering 1,213,903. Chinese Australians are one of the largest groups of Overseas Chinese people, forming the largest Overseas Chinese community in Oceania, and are the largest Asian-Australian community. Per capita, Australia has more people of Chinese ancestry than any country outside Asia. Many Chinese Australians have immigrated from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan as well as Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines, while many are descendants of such immigrants. The very early history of Chinese Australians involved significant immigration from villages of the Pearl River Delta in Southern China i.e. mostly from the Cantonese subgroup. More recent Chinese migrants include Mainland China, Taiwan, etc. which include those from Mandarin and other Chinese dialects or forms. Less well-known are the kinds of society Chinese Australians came from, the families they left behind and what their intentions were in migrating. Gold rushes lured many Chinese to the Australian colonies. (From the mid-19th century, Chinese dubbed Australia the New Gold Mountain after the Gold Mountain of California in North America.) They typically sent money to their families in the villages, regularly visited their families, and retired to their home villages after many years working as market gardeners, shopkeepers or cabinet-makers. As with many overseas Chinese groups the world over, early Chinese immigrants to Australia established several Chinatowns in major cities, such as Sydney (Chinatown, Sydney), Melbourne (Chinatown, Melbourne, since the 1850s) and Brisbane (Chinatown, Brisbane), Perth (Chinatown, Perth, as well as in regional towns associated with the goldfields such as Cairns (Cairns Chinatown).
Indian Australians are Australians of Indian ancestry, and are the second-largest Asian Australian ancestry. Indian Australians are one of the largest groups within the Indian diaspora, with 619,164 persons declaring Indian ancestry at the 2016 census and 721,050 persons born in India in 2019. Indians are the youngest average age (34 years) and the fastest growing community both in terms of absolute numbers and percentages in Australia. Migration of Indians to Australia followed the pattern of "from 18th-century sepoys and lascars (soldiers and sailors) aboard visiting European ships, through 19th-century migrant labourers and the 20th century’s hostile policies to the new generation of skilled professional migrants of the 21st century... India became the largest source of skilled migrants in the 21st century."
Indigenous Australians are descendants of the original inhabitants of the Australian continent. Their ancestors are believed to have migrated from Africa to Asia around 70,000 years ago and arrived in Australia around 50,000 years ago. The Torres Strait Islanders are a distinct people of Melanesian ancestry, indigenous to the Torres Strait Islands, which are at the northernmost tip of Queensland near Papua New Guinea, and some nearby settlements on the mainland. The term "Aboriginal" is traditionally applied to only the indigenous inhabitants of mainland Australia and Tasmania, along with some of the adjacent islands. Indigenous Australians is an inclusive term used when referring to both Aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders, i.e.: the "first peoples".
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. 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.
In 1770, fearing he had been pre-empted by the French, James Cook changed a hilltop signal-drill on Possession Island in Torres Strait, into a possession ceremony, fabricating Britain's claim of Australia's east coast. Eighteen years later, the east coast was occupied by Britain and later the west coast was also settled by Britain. At that time, the indigenous population was estimated to have been between 315,000 and 750,000, divided into as many as 500 tribes speaking many different languages.
At the 2016 census, 649,171 people (2.8% of the total population) identified as being Indigenous — Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders.[N 4] Indigenous Australians experience higher than average rates of imprisonment and unemployment, lower levels of education, and life expectancies for males and females that are, respectively, 11 and 17 years lower than those of non-indigenous Australians. Some remote Indigenous communities have been described as having "failed state"-like conditions.
In 2019, 30% of the Australian resident population, or 7,529,570 people, were born overseas.
The Australian resident population consists of people who were born in the following countries:
|Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics (2019)|
|Place of birth||Estimated resident population[C]|
|Hong Kong SAR[G]||101,290|
Although Australia has no official language, English has always been entrenched as the de facto national language. Australian English is a major variety of the language with a distinctive accent and lexicon, and differs slightly from other varieties of English in grammar and spelling. General Australian serves as the standard dialect.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2016 census, English is the only language spoken in the home for close to 72.7 percent of the population. The next most common languages spoken at home are:
A considerable proportion of first- and second-generation migrants are bilingual.
Over 250 Indigenous Australian languages are thought to have existed at the time of first European contact, of which less than 20 are still in daily use by all age groups. About 110 others are spoken exclusively by older people. At the time of the 2006 census, 52,000 Indigenous Australians, representing 12 percent of the Indigenous population, reported that they spoke an Indigenous language at home. Australia has a sign language known as Auslan, which is the main language of about 5,500 deaf people.
Australians have various religions and spiritual beliefs. Majority (52.1 percent) were Christian, while 30.1 percent of the population reported as having no religion, of those reporting as having religious affiliations according to the 2016 census. 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 was about 1.5 million in 2001, about 7% of the population (21.5 million) that year.
The current Australian resident population is estimated at 26,772,000 (7 July 2022). This does not include Australians living overseas. In 2015, 2.15% of the Australian population lived overseas, one of the lowest proportions worldwide. This ratio is much lower than many other countries in the OECD.
The data in the table is sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics The population estimates 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.
Australia's first inhabitants, the Aboriginal people, are believed to have migrated from some unknown point in Asia to Australia between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago.