Understanding future property trends -where are all the migrants moving?- Pete Wargent

Changing times

A great set of data on immigration from the ABS last week that’s well worth a read. 

I like ABS data, since its charter ensures that the information is free from vested interest and is independently presented.


Amazingly, the ABS data shows that since 2006 net overseas migration to Australia has contributed more to Australia’s population growth annually than has the population’s natural increase.
The inescapable conclusion of this is that in order to understand where Australia is headed, it is vital to understand the immigration flows.

The 2011 Census showed that there were some 5.3 million migrants in Australia, meaning that more than one in every four (26%) Aussie residents was born overseas.

Not many countries have a higher proportion of foreign-born residents than we do!

Foreign-born residents

Source: ABS

From where?

Where do the foreign born residents come from?

Well, all over the world, of course, but most notably from the United Kingdom (1.1 million) and New Zealand (483,000).

Increasingly over the last decade, they also hail from China (319,000) and India (295,000).

Foreign born residents come from

Where do they live?

In comparison to people born in Australia, migrants show a tendency to settle in the major urban areas of Australia, reports the ABS.

While 64% of Australian-born people lived in a major urban area of Australia in 2011, an overwhelming 85% of those born overseas lived in a major urban area.

Within urban areas, migrants in Australia tended to live in Australia’s two largest cities, a trend seen in Australia since the period after the Second World War.

The 2011 Census showed that around half of all migrants in Australia lived in either Sydney or Melbourne, with 1.4 million residents of Sydney and 1.2 million residents of Melbourne having been born overseas. 

Perth had the third largest migrant population in Australia at 568,000 people, followed by Brisbane with 480,000 and Adelaide at 289,000. 

Numbers elsewhere are significantly lower, with comparatively very few migrants in Darwin, Hobart, or Canberra.

Migrants in australian capital cities

Sydney (39%), Melbourne (35%), and Perth (37%) were also the most popular cities for migrants when considered in proportional terms, with more than a third of the population in each of these cities being born overseas.

Migrants in australian capital cities 2


Across the Australian capitals, certain trends in settlement are evident. 

Suburbs located in or near city centres are strongly favoured by migrants, according to the ABS. 

With the exception of Hobart and Darwin, the central business districts of every capital city in Australia had more than half its residents born overseas at the time of the Census.

Importantly, suburbs incorporating or situated near universities also featured high proportions of migrants.

Sydney trends

In 2011, migrants tended to be most concentrated around a number of key urban centres in Sydney. 

In the inner city around Ultimo and Haymarket, to the west around Parramatta, and to the south-west around Cabramatta and Fairfield, for example. 

Other areas with a high proportion of migrants include: Westmead, Homebush, Rhodes, Burwood, Canterbury-Bankstown, Campsie, Hurstville and Wolli Creek.

The ‘Chindia demographic’

Sydney suburbs where Chinese-born migrants made up the largest proportion of the population included Hurstville (36%), Rhodes (29%), Burwood (28%) and Allawah (24%) in the city’s south and west. 

In the city centre area, Ultimo and Haymarket also had large populations of Chinese-born migrants (both 22%).

Suburbs where Indian-born migrants were most densely concentrated tend to be situated in the wider Parramatta area including Harris Park (43%), Westmead (32%), and Parramatta (24%). 

Other close-by suburbs such as Wentworthville (19%), Girraween (17%), and Rosehill (16%) also had large proportions of their population born in India.


Quite clearly, with a massive 85% of immigrants settling in major urban areas we can expect in the future that immigration will swell the population of our four main capital cities dramatically.

And increasingly, immigration is becoming the key driver of the share of our population growth.

However, where migrants head to within the capital cities is less clear-cut.

The ABS itself notes that: “across the Australian capitals, some common trends in settlement are evident. Suburbs located in or near city centres are strongly favoured by migrants”. 

But it’s also notable that certain other key hubs of the capital city centres also attract immigrants, particularly those situated close to universities or with historical associations with certain demographics.

The map shows fairly conclusively that the distant outer suburbs tend attract a lower proportion of migrants.




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is a Chartered Accountant, Chartered Secretary and has a Financial Planning Diploma. Using a long term approach to building businesses, investing in equities, & owning a portfolio he achieved financial independence at the age of 33. Visit his blog

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