Changing Australian Communities

In this subtopic we will be studying the human factors that make Australia unique by focusing on Australia’s demographic characteristics.

You will look at the patterns and trends evident within the Australian population and how these influence the nature and identity of Australian society.

You will examine the demographic characteristics of the population as a whole and those of Indigenous Australians in particular. You also examine multiculturalism, one of the defining characteristics of modern Australia and central to

our national identity.

Finally, you will look at Australia’s major cities and towns, and see that Australia is one of the most urbanised societies on earth.


1. What are the trends in Australia’s demographic characteristics?

2. How do the demographic characteristics of Indigenous Australians compare with those of the population as a whole?

3. How have Australia’s changing demographic characteristics influenced the nature and identity of Australian society?


The origins of Australia’s unique human environment stretch back more than 60 000 years. The continent is home to one of the world’s oldest indigenous cultures, one that has transformed the nature of the continent’s physical environment and produced a rich legacy of human artefacts.

One of the reasons Australia’s indigenous cultures have survived for so long is their ability to adapt. Indigenous cultures have been influenced by other peoples—those who came to stay and those who visited Australia’s shores for trade.

While indigenous cultures remain strong, years of European neglect and indifference have had an impact. Despite this, indigenous communities have managed to keep their cultures alive, passing their knowledge, arts, rituals and performances from one generation to another and protecting their cultural heritage—their sacred sites and objects.

The artefacts of Australia’s indigenous cultures are found in the many significant archaeological sites found throughout Australia.These sites provide clues to the ways Indigenous Australians lived in the past and illustrate how these cultures have changed over time.

Non-indigenous Australians are also proud of their heritage—their ethnic diversity, great cities, mines and farms. They are also proud of the nation’s democratic institutions, casual lifestyle and sporting success.



• The life expectancy of a baby girl born in 2011 in Australia is 84.2 years; for a boy it is 79.9 years.
• There is an average of 2.6 people per household in Australia.
• The proportion of the Australian population aged 65 and over is 13.2 per cent. Those aged over 80 years represent 3.6 per cent.
• Eighty-five per cent of Australians live within 50 kilometres of the coast.


• In 2012, Australia’s imprisonment rate per 100 000 people was 168. In the US, it was 749, in the UK 154, in Germany 86 and in Japan 59. The imprisonment rate for Indigenous Australians is a staggering 1,914 per 100 000 adults.

• Of the 26 359 people in Australian prisons in mid-2008, 56 per cent were aged 20–35 years and 93 per cent were male. Males are almost 14 times more likely to be in prison than females.