Across Australia it is estimated that 31% of Australians (7.0 million people) live outside of major cities (see Table 7). Of these people, 4.4 million live in inner regional areas and 2.1 million live in outer regional areas. An estimated half a million people live in remote and very remote areas accounting for 2.3% of the total Australian population. As Table 7 indicates, the distribution of populations between remoteness areas varies across states and territories. Over the last five years, population growth has generally been lower in remote areas compared with regional areas (Table 8). In Queensland and Western Australia, growth in regional populations has been very high over the last five years.

Table 7 – Estimated Resident Population (provisional),
Remoteness Areas by jurisdiction, 2010

 Jurisd. Major cities Inner regional Outer regional Remote Very remote Total
NSW 5,279,542 1,461,618 453,948 32,991 4,490 7,232,589
Vic. 4,171,765 1,109,580 259,869 4,718 - 5,545,932
Qld 2,699,182 991,310 685,272 87,221 50,865 4,513,850
WA 1,632,570 307,122 205,472 98,686 49,660 2,293,510
SA 1,196,731 202,195 185,061 46,494 14,101 1,644,582
Tas. 328,815 168,380 7,865 2,583 - 507,643
NT - - 128,607 48,668 52,436 229,711
ACT 357,931 640 - - - 358,571
Total 15,337,721 4,401,672 2,086,609 326,643 176,202 22,328,847
  % % % % % %
NSW 73.0 20.2 6.3 0.5 0.1 100.0
Vic. 75.2 20.0 4.7 0.1 - 100.0
Qld 59.8 22.0 15.2 1.9 1.1 100.0
WA 71.2 13.4 9.0 4.3 2.2 100.0
SA 72.8 12.3 11.3 2.8 0.9 100.0
Tas. 64.8 33.2 1.5 0.5 - 100.0
NT - - 56.0 21.2 22.8 100.0
ACT 99.8 0.2 - - - 100.0
Total 68.7 19.7 9.3 1.5 0.8 100.0
Very remote RA5 >10.53

Source: ABS 2011c


Table 8 – Estimated average annual growth in resident population (provisional), Remoteness Areas by jurisdiction, 2005-2010
Jurisdiction  NSW Vic. Qld WA SA Tas. NT ACT Aust
  % % % % % % % % %
Major cities of Australia 1.49 2.04 2.53 2.53 1.20 0.89   1.66 1.91
Inner regional Australia 1.28 1.62 2.58 4.36 1.69 0.84   3.42 1.84
Outer regional Australia 0.46 0.90 2.52 1.62 0.55 0.76 2.76   1.46
Remote Australia -0.65 -0.60 0.68 1.31 0.73 -0.32 1.09   0.78
Very remote Australia -0.83   0.31 1.66 -0.08 0.00 1.77   1.04
Total 1.37 1.90 2.47 2.60 1.16 0.00 2.17 1.66 1.83

Source: ABS 2011c


Table 9 shows the distribution of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population across jurisdictions and remoteness areas. An estimated 68.2% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live outside major cities. An estimated 15.8% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live in very remote areas where they account for 48.4% of the total resident population.Top of page

Table 9 –Estimated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population by jurisdiction and remoteness area, 2006
Area NSW Vic. Qld WA SA Tas. NT ACT Australia
Major cities  64.1  15.3  41.1  27.0  12.7  -  -  4.0  164.3 31.8%
Inner regional  49.3  10.7  30.2  6.3  2.4  9.1  -  0.0  108.2 20.9%
Outer regional  27.2  4.8  42.6  11.7  6.1  7.2  13.8  -  113.3 21.9%
Remote  6.4  0.0  12.5  13.5  1.1  0.4  15.5  -  49.5 9.6%
Very remote  1.2  -  20.0  19.5  3.8  0.2  37.3  -  81.9 15.8%
Australia  148.2  30.8  146.4  77.9  26.0  16.9  66.6  4.0  517.2 100.0%
   %  %  %  %  %  %  %  %  %  
Major cities  1.3  0.4  1.7  1.8  1.1      1.2  1.2  
Inner regional  3.6  1.0  3.4  2.4  1.3  2.9    0.6  2.6  
Outer regional  6.1  1.9  6.9  6.1  3.4  4.4  12.0    5.8  
Remote  19.2  0.9  14.8  14.5  2.4  5.3  33.8    15.7  
Very remote  26.6    40.0  41.5  27.6  7.9  75.3    48.4  
Australia  2.2  0.6  3.6  3.8  1.7  3.4  31.6  1.2  2.5  


Source: ABS 2010


Populations vary significantly in their age profiles across the different remote areas (Figure 5). Compared with major cities, populations in inner and outer regional areas have a much lower proportion of the population in the 20-49 age groups, but higher proportions in the 0-19 year and 50-69 year age groups and 70 years and over age groups. Compared with major cities, remote and very remote areas have a much higher proportion of the population in the 0-19 year age groups, similar proportions in the 20-49 year age groups, and much lower proportions in the 70 years and over groups. Very remote populations also have a much lower proportion in the 50-69 year age group. The pattern for remote and very remote populations is significantly impacted by factor such as the high proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (close to half the population in very remote Australia), the impact of the mining workforce and the low level of aged care services such as residential care services, which means many people move out of the areas as they age.
Table 10 – Proportion of population by selected age group and remoteness area, 2006-07
  Major cities Inner regional Outer regional remote Very remote Australia
0-19 years 26% 28% 28% 29% 33% 26%
20-49 years 45% 38% 39% 44% 46% 43%
50-69 years 20% 24% 24% 21% 17% 21%
70 years + 9% 11% 9% 6% 4% 9%


Proportion of population by age group and remoteness area, 2006-07
Figure 5 – Proportion of population by age group and remoteness area, 2006-07

Source: AIHW 2011a, Appendix E


While the Australian population aged over 65 years is projected increase as a whole, the increase is expected to be higher outside of major cities. Table 11 shows both the overall projected increase in the population over 65 through to 2045, with much higher rates of growth in this population in coastal and inland populations. An ageing population poses a significant challenge to the health system as a whole, but is even more significant for rural regions of Australia.

Table 11 – Projected ageing by region, 2001 to 2045

Region

65+ in 2001 (%)

65+ in 2045 (%)

Change 2001 - 2045 (%)

Growth in 65+ over 2001 - 2045 (%)

Metropolitan

12.0

30.1

18.5

129.3

Coastal

15.1

26.8

11.7

210.8

Inland

12.5

30.2

18.1

179.7


Source: Productivity Commission 2005, p.288

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