Australia’s 50 largest cities

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key takeaways

Key takeaways

Sydney regained the top spot as Australia’s largest city for 2021, but Melbourne is close on its heels.

In fact there are just 57,000 people separating Sydney from Melbourne – 4.959 million compared to 4.901 million – according to the latest ABS data.

While the country’s population temporarily stalled we can expect Australia’s population to begin rising strongly again.

Sydney regained the top spot as Australia’s largest city for 2021, but Melbourne is close on its heels.

In fact, there are just 57,000 people separating Sydney from Melbourne – 4.959 million compared to 4.901 million – according to the latest ABS data.

Last year it was Melbourne which wore the crown for the highest population, but thanks to the Covid-19 lockdowns which saw the city’s population dip (of a huge 65,000 people over the year), Sydney once again has stepped to the top of the annual list of urban area populations put together by id.com.au demographers using ABS data.

And that’s not the only change.

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Covid-19 border closures, lockdowns, and associated population movements have shifted things around throughout the whole of the country.

The data shows that our largest cities and established urban areas have declined (particularly Sydney and Melbourne with a population fall of 0.1% and 1.3% year-on-year respectively) while places, where people look for lifestyle change within 2 hours drive of the capitals, have tended to boom.

This is unsurprising given we already know that seachange and tree change markets have seen immense price growth over 2021, as the prevalence of remote work amid the pandemic, the relative affordability of regions and the potential for retirement decisions being brought amid labour market disruptions contributed to elevated levels of migration to regional Australia through 2021.

Plenty of areas have grown or shrunk in population but surprisingly, the majority have maintained their position on the list.

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In fact, 42 out of the 50 places are unchanged from 2020.

The data shows that 12 of the top 50 urban centres recorded a population drop in 2021.

The total for the top 50 was an increase of 9,702 people – just 0.05%, although this was mainly due to Melbourne’s large 65,000 population fall.

Areas that have climbed the list represent ‘flee change’ locations around 100km or so from our capital.

For example, Warragul-Drouin in Victoria rose two places to position 36, Nelson Bay NSW is up to position 48  and (just off the list) Victor Harbor – Goolwa in SA rises 2 places to number 51.

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