Census 2021 Population & Prosperity
WATCH: Numbers that matter information session recording

Below is a snapshot of the Population & Prosperity section from the Census 2021: Numbers that matter report – you can read more about the report and its authors below this story, as well as explore the other core themes covered by the report.

Every five years there’s great excitement about what the latest Australian Census will say about our nation. It is a snapshot in time that provides important data points; but insights can only be drawn when that data is mixed with the experiences of people closely in touch with our communities.  Marion Bennett from Mission Australia provides that invaluable community voice in the story below.

Read more about the lived experiences and voices of community in the full Census 2021: Numbers that matter report.  Delivered by Perpetual Philanthropy and Not-for-profit in conjunction with Seer Data & Analytics.

Population & Prosperity

Mortgage repayments monthly

From 2016 to 2021 Australia saw increases in the number of all mortgages which had monthly repayments above $1,200 per month. The number of Australian mortgages with monthly repayments between $3,000 and $3,999 increased 19.81% from 247,452 in 2016 to 296,475 in 2021.

Mortgage repayments monthly

The category with the largest increase was mortgages with monthly repayments greater than $5,000 – which increased 60.92% from 81,947 in 2016 to 131,873 in 2021.

In the 12 months since the 2021 Census, all five household types reflected in the ABS Living Cost Indexes have risen by between 4.6% and 5.2%. Age pensioner households had the highest annual increase with the rising cost of Transport the main contributor from Jun Qtr 2021 to Jun Qtr 2022.

ABS Living Cost Indexes.

Accommodation status

Tenure type for all Australian dwellings (excluding ‘other’ tenure type and ‘tenure type not stated’) has changed over the past 15 years as follows, with an overall increase in rental accommodation and a decrease in housing which is owned outright:

Tenure type

Increase in capital city population

The number of people living in Australian capital cities increased by a total of 2.9 million (20.7%) over the 10 years between 2011 and 2021 – reflecting a growth rate of approximately 1.9% per annum, which has remained steady for the past 15 years.  The capital city growth for the 5 year intercensal period from 2016 to 2021 is graphically represented below:

City living increase

Community voice: A safe place to call home

by Marion Bennett, Mission Australia

On Census night 2016, over 116,000 people were experiencing homelessness and the Australian Bureau of Statistics has indicated this is likely to be an underestimate. With the 2021 Census homelessness numbers yet to be released it will be telling to see the updated figures.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us were fortunate enough to have somewhere safe and secure to shelter. But our research at Mission Australia shows that during this time, one in 20 young people experienced homelessness for the first time in their lives.

The longer-term effects of COVID-19 on youth homelessness will take time to play out.  Mission Australia’s report Without a home: First-time youth homelessness in the COVID-19 period, offers some valuable insights into the risk factors. Of those experiencing first-time homelessness:

  • More than one-quarter (28.0%) were personally concerned about family violence, compared to 11% of those who were not first-time homeless.
  • Almost half (49.3%) were personally concerned about family conflict, compared to just 17% of those who were not first-time homeless.
  • More than half (55.5%) experienced high psychological distress – double those who were not first time homeless.

Early intervention and prevention responses need to be prioritised to address these issues. Responses need to be comprehensive and integrated because research tells us that if we don’t address the risk factors that drive first-time homelessness, they become entrenched – with terrible consequences for the individual and our society.

We know that early support and stable housing can radically change the life trajectory of young people. Doing so will ensure that young people are adequately supported to avoid homelessness and reach their full potential.

I have seen lives turned around and transformed by our services. Our specialists can identify the risks of homelessness, offer support and work with young people and their families (when it’s safe to do so) in a holistic way.

Another area of concern that has come to light during the COVID-19 pandemic is the increase in mental health issues. This increase – alongside the distressing number of one in 10 Australians reporting they suffer long-term mental health conditions – highlights the need to increase access to mental health services, and improve mental health screening and support offered through schools and workplaces.

We must listen to the voices of young people so that the negative impacts of the pandemic don’t cause ongoing problems for a generation that has already gone through so much.


With thanks to our community voice for this story:

Marion Bennett is Executive – Practice, Evidence & Impact at Mission Australia.  Mission Australia is a national Christian charity which delivers homelessness crisis and prevention services, provides social and affordable housing, assists struggling families, addresses mental health issues, fights substance dependencies and supports people with disability.

Census 2021: Numbers that matter – Learn more

About the report and its authors

Census 2021: Numbers that matter, a strategic compendium for Australia’s for-purpose leaders, boards and philanthropists, which asks and answers the big questions about how to make our society better for all.  The above story is a snapshot of the introduction only, with an additional seven core themes curated in the report, where experts from Perpetual and other social sector organisations reflect on some of the big issues facing our communities, by exploring a series of data insights drawn largely (but not completely) from the 2021 Census.

About Perpetual

Perpetual’s Philanthropy and Not-for-Profit team is one of Australia’s largest advisory teams working with philanthropic individuals, families and for-purpose organisations, helping them have an impact with their giving, investments and communities. For not-for-profits they provide governance, investment management and spending policy advice. They work with philanthropists to develop their giving strategies, set up the most appropriate giving approach for their circumstances and help them assess, choose and support the organisations and causes that matter to them. They work to bring these two groups together and to support them with thought leadership and analysis that helps them achieve more for their communities.

Report Authors

Caitriona Fay, Managing Partner, Community and Social Investment, Perpetual Private
Jane Magor, National Manager, Philanthropy & Non Profit Services, Perpetual Private

Get in touch with the Perpetual and Seer Data & Analytics team with any feedback or questions:

The next steps

EXPLORE the Census 2021 data assets, including insights, an interactive dashboard, and new insight builder tool coming soon.

READ the full report including on the ground insights behind the numbers contributed by community sector leaders.

WATCH Census 2021: Numbers that matter information session recording, where report authors expand on the topics in the report.