Sydney is the largest city in Australia and, as host to the Olympic Games in 2000, is probably the country's most well known city. Although not the capital of Australia, it is the capital of New South Wales. In 2016, the population was estimated to be 4.92 million.
The results of the 2011 census, released in June 2012, showed that that the official population of Sydney was 4,391,674. In the five years since the last census, in 2006, it has grown by 6.6 percent. Estimates in 2016 place the population at 4.92 million, and this number is expected to exceed 5 million by the end of 2016.
Australia's population in 2016 is just under 22 million so, to put this into some perspective, it might help to think that roughly one in every five Australians lives in Sydney.
Growth in Sydney
Sydney is growing quickly - so quickly in fact that it might have as many as 7 million residents by 2060 - not much smaller than the population of London today. Rival Melbourne, however, is growing at a faster rate and is tipped by many to become Australia's largest city within the next 25 years. Read more in our article about the population of Melbourne.
Sydney is widely recognized as being one of the most diverse and multicultural cities in the world - almost 45% of the people who live in Sydney today were born outside of Australia. The largest country of origin for Sydney residents in the United Kingdom (4.3% of Sydney residents, or about 175,000 people, are from the UK originally), closely followed by China (3.5% of residents).
Population Ancestry in Sydney
Looking at the ancestry of Sydney's residents gives plenty of clues about how the city's diverse identity has developed and changed over time. Although 25.7% of Sydney's inhabitants claim Australian ancestry (which is different from their country of birth), over 40% claim ancestry that is either English, Scottish or Irish, a legacy of Australia's colonial past. However, reflecting more recent waves of immigration into Australia, 8.2% of people in Sydney have Chinese ancenstry, 4.2% Italian ancestry, 2.5% have German ancenstry, and 2.6% have Greek ancestry.
Religious Demographics of Sydney
In terms of religion, Sydney is largely a Christian dominated city. According to 2011 figures, Roman Catholics comprise the single largest religious groups in Sydney (28.3%), follwed by Anglicans (16.1%), Eastern Orthodox (4.8%) and Islam (4.4%). A further 17.6% reported that they had no religion.
History of Sydney Population Growth
The area that is today's Sydney was home to many aboriginal people - perhaps as many as 8,000 - at the time of Sydney's founding as a penal colony in 1788, although with no kind of reliable data available it is difficult to be certain. It is believed, though, that within a year or two of the founding of Sydney an outbreak of smallpox decimated the local population, leaving under a thousand aboriginal residents and paving the way for the city to expand without any serious restriction.
By 1800, the new colony had become firmly established and had grown to around 3,000 people -- not just convicts and jailers but also emancipated convicts who had served their time and had been freed to live in Australia. The town soon began to develop like any other and banks, churches and other public institutions were soon being established. The population of the town of Sydney grew steadily, and by 1851, it had reached an estimated 39,000.
The advent of the Sydney Gold Rush in the 1850s saw the population rocket upwards, and by 1871 the population of Sydney was around 200,000. The increasingly confident city soon began lobbying against its great rival Melbourne to become Australia's capital city, although ultimately their dispute was settled by the decision to develop a neutrally located capital in Canberra instead.
By the early 1920s, Sydney had grown to over 1 million residents, and it has continued to grow steadily through the 20th century and into the 21st centuries as it attracted wave after wave of immigrants - firstly from England, then from other European countries and more recently from countries around the globe - to create the modern, multicultural population of Sydney that we see today.