23,343,000 (2013); density is one of the lowest in the world; 89 per cent of people live in urban areas and 58 per cent in urban agglomerations of more than one million people; growth 1.4 per cent p.a. 1990–2013; birth rate 13 per 1,000 people (20 in 1970); life expectancy 82 years (71 in 1970); life expectancy in the Aboriginal population about 62 years.
People of Asian origin comprise 8.7 per cent of the population, and Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island peoples 2.5 per cent. Some 70 per cent of people were born in Australia (2006 census).
English, the official language, is spoken at home by 78.5 per cent of the population. The largest other home languages are Italian, Greek, Cantonese, Arabic and Mandarin (2006 census).
Mainly Christians (Roman Catholics 26 per cent, Anglicans 19 per cent), small minorities of Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and Jews (2006 census).
Public spending on health was six per cent of GDP in 2012. Health facilities are a responsibility of the states, although the federal government administers the Medicare insurance scheme, introduced in 1984. There are 18 medical schools in Australia (2014). Infant mortality was three per 1,000 live births in 2013 (20 in 1960).
Public spending on education was 5.1 per cent of GDP in 2011. Responsibility for education lies with the states and education systems vary. There are 11 years of compulsory education starting at the age of five. The school year starts in January.
There are 39 universities with more than one million students enrolled, 37 of which are public institutions (2013). The female–male ratio for gross enrolment in tertiary education is 1.40:1 (2010). There is virtually no illiteracy among people aged 15–24.
In 1971 Australia hosted the Fifth Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers in Canberra. Commonwealth Education Ministers meet every three years to discuss issues of mutual concern and interest.
Newspapers have a high circulation rate throughout the country. National dailies are The Australian and Australian Financial Review. Regional newspapers include The Advertiser (Adelaide), The Age (Melbourne), The Courier-Mail (Brisbane), The Daily Telegraph (Sydney), Herald-Sun (Melbourne), The Sydney Morning Herald and The West Australian (Perth).
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) operates national and regional public radio and TV stations. The Special Broadcasting Service is the other principal public broadcaster, running radio and TV networks that broadcast in many languages. Pay TV networks are widely used, and digital TV is available via satellite and cable.
Some 99 per cent of households have TV sets (2007). There are 820 personal computers per 1,000 people (2012).
Country code 61; internet domain ‘.au’. Payphones are red, green, gold or blue. Only local calls can be made from red phones; green, gold and blue phones also have international direct dialling. Mobile phone coverage is good in the more populous areas.
For every 1,000 people there are 443 landlines, 1,068 mobile phone subscriptions and 830 internet users (2013).
New Year’s Day, Australia Day (26 January), ANZAC Day (25 April), Queen’s Official Birthday (Monday in June, not all states), Labour Day (early October in most states, otherwise in March), Christmas Day and Boxing Day. States have additional public holidays. Religious and other festivals whose dates vary from year to year include Good Friday and Easter Monday.