Melbourne surpasses Sydney as Australia’s most populous city

Posted on 18 April 2023 By Tsoku Maela

For the first time since the 19th Century gold rush, Melbourne has overtaken Sydney as Australia’s most populous city.

Melbourne’s skyline at dusk. Picture: Getty Images

The city limits have been expanded to include the area of Melton due to the rapidly growing population on Melbourne’s fringe. The latest government figures put Melbourne’s population at 4 875 400 to 18 700 more than Sydney. The Australian Bureau of Statistics defines a city’s “significant urban area” as including connecting suburbs with more than 10 000 people.

‘With the amalgamation of Melton into Melbourne in the latest classification, Melbourne has more people than Sydney – and has had since 2018,’ the ABS’s Andrew Howe told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

The federal government predicts Greater Melbourne will overtake Greater Sydney in 2031-32. Melbourne’s rapid growth is largely thanks to international migration, and it is an attractive migration destination due to comparable employment and education opportunities to Sydney. Still, it has historically been more affordable than the harbour-side city.

Dr Liz Allen, a demographer at the Australian National University, notes that Melbourne has a reputation for celebrating diversity, unlike Sydney, which has a ‘historical hangover’ of a time when ‘it didn’t want to be seen as anything other than white’.

‘It’s a city that has really celebrated diversity, so people from all around the world feel like they have a place in Melbourne,’ Dr Allen told the BBC.

‘It is an accessible city, so you have great opportunities for employment, education and a cultural and social life.’

As the population of Melbourne continues to grow, it will be interesting to see how the city changes and adapts to its new title as Australia’s most populous city.

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