Cultural mix among older Australians increasing

The population of older people in Australia is becoming increasingly diverse in terms of cultural and linguistic background, says a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Diversity among older Australians in capital cities 1996-2011 shows that the proportion of older people who are from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds aged 65 and over is projected to increase from 18% in 1996 to 23% by 2011.

This equates to a 66% increase over a 15-year period, compared to a 23% increase for older people born in Australia.

The report focuses on capital cities as the vast majority (80%) of people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds in Australia live in one of these cities.

Head of the AIHW's Welfare Division, Dr Diane Gibson, says that indications are that the increase in number of older people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds will occur across all capital cities between 1996 and 2011, although growth rates will vary from one capital city to another.

'The most substantial increases numerically are projected to occur in Melbourne (up 81,900), Sydney (up 80,700) and Perth (up 15,200),' said Dr Gibson.

'In percentage terms, however, the fastest growing populations are projected to be in Darwin (increasing by 129% over the 15-year period) and Canberra (up 82%), with populations in Sydney and Melbourne also growing significantly (both up by 73%).'

Dr Gibson says that while many birthplace groups are common across all the capital cities, the mix does vary.

'In all capital cities except Hobart and Darwin, people born in Italy made up the largest proportion of this older population in 1996, and according to projections, will continue to do so in 2011.

'Greece, Germany and the Netherlands also have substantial numbers of older immigrants in many cities.

'Looking more specifically at some of the differences, only in Sydney is China among the top three birthplaces, whereas Melbourne has a relatively large older Maltese community. India is among the top three birthplaces only in Perth, and Indonesia only in Darwin.

'Interestingly,' said Dr Gibson, 'the Greek-born and Croatian-born older communities are among the top three fastest growing communities in a majority of the capital cities.

'Conversely, numbers of Polish-born older people are decreasing in all capital cities, due to a lack of continued migration following an initial wave after World War II.'

16 September 2004


Further information: Dr Diane Gibson, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1190 or mobile 0407 915 851.
For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1032.