Australian cities are experiencing rapid and profound change and the present paper seeks to summarise some of the main social dimensions of that change by focusing on some of the major changes occurring in the population of metropolitan Australia.
It begins by outlining some of the major recent growth trends in Australia’s major cities vis a vis regional areas and explodes the myth that the cities are growing more slowly. In fact, in all states and territories, the metropolitan populations are growing faster or equal to their hinterland’s populations. It points out that temporary international migration is now a factor in shaping the growth and characteristics of metropolitan populations especially in Sydney. It examines the scale and composition of migration (both internal and international) into and out of Australia’s major cities.
The changing distribution of different ethnic and birthplace groups in cities and their new configurations and implications are then discussed. One of the major shifts in Australian urban populations is toward smaller households and more diverse living situations. The reasons for this and some of their implications are examined.
One of the major structural changes, which will occur in Australia’s urban populations over the next few decades, is ageing. The paper examines the likely extent of growth of the older population and traces some of its implications for planning and provision of services.
The implications of shifts in the population for future demand for housing are analysed. Changing patterns of ethnic diversity and issues relating to the indigenous population are considered.
Finally, the issue of increasing inequality in Australian cities, the hollowing out of the middle classes and increasing spatial differentiation between haves and have nots and its links with existing policy are examined. This leads into a discussion of poverty and its spatial dimension in Australian cities. The changing distribution of population within cities and revival of growth in inner and middle suburbs is discussed. The paper concludes by putting forward the writer’s ideas of the major emerging social issues in contemporary Australian cities.