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Australia's cultural mix broadens

Australia is only slowly shedding its predominantly British cultural heritage  

By Grant Holloway
CNN Sydney

CANBERRA, Australia (CNN) -- Australia's cultural mix continues to diversify with more than 20 percent of the population born overseas, according to statistics from the nation's August 2001 census.

But the bulk of Australians are still of European ancestry and English is the lingua franca of the vast majority of people.

Of the total Australian population of just under 19 million on census night, more than 2 million were born in Europe and just under 1 million were from Asia.

New Zealanders accounted for just under 2 percent of the population while Middle Eastern and North African-born people made up just over 1 percent.

On the language front, one in five Australian households speak a language other than English while at home, with Italian the most likely alternative.

Australian Bureau of Statistics: 2001 Census data Asia
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This is followed closely by Greek, Cantonese, Arabic and Vietnamese.

The single largest religious grouping are Catholics, with nearly 5 million Australian followers.

Christians as a whole, make up 68 percent of the population, compared with just under 2 percent for Buddhism and 1.5 percent for Islam.

More than a quarter of respondents said they had no religious affiliation or chose not to answer that question.

The proportion of Australian who identified themselves as being of indigenous origin (Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders) also grew sharply, up 16.2 percent, to 410,000.

Ageing nation

This represents 2.2 percent of the total population, compared with 2 percent at the time of the last census in 1996.

Nearly half of all Australian households have a personal computer and one-third of the population used the Internet in the week leading up to the census.

Overall, while the total population increased by 6 percent in the five years since the last census, demographically Australia is an ageing nation.

Almost 2.5 million people, or 12.6 per cent of the total, was aged 65 and over, and the median age was 35 compared to 34 five years earlier.

The proportion of people aged 0 to 14 years fell to 20.7 percent of the total, from 21.5 percent in 1996.




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