Census shows North Melbourne, Kensington populations plateau

David Schout

Population growth has stalled in both North Melbourne and Kensington, the 2021 national census has revealed.

Data released in June, after more than 25 million Australians sat down in August last year to fill out the detailed country-wide survey, gave another interesting snapshot of local suburbs.

It showed that the number of people living in both North Melbourne and Kensington has largely remained the same since the previous census in 2016.

The 2021 figures showed that North Melbourne’s population had increased by just 13 people (from 14,940 to 14,953), while Kensington’s had in fact decreased by 67 (from 10,812 to 10,745).

Parkville, too, saw its population decrease between 2016 to 2021, from 7409 to 7297.

However, it was West Melbourne who bucked the trend, with the suburb’s population booming by almost 50 per cent during the past five years, from 5515 in 2016 to 8025 in 2021.

The data, revealed by the Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS), revealed that the cluster of suburbs north-west of the CBD continued to be a haven for young people.

Almost two-thirds of the West Melbourne population (64.8 per cent) are aged between 20 and 39, making it one of the biggest millennial strongholds, as a percentage of the population, in Australia.

North Melbourne and Parkville, too, had more than half of locals (51.4 and 50.5 per cent respectively) aged in their 20s or 30s.

The average Australian suburb has far fewer people in this age bracket (28 per cent).

The census, completed nationally every five years, showed that North and West Melbourne continued to be strong multicultural areas, with more than half of residents living in the suburbs born overseas.

This contrasted with the nationwide average, where two-thirds of people living in Australia were born here.

In North Melbourne, the top three countries of birth outside of Australia are China (7.7 per cent), Vietnam (2.8 per cent) and Malaysia (2.6 per cent), while in West Melbourne the top three are also Asian nations; China (10.6 per cent), India (6.9 per cent) and Malaysia (3.2 per cent).

Kensington, by contrast, sits alongside the nationwide average (around two-thirds of people were born in Australia), with England (3.2 per cent) the next-highest.

One of the headline revelations of the latest census was the nationwide further shift away from religion.

Across Australia, 39 per cent of people ticked the “no religion” box, which represented an increase from 30 per cent in 2016 and 22 per cent a decade ago.

But this was even higher in all four of Kensington (56.2 per cent), Parkville (53.4 per cent) West Melbourne (53 per cent) and North Melbourne (52.6 per cent), with the majority expressing no religious affiliation.

Given the age demographic in local areas, it was perhaps unsurprising that far fewer locals are married compared with the national average, which sits at 47 per cent (for those aged 15 and over).

In Parkville that figure was just 20 per cent, in North Melbourne 25 per cent, West Melbourne 27 per cent and in Kensington 32 per cent.

From an academic perspective, more than four in 10 people currently attending an educational institution in all four of Parkville, North Melbourne, Kensington and West Melbourne were undertaking tertiary study (defined as either university or higher education, or vocational education including TAFE and private training providers).

This was considerably higher than the national average of 23 per cent.

The suburbs have fewer school-going children (primary and secondary) than typical Australian suburbs.

Around half of students around the nation are primary or secondary pupils, but that figure is as low as 10 per cent in Parkville, and 15 and 22 per cent respectively in West Melbourne and North Melbourne.

Housing-wise, share houses were more than three times more prominent in Parkville, North and West Melbourne compared with the national average (“group households” make up just 3.9 per cent of houses around Australia), while they were two times more prominent in Kensington.

Both median monthly mortgage repayments and median weekly rent were most expensive in Kensington ($2216 and $416 respectively) followed by West Melbourne ($2106 and $388), North Melbourne ($2035 and $381).

Of the four local suburbs, Parkville had the lowest median monthly mortgage repayments ($2000) but median weekly rent ($396) was second-most expensive.

Similarly, median weekly income (for people aged 15 and over) was highest in Kensington ($1246), followed by West Melbourne ($1058) and North Melbourne ($943).

Likely owing to the area’s large student population, median weekly income in Parkville was $588.

For the first time, the 2021 census allowed people to specify whether they had any long-term health conditions, with mental health (including depression or anxiety) the most prominent in all four suburbs.

More than six in 10 people in each suburb, however, noted no long-term health condition.

2021 census snapshots

  • Population
    North Melbourne 14,953, Kensington 10,745, West Melbourne 8,025, Parkville 7,297
  • Born overseas:
    West Melbourne 58.4 per cent, North Melbourne 51 per cent, Parkville 42.8 per cent, Kensington 34.7 per cent
  • Aged between 20 and 39
    West Melbourne 64.8 per cent, North Melbourne 51.4 per cent, Parkville 50.5 per cent, Kensington 41.4 per cent
  • Married
    Kensington 32 per cent, West Melbourne 27 per cent, North Melbourne 25 per cent, Parkville 20 per cent
  • Family households
    Kensington 56.4 per cent, North Melbourne 47.7 per cent, Parkville 47.8 per cent, West Melbourne 47.7 per cent
  • Median monthly mortgage repayments
    Kensington $2216, West Melbourne $2106, North Melbourne $2035, Parkville $2000
  • Median weekly rent
    Kensington $416, Parkville $396, West Melbourne $388, North Melbourne $381
  • Median weekly income (for people aged 15-plus)
    Kensington $1246, West Melbourne $1058. North Melbourne $943, Parkville $588

Caption: Local population numbers in both Kensington and North Melbourne has not grown in the last five years.

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