Ancestry and immigration

Between 1788 and the Second World War, the vast majority of settlers and immigrants came from the British Isles (principally England, Ireland and Scotland). Their descendants form a broad ethnic category known as Anglo-Celtic Australians. In the decades immediately following the Second World War, Australia received a large wave of immigration from across Europe, with many more immigrants arriving from Southern and Eastern Europe than in previous decades. Since the end of the White Australia policy in 1973, Australia has pursued an official policy of multiculturalism, and there has been a large and continuing wave of immigration from across the world, with the primary sources of immigrants today being Asian countries.

Today, Australia has the world’s eighth-largest immigrant population, with immigrants accounting for 29% of the population, a higher proportion than in any other nation with a population of over 10 million.162,417 permanent immigrants were admitted to Australia in 2017-18. Most immigrants are skilled, but the immigration quota includes categories for family members and refugees. In 2018 the five largest foreign-born populations were those born in England (4%), Mainland China (2.6%), India (2.4%), New Zealand (2.3%) and the Philippines (1.1%).

In the 2016 Australian census, the most commonly nominated ancestries were:

English (36.1%)
Australian (33.5%)
Irish (11.0%)
Scottish (9.3%)
Chinese (5.6%)
Italian (4.6%)
German (4.5%)
Indian (2.8%)
Indigenous (2.8%)
Greek (1.8%)
Dutch (1.6%)
Filipino (1.4%)
Vietnamese (1.4%)
Lebanese (1%)
At the 2016 census, 649,171 people (2.8% of the total population) identified as being Indigenous — Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders. Indigenous Australians experience higher than average rates of imprisonment and unemployment, lower levels of education, and life expectancies for males and females that are, respectively, 11 and 17 years lower than those of non-indigenous Australians. Some remote Indigenous communities have been described as having “failed state”-like conditions.