Each Local Government Area (LGA) in Victoria has a unique population story. Each story is a result of the area’s history and its potential for the future. Location can be a key element of the story. Places close to Melbourne often grow more than those further away. Within Melbourne growth can be very strong in the re-developing inner city and on the expanding fringes.
The new Population Map makes it easy to explore these spatial patterns.
- Map current and historic population totals
- See change over time
- Drill down to create charts and tables of up to 30 years of ABS population data.
The Population Map will be useful for planners, service providers, students and more.
Do you know which Victorian LGA has the largest population? As at 2020 the largest population is in the City of Casey. Casey is a growth area on Melbourne’s south-eastern fringe (see Figure 1 below). It contains fast-growing areas such as Cranbourne East and Clyde North.
The population of Casey at 30 June 2020 was 364,800 people. That’s almost as many as the combined populations of Hobart (238,800) and Darwin (147,200). It's more than the combined populations of Victoria’s 28 smallest LGAs. These 28 LGAs range from Queenscliffe with 3,000 people to Golden Plains with 24,200.
Figure 1: Total population by LGA, 2020
The Population Totals map shows Casey has the largest population. The shaded map shows other very large populations in outer Melbourne and in Geelong. Users can drill down with the information tool in the map. This shows that Wyndham has the next largest population (283,300), followed by Greater Geelong (264,900).
But was it always so? Casey is quite a new growth area in Melbourne’s long history. How far back do we have to go to a time when another LGA had the largest population in Melbourne, or in the state?
The Population Map has data for LGAs back as far as 1991. When we look at the map for 1991 (see Figure 2 below) we see a different picture for Melbourne. The population distribution appears more even. Melbourne’s growth was slower at this point. Today’s major growth areas had not yet overtaken the LGAs which saw the previous waves of expansion and growth. The population of Casey was only 117,000 and there were 12 LGAs with higher populations. These included some of the key growth areas of the 1970s and 1980s: Knox, Yarra Ranges, Brimbank, Greater Dandenong and Monash. Monash had the largest population of any Melbourne LGA in 1991. There were 166,400 people in suburbs such as Glen Waverley and Wheelers Hill. Monash was not the largest LGA in Victoria at this point. That honour went to a regional LGA, Greater Geelong, with a population of 181,300.
Figure 2: Total population by LGA, 1991
We can add more to the history of these LGAs with the largest population when we look at maps of population change. We have seen that Monash had the largest population in 1991. It was at a different stage in its development than growth areas like Casey. In fact, in the year 1991-92, Monash lost 1,400 people. This was the largest population decrease of any Victorian LGA. The map of Melbourne’s population change in this year shows the wider context (Figure 3 below). At this point most of middle Melbourne was in population decline. Initial waves of development had passed and household sizes were decreasing. Younger household members moved out of home and sought their own place. Often these moves were to growth areas on the city’s fringes.
Casey was already the strongest growing LGA by this time. It added 6,800 people while the 10 LGAs shaded grey on the map lost a total of 5,000 between them. The city is also showing the skew of growth to the north and west. This would continue in coming decades. The next largest growth totals were in Wyndham, Hume, Brimbank and Whittlesea. They were now growing faster than the eastern expansion areas such as Knox and Maroondah. Greater Geelong was both the largest and fastest-growing regional LGA at this point. The second-fastest was to its north in Moorabool with the expanding town of Bacchus Marsh.
Figure 3: Population change by LGA, 1991-1992
Population change from 1991 to 2020 shows the city’s current growth pattern (see Figure 4 below). The strongest growth in Melbourne is mostly in the six current growth area LGAs. These are Cardinia, Casey, Hume, Melton, Whittlesea and Wyndham. The largest growth of all was in Casey, adding 247,600 people over 29 years. Wyndham added 219,900 people.
Not all strong growth was on the city’s fringes in the 1990s. Redevelopment spread across the entire city and every LGA added population. The epitome of this turnaround is the City of Melbourne itself. Melbourne ranked third for population change across this period. It added 144,000 people as its population increased from 39,800 in 1991 to 183,800 in 2020.
Figure 4: Population change by LGA, 1991-2020
Greater Geelong was the largest growing regional LGA across the 29 years. From 1991 to 2020 it grew by 83,600 people. The shaded population change map below (Figure 5) highlights the other two strongest regional LGAs. Greater Bendigo added 38,700 people to have a population of 120,000 in 2020. Ballarat added 32,200 to reach a total of 111,400 people.
The map also shows the 14 LGAs which lost population over this period. The greatest loss was 3,000 people in Yarriambiack in the state’s west. The smallest loss was in Queenscliffe on the Bellarine Peninsula (300 people). Many of these LGAs have been experiencing depopulation for decades. A key driver is structural shifts in the rural economy. Fewer people work on the land even while outputs have increased. The Shire of Central Goldfields, north of Ballarat, was the only LGA to have the same Estimated Resident Population in 2020 as it did in 1991. In both years the LGA was home to 13,092 people.
Figure 5: Population change by LGA, 1991-2020
So when exactly did Casey overtake Monash as the largest LGA in the city? We can use the Population Charts option to find out. The annual population chart for the two LGAs is in Figure 6 below. It shows that in 1991 there was a difference of almost 50,000 people. By the end of the decade the gap had closed. By 1998 the population of Monash had begun to grow again. It recorded a small increase and was still the largest LGA, by 1,000 people. Casey continued to grow very strongly, adding 6,400 people over the following year. By 30 June 1999 Casey was the largest LGA, with 900 more people than Monash.
Figure 6: Annual population 1991 to 2020, Casey and Monash LGAs
There is one final question to answer. Was the population of central Goldfields LGA actually static over the 29 years to 2020? Of course, the answer is “no” (see Figure 7). All populations are dynamic, changing due to births, deaths and migration in an out. The population of Central Goldfields decreased for most of the first 15 years. It reached a low point of 12,400 in 2006. After that point there were more years of growth than decline. The population peaked at 13,200 in 2018 before dropping again to its 2020 level.
Figure 7: Annual population 1991 to 2020, Central Goldfields LGA
What's next for the Population Map?
The new Population Map is on the Population Statistics page on the DELWP website. Here you will also find links to 2016 Census data products. In the future the Population Map will display historic Census data back to 1981 at LGA level. It will also provide a new spatial access to one of our most popular products, Towns in Time. Data from the 2021 census will be available mid-year. This will give these new products a 40-year view of population change in Victoria.
What data informed these insights
Each year the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) publishes population estimates in Regional Population. Data in this article cover the period 30 June 1991 to 30 June 2020 (latest publication March 2021).
This article concentrates on the 79 Local Government Areas (LGA) in Victoria. Everything shown here is also available for the areas in the Australian Statistical Geography Standard. There are 17 Statistical Area Level 4 (SA4) regions, 66 SA3s and 462 SA2s.
If you have any comments about the article above or would like more information, email Policy and Performance.
Page last updated: 29/04/22