9 key insights about Victoria from the 2021 Census survey

Wide angle view of Melbourne city from the sky.

Tianna Nadalin

Posted June 29, 2022

The 2021 Census survey reveals how life has changed in Victoria in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and shifting social norms.

If the 2021 Census survey has showed us anything, it’s that life in Victoria is changing.

The latest data, released 28 June, is a snapshot of mid-pandemic Australia, providing unique insights into how the nation responded to one of the most challenging times in our country’s history.

Census night was held on 10 August 2021 during some of the most stringent of COVID-19 restrictions, with lockdowns and border closures impacting where many Australians completed the survey.  

At the time of the survey, two million more people were at home compared to 2016, with 96 per cent of those completing the survey at their own address. The Census also dispels the widely-held belief that Victorians fled the state during what was one of the longest lockdowns in the world.  

Though NSW continues to be the most populous state, with a population of more than eight million people, Victoria isn’t far behind with 6.5 million people still calling the southern slice home. This was up from 5.9 million in 2016. We’re also still more likely to live in capital cities (66.9 per cent) than regional areas. (33.1 per cent).

The impacts of international border restrictions have also been revealed, with the 2021 Census counting just 61,860 overseas visitors in the country at the time of the survey, significantly fewer than the 315,531 in 2016.

As well as capturing the impacts of COVID-19 on the population’s living and movement habits, the latest Census data highlights shifting social, generational and family dynamics across our state.

Infographic showing the proportion of renters versus homeowners in Victoria

Fewer of us own our home outright than we did in 1996. 

Nine key insights from the 2021 Census

Our (four bedroom) home is our castle

The Great Australian Dream is still alive and kicking. The 2021 Census results showed the pandemic has not impacted our home ownership obsession, with the number of private dwellings in Victoria increasing from 2.2 million in 2016 to 2.5 million in 2021. Separate houses are the most common property type (accounting for 73.4 per cent of homes), with single-storey, three-bedroom abodes the most common configuration.  

Apartment living is also on the rise. For the first time, this year’s survey separately identified high rises (nine storeys or more), with the results finding more than 2.5 million people – just over 10 per cent of us – now call apartments home. This trend accounted for nearly a third (30.9 per cent) of the increase in private dwellings nationally since 2016.

Many alternative dwellings were also counted on Census night, including caravans (58,155), cabins and houseboats (29,369), and granny flats (18,236).

Fewer people own their homes outright 

While the rate of home ownership hasn’t really changed since the 1996 Census – around two thirds of Aussies own a property – the number of households that reported owning their home outright has dropped from 41.6 per cent to 31 per cent. Around a third of households rent their property.

We’re earning more money

In Victoria, the median weekly income was $803 for individuals and $2,136 for families in 2021. These increased from 2016 when the incomes were $644 for individuals and $1,715 for families. 


Infographic showing the generation breakdown of the population by age group in Victoria

Millennials have caught up to Baby Boomers as the biggest generational cohort.

We’re getting older 

Victoria has an aging population. The median age increased from 37 in 2016 to 38 in 2021 (which is on par with the median age nationally). This is more than a decade older than the median age of 27 years in 1971. 

It’s the dawn of a new millennial

Millennials are about to overtake the Baby Boomers as the largest generational cohort. The latest data reveals that the number of Millennials (25-39 years old) has caught up to Baby Boomers (55-74 years old), with each group counting more than 5.4 million people – or 21.5 per cent of the population. Baby Boomers are still in front with a narrow margin of just 5,662. 

Older generations most likely to lend a hand

The latest Census data has revealed the extent to which Baby Boomers are providing care for other people’s children – often their grandchildren. Around one in eight (12.8 per cent) Baby Boomers reported caring for other peoples’ children, with females making up two thirds (67.5 per cent). They are also the generation most likely to volunteer and provide unpaid assistance to others. 


Infographic showing the key countries of birth for Australians

Nearly one third of us is born overseas.

Nearly a third of us is born overseas 

Though most people in Victoria were born in Australia, the number of people born overseas has been steadily rising. In 2021, nearly one third of us (30 per cent) was born overseas. This is slightly higher than the national average of 27.6 per cent. Outside of Australia, India, England, China and New Zealand were the top five countries of birth. 

The Census also found that almost half of Australians (48.2 per cent) have a parent born overseas.

Household sizes are shrinking

Households are getting smaller in Victoria. In 1971, the average household size was 3.3 people. That number fell to 2.5 in 2021.  

Families with children still make up the majority of households (45.5 per cent), while single-parent families made up 15.2 per cent. 

This trend has been reflected nationally, with the Census recording more than a million one-parent families (1,068,268) for the first time. Of these, four out of five of parents were female.  

The number of single-parent families has been slowly nudging its way up over the years, increasing from under 15 per cent (14.5 per cent) in 1996 to nearly 16 per cent (15.9 per cent) in 2021. 

We’re a nation of drivers 

Cars are still the transport mode of choice for Aussies, with 91.3 per cent of households reporting having at least one vehicle and more than half (55.1 per cent) reporting having two or more.