Census 2016: the 20 most densely populated areas of Melbourne

17,506 people per square kilometre.  Melbourne's CBD is now the most densely populated place in Australia, as the data released by ABS last Friday shows.  From 2006 to June 2016, Melbourne's CBD saw 26,224 new residents move in bringing the total population to 41,473.

And to think this was only up to June 2016 - there's a long way to go yet with all the mega towers still under construction or yet to begin construction.

Carlton gets the silver medal and the eastern section of South Yarra (contained within City of Stonnington) gets bronze.

With the exception of Elwood and Seddon-Kingsville, all of the top 20 most densely populated areas of Melbourne have significant development pipelines.  From the enormous towers like Australia 108 on Southbank to the low and mid-rise hotspots like North Melbourne, all areas would be expected to see significant population and density growth by the time the 2021 census rolls around.

Another interesting tidbit that leapt out at me was that in the top 20 list, with the exception of Southbank, north-of-the-river locales have, on balance, seen higher population growth rates.  

Likewise, corridors of density are quite prominent.  From Fitzroy and Collingwood density steps down to Fitzroy North and Brunswick East - it's not hard to see why the E-class trams were rolled out in this region.

From Melbourne CBD, density steps down to North Melbourne and then it further steps down to Flemington and Kensington.  Pity the Craigieburn line commuters because this region is definitely in the firing line.

Although it is outside the top 20, Moonee Ponds (2016 pop: 15,084; 4.4 square km; 3,463.5 people/sq. km; 15% growth 2006-2016) is seeing significant development under construction with a very sizeable pipeline still to come.

The same goes for Footscray.  Again, an outside top 20 (2016 pop: 17,536; 5 square km; 3,530 people/sq. km; 48% growth 2006-2016) has seen large population growth over the previous ten years but given its status of having the same fundamentals as South Yarra - proximity to the city, exceptional public transport links (both existing and future prospects!) as well as a large development pipeline with a lot of large scale projects - it would not be surprising to see Footscray well within the top 20 in 2021.

Even though there are three postcodes and the ABS make them distinct, the Brunswicks - just beyond the parks of the City of Melbourne - are moving on up to the point where in real estate circles people are advised to look at Brunswick if they can't afford Fitzroy/Collingwood - one wonders how long it will be until Coburg becomes to the suburb du jour.

Brunswick West is only just outside the top 20 and it's likely to grow slower than Brunswick and Brunswick East yet it's still growing (15%) and is not far off double the density (4,601 people/sq. km) of your established middle ring suburb like Glen Waverley (2,637 people / sq. km).

Other suburban breakaways to keep an eye on will be Box Hill (2991 people / sq. km) and Dandenong.  

The ABS has the area of Dandenong as 61.8 square kilometres, which takes in much of its industrial area to the south thus making its population density data look decidedly rural (530 people / sq. km) however the raw population numbers point to respectable, top 20-like, growth.  

In 2006 the Dandenong SA2 had a population of 23,246 people.  In 2016 it was 32,801 representing a growth rate of 41%.  Here's hoping we might get a 'Dandenong-Industrial'* classification to get a clearer picture of what's going on in the heart of south-east. 

The Top 20 most densely populated areas of Melbourne

SA2 Name Population June 2016 Area (sq. km) Density Population growth rate 06-16
Melbourne 41,473 2.4 17,506.5 172%
Carlton 20,575 1.8 11,314.3 61%
South Yarra - East 22,677 2.5 9,008.8 57%
Fitzroy 11,464 1.4 8,319.3 24%
Prahran-Windsor 21,391 2.9 7,362.5 21%
St Kilda East 17,625 2.4 7,302.7 11%
Collingwood 9,144 1.3 7,216.5 58%
St Kilda 28,141 3.9 7,213.8 28%
North Melbourne 22,086 3.2 6,797.4 61%
Flemington 10,662 1.6 6,744.7 26%
Southbank 20,470 3.1 6,658.4 107%
Elwood 16,509 2.6 6,166.5 14%
Port Melbourne 17,370 2.8 6,227.1 24%
Seddon-Kingsville 9,709 1.7 5,778.1 17%
Brunswick East 11,766 2.2 5,427.1 50%
Kensington 11,526 2.1 5,368.4 28%
Richmond 32,848 6.2 5,287.4 27%
Brunswick 27,123 5.1 5,274.3 25%
Fitzroy North 13,211 2.5 5,273.6 14%
Abbotsford 8,842 1.7 5,080.1 95%

*Port Melbourne has two distinct entries, one with 'Industrial' affixed to it - the ABS would also be wise to start referring this area as Fishermans Bend.

Get the data (excel).  For an explainer on what an SA2 is, see the ABS' website.   

Lead image credit: flickr.


3000's picture

How exactly is density calculated in these instances?
Eg. Brunswick has more than double the pop. of Brunswick East but a smaller density.
The same amount of people spread out over an area would tend to change the density number given the size of the area, yes?

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Peter Maltezos's picture

Hard to believe that Southbank does't rate higher, if one had to guess by appearance, Southbank would be # 1 or # 2 in the chart above.

As they say, looks can be deceiving.

I collect, therefore I am.

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John Peterson's picture

Is Population calculated by number of residents or does it include office employees, restaurants, retail etc. This could explain Southbanks low density.

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Nicholas Harrison's picture

Southbank SA2 includes Kings Domain and the Botanic Gardens. The suburb of Southbank has a population density of 11,693 people per square kilometre.

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