Regions and Cities for Expats in Australia

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: July 2013

Australia is the third least densely populated country in the world. Its vast interior is chiefly desert, semi-desert or scrub, and, in the far north, jungle. All the largest cities are on or near the coast. Australia is composed of six states and two self-governing territories, listed below from west to east:

State/Territory Area

Population Density
per km2)
Western Australia 2,529,875 2,565,600 1.0 Perth
Northern Territory 1,349,129 243,700 0.2 Darwin
South Australia 983,482 1,682,200 1.7 Adelaide
Queensland 1,730,648 4,708,500 2.7 Brisbane
New South Wales 800,642 7,500,600 9.4 Sydney
Australian Capital Territory 2,358 385,600 163.5 Canberra
Victoria 227,417 5,821,300 25.6 Melbourne
Tasmania 68,401 514,700 7.5 Hobart


Western Australia makes up nearly a third of the Australian land mass, however most people live in the south-west. Western Australia has highest rate of population growth for an Australian state. This is largely because its economy, largely based on the production of lucrative minerals such as gold, iron ore and natural gas, is the healthiest in Australia. Around 78% of the state’s population is concentrated in the Greater Perth area. Secondary industry, the processing of the raw materials extracted elsewhere in the state, is important to Perth’s economy. Perth is the second most remote large city on earth, and the city and its environs rely on imports for many products.

Northern Territory is mostly made up of desert and is very sparsely populated. The most important element of the economy is mineral extraction, particularly of petroleum. Tourism is also important; the two most important tourist sites are Kakadu National Park and the world-famous Uluru (formerly known as Ayers Rock.) Tourists – many of them Australian – typically fly to Alice Springs to visit the latter. Darwin, the capital and only large town in Northern Territory, is an increasingly important northern port as it connects Australia with South East Asia.

South Australia’s population is concentrated in the area around the capital, Adelaide. Car manufacture and wine production are important in this state. Compared to most other states, South Australia’s growth levels in terms of population and economy have been modest. While other states have progressed, South Australia has become something of a backwater. Nevertheless, Adelaide is a centre of culture in its own right, and has recently been voted the most liveable city in Australia.

Queensland is another fast-growing Australian state. In addition to mining for minerals such as gold, silver and bauxite, many crops are grown, with sugar cane being especially important. Most people live in on the east coast, especially in the south-east. This is the area around the state capital and the country's third city, Brisbane, which is currently diversifying its economy. New tertiary industries in science and technology have recently been introduced. There are also important cities further up the east coast, such as Rockhampton, Townsville and Cairns.

New South Wales is the oldest and most populous Australian state. Most of eastern New South Wales is populated, though the west is comparatively emptier. Sydney, on the east coast, is the most populous, most famous and economically most important city in Australia. In fact, it is one of the most economically important cities in the world. Banking, finance, and other forms of business are very important here, though tourism is also of some consequence. Other cities in New South Wales include Newcastle and Wollongong on the coast, and, inland, the mining city of Broken Hill and Wagga Wagga, famous for its many sportspeople.

Canberra, the Australian capital, was created as a compromise between Sydney and Melbourne, Australia’s two longest-etatablished cities. It is a planned city, designed to house the country’s government, embassies and other administrative institutions. It has an open feel with a lot of parks and greenery. The most important sectors of Canberra’s economy are administration and defence.

Victoria is by far the most densely-populated Australian state. The capital is Melbourne, Australia’s former capital and most culturally important city. Melbourne’s economy is fully diversified; in addition to strong finance, IT and tourism components, it is Australia’s most important industrial city. Other cities in Victoria include Geelong, an important manufacturing centre, Ballarat and Bendigo.

Tasmania, the island state, is even more of a backwater than South Australia. Its population growth is minimal and its economy has not grown like those of other states have. Fruit production is important, though secondary industries such as metal processing and machinery manufacture are the most important economic activities. The state capital, Hobart, is a busy port and tourist centre.




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