Visualising the changing density of Australian cities

[This is an older post. For more recent analysis, see: How is density changing in Australian cities?]

Following on from my last post on Melbourne density, I thought it would be worth creating animations of the change in population density in other large Australian cities.

Below are animated maps showing density using estimated annual population on the ABS Statistical Area Level 2 (SA2) geography for the period 1991 to 2011. You’ll need to click on them to see the animation (and you may have to wait a little if you have a slow connection).

I’ve used SA2 geography because it is the smallest geography for which I can get good time series data. Please note that some SA2s with substantial residential populations will still show up with low average density because they contain large parks and/or industrial areas, or are on the urban fringe and so only partially populated (the non-urban areas bringing down the average density).


You can see the growth out to the north-west and south-west, the rapid population growth in the CBD and to the south of the CBD, and general densification of the inner suburbs.


Perth is a little less dramatic, but you can see strong growth to the far north in the late 2000s, populating of the CBD area, and increasing density in the inner northern suburbs. Many of the middle suburbs show very little change. A lot of Perth’s growth areas don’t seem to show up, probably due to low average densities of fringe SA2s that include non-urban areas.


You can see rapid population growth all over Brisbane, particularly in the CBD are inner suburbs.


In case you missed my last post, here is the map for Melbourne.

I had a bit of a look at Adelaide, but the changes between 1991 and 2011 were not very pronounced due to slow population growth. The process of creating these maps is fairly labour intensive so sorry Adelaide, no map for you (unless I get lots of requests).

I hope this is of interest.

9 Responses to Visualising the changing density of Australian cities

  1. Laura Flores says:

    Hey Chris, This is good stuff. Curious if you would like to write another article for us at Ceteris Paribus? Laura


  2. densophiliac says:

    Excellent graphs! Would showing more categories for densities higher than 50/ha be hard (ie 60, 70, etc)?


    • chrisloader says:

      It’s possible, but please let me know why you think it would be worth doing.


      • densophiliac says:

        It was mainly for my self-interest (and I understand not exactly aligned with the theme of the blog). I think I know what 50/ha feels like, and it doesn’t feel very dense, and was interested in where the “real” high density areas would be.

        Trying to justify it in non-selfinterested terms, it would seem to me better for a graph to have the highest bracket be easily distiguishable from the average if possible (this refers to the case for Sydney where as you pointed out, the weighted average is >50 ha already)

        But please don’t interpret the query as a demand or even as a complaint. I thought the maps were excellent (so thank you). It was more of what I would have liked to have seen if I were to write the specs for the maps custom-made for me.


  3. Alan Parker says:

    Very nice graphics. A product of hard work and much time.


  4. Alexander-Joel Zaiko says:

    Great graphics you have, these cover a twenty year period 1991-2011????? Why not make them cover a longer period to 2018???? The population densities of Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth have all increased considerably over time, on this site have you looked at including other cities, like the Gold Coast, Newcastle, Wollongong, Geelong, the Sunshine Coast, Canberra, or Gosford.


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