Estimates of Australia’s non-heterosexual population

Thomas Wilson, Fiona Shalley

Research output: Working paper


Background: Demographers have studied minority populations for many years, but relatively little attention has been paid to sexual minority groups. Population estimates for sexual minorities would be useful as denominators for a range of health and socio-economic indicators, to monitor representation in employment, assist budget planning, and inform the marketing of goods and services.

Aim: The aim of this paper is to present some approximate estimates of the non-heterosexual adult population of Australia in mid-2016 by sex, broad age group and state/territory.

Data and methods: Data on sexual identity were sourced from three nationally representative surveys. Use was also made of 2016 Census data and Estimated Resident Populations. Prevalence rates of the non-heterosexual population aged 18+ were averaged over the three surveys and multiplied by ERPs to obtain national population estimates. Census data on same-sex couples were used to distribute the national estimates by state and territory.

Results: Australia’s non-heterosexual population aged 18+ in 2016 is estimated to have been 592,000, representing about 3.2% of the adult population. New South Wales is home the largest non-heterosexual population (about 204,000) and the Northern Territory the smallest (about 4,700), while the highest prevalence is in the ACT (5.1%).

Conclusions: Australia’s non-heterosexual population is a relatively small population, but its prevalence varies considerably by age and sex and between states and territories. Estimates of this population should prove useful for monitoring health and wellbeing and for a variety of planning and policy purposes.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationDarwin, Australia
PublisherCharles Darwin University, The Northern Institute
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)2207-3388
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2018


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