It's go west or go north, according to the latest census, as Australians move to new mining towns.

Our diversity is growing, the census figures reveal, with a quarter of Australians now born overseas, many coming from a growing surge in Indian and Chinese migration.

"One thing is clear: we are substantially, significantly different from what we were five years ago," said Andrew Henderson, executive director of the 2011 census.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released key results from the 2011 census on Thursday, which showed how Queensland and Western Australia are leading the country's population growth.

There are just more than 21.5 million of us who were counted on census night last August - an 8.3 per cent increase from the 2006 census.

And there continues to be a "man drought", with women outnumbering men 10,873,704 to 10,634,013, while the median age remains at 37.

Of the states and territories, WA's population boomed with a 14.3 per cent increase while Queensland came in second with an 11 per cent jump.

The biggest shift in growth has been in remote communities, which in five years have become strange hubs of activity filled with a mobile fly-in fly-out workforce.

"Traditionally, we associate rural, remote areas with population decline and the Western Australian trend is right in the face of that," Mr Henderson said.

Nine out of 10 of the biggest population increases in local government areas were in rural WA - including East Pilbara, which had a population spike of 82.6 per cent.

We're also making more money than we were in 2006 but having to spend a lot more too.

Median weekly household income rose to $1,234 in 2011, up from $1,027 in 2006. The average rent, however, rose $94 to $285 a week while median household mortgage repayments climbed $500 to $1800 a month.

While the majority of migration is still coming from Europe, there are increasingly more residents who were born in Asian countries.

India doubled as a source of migration while Chinese-born migrants rose 54 per cent.

More Australians no longer have a religious affiliation - up to 22.3 per cent from 18.7 per cent - but Christianity remains the most commonly reported religion, at 61.1 per cent of the population.

Shifts in migration have also reflected an increase in other religious faiths. Forty per cent more people now identify themselves as Muslim while Hinduism is up 86 per cent.

The number of people who identified themselves as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders also increased by 20.5 per cent, which officials linked to an increased level of confidence in census reporting.

For the first time, the 2011 census counted same-sex married couples rather than lumping them together with de facto couples.

But it turns out there are only 1338 same-sex married couples compared to 32,377 same-sex couples who call themselves de facto.

The national census, now in its 100th year, is often used by governments and municipalities to assist in planning and funding but it has also developed into an important tool for charities, academics and even businesses.

"The census highlights these changes that are underway and I think what it says is that if we are a confident and ambitious country we have to deal with change," Treasurer Wayne Swan told parliament.

"And when we've dealt with change successfully we've become a stronger country."


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