WA fastest growing State
Charmaine and Justin Rapp at home in Doubleview. Picture: Nic Ellis/The West Australian

WA is changing the face of the nation with the 2011 census revealing the growing impact of the State on the Commonwealth.

It is the fastest growing State, with nine of the 10 fastest growing local government areas in the country, and West Australians are enjoying the quickest rising family incomes in the nation.

West Australians are also ditching organised religion, with a record number now saying they do not believe in God.

The State is also becoming far more cosmopolitan, with huge influxes of people from the Philippines, India and Fiji as well as traditional sources of migrants from Britain, South Africa and New Zealand.

Men now outnumber women and the proportion of married couples has fallen. The dramatic change, which means the State added 280,083 people between 2006 and 2011 or 153.5 residents a day, has come at some cost.

Despite family median incomes growing by a national high of 38 per cent to almost $90,000 a year, we are going further into debt, with even more West Australians renting their home or paying it off.

The number of people who own their home outright today is lower than what it was in 2001.

Census executive director Andrew Henderson said the national headcount had highlighted the dramatic change occurring across the country as people moved to WA and parts of Queensland.

Australia's population stood at 21.5 million on August 9, 2011, an 8.3 per cent increase on the 2006 census. Highlighting WA's impact, the State's population rose 14.3 per cent to more than 2.2 million. Queensland was the next fastest, its population growing 11 per cent or more than 400,000.

While the local council area covering Perth enjoyed a population bounce of 43 per cent, the most of any capital city area, it was the State's far-flung communities that enjoyed even bigger gains.

The number of people in the East Pilbara council area jumped 82.6 per cent, the biggest increase of any council in Australia.

Other fast-growing council areas included Leonora, Wiluna, Laverton and Ashburton. The impact of the mining boom, and of fly-in, fly-out workers, was also evident in the census.

Of the almost 24,500 people counted in the Pilbara who were not residents, 17,300 came from other parts of the State, 2200 were from Queensland, 1750 from NSW and 1600 from Victoria. Migration played a big part in the population explosion, with almost 31 per cent of WA's residents born overseas.

Those born in Britain account for 8.6 per cent of the population and another 3.2 per cent were born in New Zealand.

The number of Indian-born almost doubled to about 30,000, while the number of people from the Philippines grew threefold. Nationally, almost 70 per cent of residents were born in Australia.

That influx of migrants is changing our religious beliefs. The number of Hindus in WA is now more than 21,000.

In 2006, there were just over 8000 Hindu followers. No religion is the number one faith of West Australians, surpassing Catholicism for the first time at 25.5 per cent of the population.

The lack of faith is not just a WA phenomenon, with no religion topping the list in Tasmania, the ACT, Northern Territory and South Australia.

Marriage rates nationally and in WA continue to fall, down to 48.7 per cent from 49.6 per cent across Australia. More than 35 per cent of West Australians have never been married.

While the number of married couples in WA grew 14 per cent, de facto relationships rose 23 per cent.

Justin Rapp, 37, migrated to WA from South Africa with his wife Charmaine in 2008 and now works as a project engineer for mining giant BHP Billiton.

Mr Rapp said they moved to Australia for an adventure and a better life. "Life is pretty good here," he said.

"A lot of people here don't realise just how good it is.

"It's only when you come from another country that has got real problems."

English is now the only language spoken in 79.3 per cent of WA homes, down from 81.8 per cent in 2006. The proportion of homes in which Mandarin is the only language almost doubled to 1.3 per cent of households.

The West Australian

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