Map of Race and Ethnicity in Sydney

New: An updated 2016 version of this map is now available here.

Data from the 2011 ABS Census was spatially mapped to produce a race and ethnicity map of Sydney. The map allows for trends and correlations to be observed, which can be difficult to do when faced only with statistical tables. Below, are my observations of the five main race/ethnicity groups shown in the map below:


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East Asian (and South East Asian)

From analysis of the map, it appears that East and South East Asians (henceforth, for brevity, ‘East Asians’) are the largest minority in Sydney and accordingly, there are numerous areas where there are significant populations of East Asians. For the purpose of this map, East Asians are defined as those who have identified as having Chinese, Filipino, Korean or Vietnamese ancestry. The main areas identified in the map are:

  • The St George region (i.e. Hurstville, Kogarah and Rockdale LGAs)
  • The Auburn and Bankstown local government areas
  • The Strathfield and Burwood local government areas
  • The Canterbury local government area (particularly around Ashfield and Campsie)
  • The Fairfield local government area (particularly around Cabramatta) – attributable to the arrival of Vietnamese refugees in the 1970s staying at government facilities in the area
  • The Willoughby local government area (namely around Chatswood)
  • The Ryde local government area (as well as Rhodes, on the other side of the Parramatta River, and around Carlingford in The Hills Shire)
  • Around Mount Druitt
  • Around universities (i.e. Macquarie University, UNSW and University of Sydney) – attributable to the sizable population of Chinese and other Asian international students
  • The Hornsby local government area (particularly in the areas with high-density transit-oriented developments [i.e. Hornsby itself and Waitara])

An interesting correlation observed with people of East Asian origin is that the East Asian population clusters are often found to be surrounding train lines – a particularly noticeable example is along the Northern Line from Rhodes to Epping. Perhaps this can be attributed to the fact that many East Asians are more accustomed to high-rise living and relying on public transportation (e.g. those from Hong Kong or China). Rhodes in particular has been the subject of numerous high-rise transit-oriented developments in recent years and appears to be Asian majority from the map.

Sub-continental (South Asian)

The spread of people of sub-continental origin in Sydney appears more restricted that those of East Asian origin. For the purpose of this analysis, those who identified as being either of Indian or Sinhalese origin are classed as sub-continental. The only notable cluster of people of sub-continental origin on the map appears to be centred on Parramatta and Harris Park.

Middle Eastern

For the purpose of this analysis, people who identified as being of either Lebanese or Turkish descent are classed as Middle Eastern. The main areas with large populations of Middle Eastern people are in the Canterbury, Auburn and Parramatta local government areas. A smaller cluster also exists at Arncliffe in the Rockdale local government area.


For the purpose of this analysis, the Indigenous category consists of those who identified as either Australian Aboriginal or Maori (New Zealander). These two ethnicities were grouped together due to the relatively small number of their populations. In fact, there are no areas with sizable Indigenous populations in the entire map. Despite the notoriety of “The Block” at Redfern, the Aboriginal population at Redfern barely shows up on the map. The only (scarcely) discernible clusters are around Minto in Sydney’s south-west and around La Perouse, in the south-east.


I have deliberately left those who have identified as being white to last in this analysis. This is essentially due to the fact that whites are ‘everywhere else’. Apart from the areas mentioned above, the remainder of Sydney appears to be predominantly white. This is especially true of the Northern Beaches, the Eastern Suburbs, the Sutherland Shire, as well far-western and far-southwestern Sydney. Rural areas of Sydney are also predominately white. From the census data, it is not really possible to tell whether the departure of whites from areas with large populations of minority groups is due to ‘white flight’, as was experienced in American cities or simply because whenever a resident sold, there were more people of the aforementioned minority groups wanting to buy in that area.

Other Observations

One particularly noticeable omission from this map are people of African origin. This simply was not able to be mapped, as the ABS Census data doesn’t list any African ethnicities in their list of the 30 most-common responses to the ancestry question in the census. Presumably, this means that the African population in Sydney (and Australia overall) is still very insignificant.

Similarly, there would be a greater population of people Middle Eastern origin than what the map shows. This is because only two ancestries of Middle Eastern origin are given in the ABS Census data (i.e. Lebanese and Turkish). Other Middle Eastern nationalities which have been the focus of media attention (e.g. Afghani or Syrian refugees) are simply not listed in the census data.

From observation of the map, there are three main local government areas that are particularly multicultural – all in Sydney’s west. These are Auburn, Canterbury and Parramatta. These areas seem to have a large mixed population of people of white, Middle Eastern and Asian descent. Compared to these three local government areas, the rest of Sydney is relatively homogenous. The only other local government area that comes close is Fairfield – with a mix of East Asian and white respondents.


Analysis of the map produced of Sydney’s races and ethnicities show that there is indeed segregation and ethnic enclaves in Sydney.  Of course, unlike the past of other countries (e.g. segregated America or apartheid South Africa), the reasons for these enclaves existence is much different.

One of the main reasons these enclaves exist is that, as a foreigner in a new country, the transition is generally much easier when you are surrounded by people of a similar cultural background – language barriers are less of an issue and groceries from one’s home country are also easier to obtain.

Historical reasons can also be responsible for the location of these enclaves. For example, the cluster of Asian people in the Fairfield local government area can be attributed to the fact that Vietnamese refugees from the 1970s were initially placed in immigration centres in the area.

Lastly, facilities and infrastructure can also be a reason for these enclaves to occur. For example, international students attending university would obviously want to live near their educational institution.

To conclude, whilst there are indeed ethnic enclaves in Sydney, it would appear that the segregation seen in Sydney is far less than what is seen in American cities. Ethnic groups’ boundaries are far more diffused and soft, whereas in American cities, you can often see roads and freeways acting as hard barriers to a neighbourhood that is black versus one that is white.

The Methodology

Inspired by Bill Rankin’s Race and Ethnicity map of Chicago, I decided to create a map of race and ethnicity for my home city of Sydney, as I was curious to see whether a major Australian city, such as Sydney, is as segregated as American cities.

The first step was to acquire the data – this was done by extracting data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ 2011 Census. However, since the census doesn’t specifically ask respondents to identify their race or ethnicity, the map is instead created from respondents’ answers to the question of “What is the person’s ancestry?” The census data gave 32 possible answers – 30 of which were specific answers whilst the other two were “other” and “ancestry not stated”. Having 30 different colours would prove overly confusing on a map, so this was amalgamated down to five main groups:

  • White: Australian, Croatian, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Macedonian, Maltese, New Zealander, Polish, Russian, Scottish, Serbian, South African, Spanish, Welsh
  • East Asian: Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Vietnamese
  • Sub-continental: Indian, Sinhalese
  • Middle Eastern: Lebanese, Turkish
  • Indigenous: Australian Aboriginal, Maori

The methodology of these classifications isn’t perfect, but given the limitations of the source data, it would be impossible to have 100 per cent accuracy. South African might seem to be a peculiar choice to place in the ‘white’ category at first glance; however, from my research, it appears that South African immigrants to Australia are largely whites – many of which who left following the end of apartheid. Maori has been grouped into Indigenous as, even combined, they are hardly visible on the map, due to their relatively small numbers. For the purposes of this analysis, “Indigenous” can be interpreted as people indigenous to both Australia and New Zealand.

Whilst the map initially included those who answered “other” and “ancestry not stated” in grey, this was removed in a later revision as there were a significant number of respondents who chose one of those two options. This resulted in the grey covering up the other coloured dots, whilst at the same time not really adding much information to the map, since what it is showing could essentially be anything.

With the data analyses completed, the data was mapped using the most detailed divisions available in the 2011 Census – Statistical Area Level 1 (SA1). Within each SA1 boundary, dots were geographically-randomly placed, with each dot representing five people of a particular ethnicity/race. However, the initial output produced some peculiarities. Namely, it showed people living in places like the Blue Mountains National Park. The data was re-mapped with parks masked out and a more accurate output resulted.

To finalise the map, suburb names, main roads, railways and parks were added to give context to the map. The last step was to perform an analysis of the information presented – this analysis can be seen above.

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