Overview of Bilingualism and Cultural Background Census Data:

According to the 2011 Census Data, 76.8% of the population are monolingual, speaking only English at home. Of the monolingual population, the top 5 spoken languages are Mandarin (1.6%), Italian (1.4%), Arabic (1.3%), Cantonese (1.2%) and Greek (1.2%).

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The languages spoken at home by recent migrants who’ve arrived since 2006, vary, with 33.5% speaking only English at home, 54.1% speaking another language and English either very well or well and 11.5% not speaking English well or at all.

In Australia, 27% of the population is what is known as ‘First Generation Australians’ (those who were born overseas). 20% are ‘Second Generation Australians’, who are Australian-born individuals living in Australia with at least one of their parents being from the ‘First Generation’. The last 53% are the ‘Third-plus Generation’, who have parents that are both ‘Second Generation’.

The highest proportion of overseas-born people are in Perth, Sydney and Melbourne, with the least being in Hobart (less than 14%). However, over the past years, from 2001 to 2011, the proportion of migrants born in Asia has increased from 24% to 33%. Those arriving from countries outside of Europe and Asia has also been increasing.

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Demographic of suburbs based on the 2011 Australian Census

West and North Western Sydney


Population: 19,745

Median Age: 30 years old

  • 25-29 years old: 19.6%
  • 30-34 years old: 15.3%
  • 20-24 years old: 10.2%

Ancestry (top responses):

  • Indian: 19.2%
  • Chinese: 18.9%
  • English: 9.5%
  • Australia: 7.6%
  • Lebanese: 2.9%

Country of Birth:

  • Australia: 27.5%
  • India: 21.5%
  • China: 14.7%

Language (top responses):

  • Mandarin: 12.7%
  • Gujarati: 6.6%
  • Hindi: 5.8%
  • Cantonese: 5.7%
  • Arabic: 4.1%

English only spoken at home: 26.5%

Households where two or more languages are spoken: 69.4%

Both parents born overseas: 82.7%


Comparison to results:

The data above matches with what we observed in Parramatta. We found Parramatta to be quite a multicultural community with majority being from an Asian background. This matches with the top languages spoken and ancestry data. This view was also reflected in an interviewee’s response who said all her colleagues are bilingual with their second language being an Asian language. We can gather that this may be due to the fact that most customers who aren’t a monolingual English speaker are of an Asian background and therefore might be more comfortable speaking their native language. This was confirmed by the interviewee who responded that she mainly spoke to her customers in Chinese.

Despite this, the menu of the cafe she worked in is only written in English and therefore matches the data stating that Australia was the top ‘country of birth’. This has led us to the conclusion that most of the customers who are bilingual are likely to be from the Second or Third Generation where they are quite fluent in English but are also comfortable speaking in their native Asian language. This might also be a psychological idea where when they see someone who might be of the same background as them, they they find it more comfortable to speak in their native language.


Population: 11,813

Median Age: 37 years old

  • 25-29 years old: 9.1%
  • 20-24 years old: 7.7%
  • 30-34 years old: 7.5%

Ancestry (top responses):

  • Australian: 27.4%
  • English: 27.1%
  • Irish: 7.6%
  • Scottish: 5.9%
  • German: 2.6%

Country of Birth:

  • Australia: 70.6%
  • England: 4.4%
  • New Zealand: 2.0%

Language (top responses):

  • Arabic: 1.0%
  • Cantonese: 0.8%
  • Mandarin: 0.7%
  • Spanish: 0.7%
  • Tagalog: 0.5%

English only spoken at home: 79.7%

Households where two or more languages are spoken: 16.0%

Both parents born overseas: 31.3%


Comparison to results:

The Census data for Penrith matches up quite nicely with the observations that we made during our interviews. During our walks around the cafes and restaurants in Penrith, we noted that most of the customers seemed to be Caucasian. This observation matches up perfectly with the ancestry data and country of birth data. Penrith was the only place where we interviewed a monolingual and according to that interviewee, most if not all, of the customers not only spoke in English to her, but also seemed to come from English-speaking backgrounds. We didn’t find a single instance of any menus being written in any language other than English in Penrith as well, which further backs up this data.

Lower North Shore of Sydney


Population: 21,194

Median Age: 35 years old

  • 30-34 years old: 9.9%
  • 25-29 years old: 9.8%
  • 20-24 years old: 8.4%

Ancestry (top responses):

  • Chinese: 26.3%
  • English: 14.7%
  • Australian: 12.3%
  • Korean: 7.2%
  • Irish: 5.0%

Country of Birth:

  • Australia: 37.0%
  • China: 13.6%
  • South Korea: 7.7%

Language (top responses):

  • Mandarin: 14.0%
  • Cantonese: 12.8%
  • Korean: 8.3%
  • Japanese: 2.8%
  • Indonesian: 1.3%

English only spoken at home: 40.8%

Households where two or more languages are spoken: 58.7%

Both parents born overseas: 70.9%


Comparison to results:

The census data mostly matches the observations we made. One thing to note, however, was that there were many more Korean-speaking individuals present than would be expected from the Census data. That said, the Census data is now 6 years old and both of us who were assigned to Chatswood have noted that there has been an overall increase in the Korean population not just in Chatswood, but also in Sydney as a whole. Our awareness of the Korean population may have also been aided by the fact that there were several cafes with Korean proprietors (most of whom were first generation). Also, in contrast to the census data, there were more Japanese people in Chatswood on the day Emily and I conducted our interviews.

Inner and South West Sydney


Ancestry (top responses):

  • Lebanese: 18.1%
  • Australian: 11.1%
  • English: 9.2%
  • Chinese: 6.6%
  • Indian: 3.9%

Languages (top responses):

  • Arabic: 22.6%
  • Mandarin: 3.3%
  • Turkish: 2.9%
  • Cantonese: 2.8%
  • Dari: 2.5%



Ancestry (top responses):

  • Chinese: 18.9%
  • Korean: 9.3%
  • Australian: 8.6%
  • Indian: 8.2%
  • English: 7.3%

Language (top responses):

  • Korean: 10.4%
  • Cantonese: 8.7%
  • Mandarin: 8.4%
  • Arabic: 4.3%
  • Nepali: 3.8%


In Inner and South West Sydney, we gathered data and conducted interviews across a variety of suburbs, including Merrylands and Strathfield. We found that our observations reflected the census data from 2011, particularly the demographic of the customers dining at cafes and restaurants in both Merrylands and Strathfield. It was confirmed by the two interviewees who worked at The Coffee Club Merrylands that many of their customers were Lebanese, with some who were Caucasian or Chinese. In Strathfield, we observed not only many Korean customers talking in their native language at cafes and restaurants, but also a great number of bilingual menus and signs that were in both Korean and English. It was interesting to note that despite Cantonese and Mandarin following closely behind Korean on the rank of top languages, there were little to no signs in Mandarin.