ACT population growth until 2041

In the next 20 years, Canberra is expected to grow radically. The growth of Gungahlin is slowing but the growth of the Molonglo Valley has just begun. Below a breakdown of districts from Gungahlin to Tuggeranong.


Update 2041 in doubt and 2050 more likely

The available information for Molonglo 3 and the history of the Whitlam development would suggest that a 2041 completion of the Molonglo Valley is unlikely and 2050 seems more realistic. The exact date is not so important as to accept that it will take much longer than 2041. Read Molonglo 3 East: timeline uncertainty.


Information box: ACT population update 30 June 2022

ACT population 454,499: 2021 ABS Census

The most recent ABS Census was conducted on 10 August 2021. Only now is the data being released. The population of the ACT is important for data comparisons and, importantly for the ACT, for funding ($$$) from the Federal Government. You will find this number behind in many articles on canberra.bike.

Molonglo Valley highlights

Molonglo Valley has a rapidly growing population. The population on the census night was 11,435 people. The proportion of the population in the 25-39 years brackets is almost twice as high as the ACT average, and 74 years and above less than a third. The ancestry data is notable, with almost 3 times replying Indian as the ACT average. The population is language diverse with households where a non-English language is used twice the ACT average (outliers are Punjabi, Telugu and Malayalam). The population is almost twice as likely to live in flats or apartments (35.2%) as the ACT average (19.4%). Those living is separate houses is lower than the ACT average (40.8% versus 63.2% ACT). In most other respects, Molonglo falls close to what is typical for the ACT, including schooling (type of educational institution attending). The new nappy valley? No.

Gungahlin highlights

ABS 2021 Census data, tell us that Gungahlin is a very typical Canberra district, with a population of 87,682. A notable difference is that people with parents born in Indian, Chinese or Pakistan are twice as likely as the Canberra average, and the languages spoken at home (Indian, Mandarin and Urdu) and religious affiliation (Hinduism and Islam) show the same pattern. Median weekly incomes are spot on the Canberra average. Two thirds of the population live in a detached house, which is typical for Canberra. Gungahlin Council resists the construction of new flats or apartments. That might leave the impression they have a lot of them. The census suggests otherwise. Fewer people live in apartments in Gungahlin than is typical for Canberra (13.1% versus 19.4% in ACT and Molonglo Valley 35.2%).


The population in Canberra will continue to grow and space will become more precious.

This article looks at the population data found in the ACT Planning System Review and Reform Project documentation. ACT Treasury also has made predictions for Canberra’s population growth and continues to do so as part of the ACT Budget process. The population growth projection for the period 2018-2050 can be downloaded below.

It is self-evident from the data provided on the YourSay ACT Planning System Review and Reform Project (accessed 28 May 2021) that The Molonglo Valley will grow faster than any other district. The projected population growth between 2020 and 2041 is shown below, with the districts ranked from most to least growth. Belconnen was the largest district in 2021 and will continue to grow strongly.

Population growth between 2020 and 2041 suburbs ranked from most to least growth
Population growth between 2020 and 2041 districts ranked from most to least growth. ACT Planning System Review and Reform Project, accessed 28 May 2021.

In 2041, Belconnen will be the largest district with 22% of Canberra’s 589,000 population. Tuggeranong and Gungahlin will come equal second with 17%. The Molonglo Valley will leap from 8th place to 5th. Over two thirds of Canberra’s population will live in Belconnen, Tuggeranong, Gungahlin, or Inner North districts.

Currently, the population of the Molonglo Valley is tiny, with only about 10% of its expected final population upon completion. The ACT Suburb Land Agency reported at the Molonglo Valley Community Forum meeting in March 2021 that the project was only 20% complete. Even then it will only represent 9% of Canberra’s population.

ACT population 2041
ACT population 2041. ACT Planning System Review and Reform Project, accessed 28 May 2021.

Canberra suffers from urban sprawl. Too many people live on the edges and most jobs in are in the centre of the city in the Inner South and Inner North. More jobs are found in the Inner South and Inner North than local residents. In the Inner South there are almost two jobs for every resident. The consequence is long distance commuting. Gungahlin Community Council is unhappy with the availability of work in the district, but it is not much worse than Belconnen and similar to Tuggeranong per head of local population. The worst served is the Molonglo Valley, but this can be expected to improve once the commercial centre is established.

district comparison of local jobs per population 2020 districts ranked
District comparison of local jobs per population 2020 districts ranked. ACT Planning System Review and Reform Project, accessed 28 May 2021.

The data analysed in this article is derived from a graphic found on the YouSay ACT Planning System Review and Reform Project, accessed 28 May 2021 (see below).

canberra stats in 2020
Canberra in 2020 and 2041. ACT Planning System Review and Reform Project, accessed 28 May 2021.

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