Living Large In Less: Reaping Rewards From A Smaller Crowd

By Josh •  Updated: 04/01/23 •  8 min read

Western Australia is known for its vast and stunning landscapes, rich mineral resources, and diverse wildlife.

However, despite its numerous attractions, the state has a relatively small population compared to other Australian states.

So what makes Western Australia a less desirable place to live for Australians and immigrants alike?

In this blog post, we’ll dive into the primary reasons why Western Australia has a small population and explore some of the challenges that come along with this demographic reality.

Pier in Broome, Western Australia

Why Western Australia has a small population

Despite being the largest state in Australia, Western Australia has a relatively low population compared to the rest of the country.

This is due to a combination of factors, including geography, climate, and limited economic opportunities.

The majority of Western Australia’s population lives in the southwest corner, with much of the inland being sparsely populated.

Additionally, the area is largely arid and inhospitable, with much of the interior being desert.

Despite these challenges, Western Australia remains an important contributor to the Australian economy, particularly in industries like mining and agriculture.

However, concerns about population growth and sustainability are becoming increasingly important for the state government to address.

Seagrass Biodiversity in Australia

Seagrass ecosystems play an important role in maintaining a healthy marine environment in Australia.

As discussed earlier, the dugong population is dependent on seagrass for their survival, and Western Australia has the largest seagrass beds in the world.

In addition to supporting dugongs, seagrass also serves as a habitat for various marine species and helps regulate water quality by stabilizing the seabed and absorbing carbon dioxide.T

he diversity of seagrass in Australia can also contribute to the economic and cultural well-being of local communities, through activities such as fishing and harvesting of seagrass products.

Therefore, the protection and restoration of seagrass ecosystems in Australia are crucial for the health of the marine ecosystem and the sustainable development of coastal communities.

Dugong population in Australia

One of the reasons why Western Australia has a small population is related to the marine biodiversity of the region.

The seagrass beds found in the Shark Bay area have a high ecological value for marine species, such as the dugongs (sea cows) that feed on them.

However, the population of dugongs has been declining in recent years, with some estimates indicating that their numbers have decreased by up to 90% in the last 50 years.

This decline has been attributed to various factors, including coastal development, pollution, and overfishing.

The loss of these gentle giants not only affects the ecosystem but also has cultural significance for Indigenous communities who have long-standing connections with dugongs.

Therefore, it is important to strike a balance between economic growth and conservation efforts to ensure the sustainability of the region’s natural resources for future generations.

Economic Complexity in Western Australia

Western Australia’s economic complexity is an interesting topic to explore in the context of its small population.

While the state’s economy has shown impressive growth over recent years, the majority of Australia’s population lives in the two economic core regions, resulting in a distinct core-periphery spatial pattern.

Economic complexity analysis has been applied to Western Australia’s sub-national economy, which comprised nine regions and 506 exported goods and services.

Trade openness has been identified as having a positive impact on economic complexity, while FDI inflows have a negative impact.

As Western Australia’s remote, sparsely populated regional centers develop their economic complexity, it would be interesting to see how this impacts the state’s overall economic landscape and potential population growth in the future.

Population size in Western Australia

While Western Australia is the largest state in Australia, it has a relatively small population compared to the rest of the country.

One reason for this may be the state’s unique economic structure, which is centered around mining and resources rather than diverse industries.

Additionally, the state’s location on the southwest coast may make it less attractive to immigrants and those seeking a bustling city life.

Despite its smaller population, Western Australia is home to several core regions and settlements, including the city of Perth, which has a population of over 2.7 million people.

The state’s low population density also offers a unique living experience for those looking for a more remote and natural environment.

However, the government is concerned about population growth and is actively encouraging migration to the state to bolster its economy and improve access to essential services.

Core regions in Australia

When talking about population size in Australia, it’s important to understand the concept of core regions.

These areas are conducive to large human populations due to their moderate Type C climates. Western Australia, where the population is relatively low, is not considered a core region.

Instead, the bulk of Australia’s population is concentrated in the southeastern part of the country, where the climate is more favorable for human habitation.

The largest city in Western Australia, Perth, is home to 75% of the state’s population, but it still pales in comparison to the bustling metropolises in the eastern part of the country.

Understanding the distribution of Australia’s population is key to understanding the factors that contribute to Western Australia’s small population size.

Settlement Patterns in Western Australia

Settlement patterns in Western Australia are primarily governed by the region’s topography and climate.

The state has a vast area of around 2.6 million square kilometers with a relatively low population.

As a result, the population density is just about three people per square kilometer outside of the southwest corner.

Most of the population is concentrated in the southwest, leaving the rest of the state sparsely populated.

Additionally, Western Australia has three large deserts: the Gibson Desert, the Great Victoria Desert, and the Little Sandy Desert.

These deserts restrict human settlement and agriculture, making it challenging to increase the state’s population.

Despite having a small population, Western Australia is home to several core regions, including Perth, which is the largest city in the state and the fourth largest in Australia.

Australia’s population density

It’s no secret that Australia’s population density is low compared to other countries. This is largely due to the vast desert interior of the country known as the Outback, making it uninhabitable for most people.

The state of Western Australia is no exception, with a relatively small population of just 2.76 million people, 92 percent of whom live in the southwest corner of the state.

The lack of arable soil in the country also contributes to the low population density, as it limits the available land for settlement and agriculture.

However, economic complexities, settlement patterns, and government concerns about population growth also play a role in Western Australia’s small population size.

Despite these factors, the state remains one of the most beautiful and unique places on Earth, with its stunning landscapes and rich biodiversity.

Climate and Topography in Western Australia

Climate and topography both play a significant role in determining the population size of a region.

In Western Australia, the climate is predominantly arid, with only the southwest corner experiencing a Mediterranean climate.

The region also has a diverse topography, including vast deserts, rugged mountains, and numerous islands off the coast.

These factors make it challenging to support a large population and contribute to the sparsely populated nature of the region.

However, the coastal areas still attract a significant number of people due to the mild climate and access to the ocean.

Despite these challenges, Western Australia has a unique ecosystem featuring seagrass biodiversity and a dugong population that requires careful preservation.

It is vital to consider the impact of population growth on the fragile environment of this region while ensuring sustainable economic growth.

Government concerns about population growth in Australia

The Australian government has expressed concerns about the population growth in the country, particularly in major cities such as Sydney and Melbourne.

Western Australia, being one of the least populated states, has not faced as much pressure to accommodate a growing population.

However, as economic opportunities increase and the demand for resources and services rises, the government is starting to address the issue of sustainable population growth in Western Australia.

This includes investing in infrastructure and services, promoting migration to regional areas, and implementing policies to encourage birth rates.

The unique biodiversity of Western Australia and its small communities are also factors that the government considers when strategizing population growth in the state.

The challenge for the government now is to balance the need for population growth with maintaining a high standard of living and preserving the natural environment.


Josh is a loving dad and husband, writer, business owner, and someone who loves to explore the world. He last travelled to Australia to visit Sydney, Brisbane, and Cairns and am looking to head back soon to see more! He is a huge fan of hiking, drawing, and so much more!