Young people statistics in NSW

NSW has a diverse population of young people. View a snapshot of statistics from 2016 onwards, and understand who young people are in NSW.

3 young people wearing masks and smiling at the camera

Snapshot of young people

Discover statistics about young people living in NSW to understand who they are, where they live and their cultural background. 


In 2020 about 12.3% of the total NSW state population were young people.

(Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare)


NSW had a population of 8.13 million of which 1 million were young people aged 15–24 years.

31% of Australia's 3.2 million young people live in NSW. This is the most of any Australian state.  

(Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare)

Where young people live

Greater Sydney has more young people than the rest of NSW as there is a pattern of young people moving to the city for education and work.

(Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics: Regional population by age and sex)

of young people in NSW live in Sydney

(Sydney — defined as Greater Sydney 2016 Census)

of young people live in regional and rural areas

(Regional and Rural NSW — defined as rest of NSW 2011 Census)

NSW state’s young people live in Western Sydney Local Government Areas (LGAs).

Profile of young people

Where young people live

NSW has a large population of young people living in Regional or Rural NSW.

More young people live in:

  • Regional and rural NSW (outside Sydney) (432,121) slightly less than young people living in Western Australia (433,898)
  • Western Sydney (337,787) than live in South Australia (287,026)
  • the Hunter region (including Newcastle) (150,467) than live in Tasmania (84,627)
  • Blacktown and Penrith LGAs combined (101,972) than live in the ACT (75,393)
  • Blacktown LGA (64,270) than live in the Northern Territory (43,863).

(Source: 2016 Census of Population and Housing New South Wales — Age by Sex)

Cultural background

NSW has a culturally and linguistically diverse population of young people.

Of young people living in NSW:

  • 30.5% in 2016 were born overseas.
  • There are significant populations of young people born in North East Asia (5.4%), Southern and Central Asia (3.2%), South East Asia (2.9%) and North West Europe (1.8%).
  • The greatest number of young people born overseas were born in China (4.6%).

(Source: 2016 Census of Population and Housing New South Wales — Age by Sex)

Young Aboriginal people

NSW has a large population of young Aboriginal people.

In NSW, there are:

  • More young Aboriginal people live in NSW than any other state or territory (58,890 = 4.5% of the NSW youth population).
    • This includes Queensland (51,487), Western Australia (20,221) and Northern Territory (15,754).
  • The highest population of young Aboriginal people in NSW live in the Central Coast LGA (a new LGA created by merging former Gosford and Wyong LGAs) (3,572 = 0.3% of the NSW youth population) and Blacktown LGA, (2,813 = 0.2% of the NSW youth population). 12.0% of all the state’s young Aboriginal people living in the Hunter area and 10.2% living in Western Sydney.

(Source: 2016 Census of Population and Housing New South Wales — Age by Sex)

Young people at risk


Young people aged 15 to 24 years are twice as likely as the general population to access homelessness services.

Factors affecting homelessness in young people:
  • completing Year 12 is associated with a 30% reduction in later risk of homelessness.
  • Out-of-home care history increases the risk of homelessness by 17%. However, the proportion of the population this relates to is small (less than 1%).
  • 30% of people who access homelessness services identify as Aboriginal, (while making up around 3% of the general NSW population).

(Source: NSW Family and Community services: Key findings from the Pathways to Homelessness report - April 2022 - FACSIAR Summary)

LGBTIQ+ young people

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer (LGBTIQ+) young people are disproportionately affected by poor mental health outcomes in NSW.

Overall mental health of LGBTIQ+ young people

LGBTIQ+ young people in NSW experience higher rates of:

  • psychological distress which is linked to bullying, social exclusion and family rejection.

  • harassment or assault based on sexuality or gender in school settings, compared to university or workplace settings.

Transgender, gender-diverse and intersex young people

In NSW, transgender, gender-diverse and intersex young people experience:

  • disproportionate rates of depression and suicidality compared to their cisgender peers.

  • fears of disclosing one’s sexuality, gender and/or intersex variations to health professionals, and a perception that mainstream services are unfamiliar with LGBTIQ+ health issues.

  • limited access or lack of a clear pathway of care for young people seeking gender-affirming treatments and care, including puberty blockers, hormones and counselling.

  • issues with disclosure of their intersex diagnosis, medical interventions, and social stigma.

(Source: NSW LGBTIQ+ Health Strategy 2022-2027)

Locations of disadvantage in NSW

Almost every location experiencing the greatest disadvantage is located outside Sydney, mostly towards the north and west of the state.

The ten most disadvantaged locations in NSW are:
  • Bidwill – Hebersham – Emerton (Greater Sydney)
  • Bourke - Brewarrina
  • Coonamble
  • Far West
  • Kempsey
  • Nambucca Heads,
  • Port Kembla – Warrawong
  • Tamworth – West
  • Tuncurry
  • Walgett – Lightning Ridge (Rest of NSW).

The most common disadvantages in highly disadvantaged areas are:

  • young people leaving school early without engaging in subsequent employment or learning
  • intergenerational unemployment
  • family violence.

What is a location of disadvantage?

A location has been defined as disadvantaged based on 37 indicators, across seven main categories:

Social distress
  • Low income
  • Volunteering
  • No internet
  • Access to shops
  • Access to culture and recreation facilities
  • Overcrowding
  • Receiving disability support pension
  • Psychiatric admissions
  • Number of GPs working in the area
  • Suicide rates
  • Need assistance with core activities
Community safety
  • Child maltreatment
  • Juvenile convictions
  • Prison admissions
  • Family violence
  • Low skilled occupations
  • Underemployment
  • Long-term unemployment
  • Young adults not in employment, education or training
  • Housing stress
  • Public housing
  • Rent assistance
  • Financial Stress
  • Year 3 NAPLAN Numeracy
  • Year 3 NAPLAN Literacy
  • Year 9 NAPLAN Numeracy
  • Year 9 NAPLAN Literacy
  • School attendance
  • Left school before Year 10
  • No post school qualification
  • Young child Development (AEDC)
  • Particulate matter
  • Tree cover
  • Heat stress
  • Nature reserves
Lifetime disadvantage
  • Teenage childbearing
  • Children where no parent in the family is working

(Source: NSW Family and Community Services report: Key findings from the 2021 Dropping off the Edge Report - FACSIAR Summary - December 2021)

Out-of-home care and child protection

There is a strong intergenerational link between parents who have been involved with the child protection system and their own children.

For children and young people:
  • involved with the NSW statutory child protection system in 2014–15,  almost one-third had at least one parent who had either been reported or were in out-of-home care when they were a child.
  • in out-of-home care, almost one-half had a parent who had either been reported or were in out-of-home care when they were a child.
  • 20% of females and 12% of males will have a child placed in out-of-home care within 20 years of exiting care themselves and,
  • are 10 times more likely to need out-of-home care for their child compared with the general population.

(Source: Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth report.)

Young carers

Many children and young people living in NSW help care for their parent, sibling, other relative or friend. 

Young carers are children and young people aged 25 years and under who provide unpaid care and support to a family member or friend who has a:

  • disability
  • mental illness
  • drug or alcohol dependency
  • chronic condition
  • terminal illness
  • who is frail.

There are approximately 83,700 young carers in NSW up to the age of 25 years.

Of these young carers:

  • more than one in ten (13.9%) are primary carers
  • approximately 50% identify as male and 50% as female
  • more than one in five (21.5%) live in rural areas
  • 5.1% speak a language other than English at home
  • 2.9% were born in a non-English speaking country.

In 2016 there are also approximately 20,600 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander carers aged 15+ in NSW.

(Source: Carers NSW: 2020 National Carer Survey)

Young parents

Younger parents and their children are a vulnerable group.

Young mothers

A mother who is young is a risk factor for child protection. 

For a child born to a 20-year-old mother:

  • there is a 60% chance of being known to child protection
  • a one in three chance they will be reported at risk of significant harm
  • one in 20 chance of being in out-of-home care.

For children born to mothers younger than 20 years of age, the chances are even higher.

Younger mothers are at higher risk of:

  • poverty
  • malnutrition
  • pregnancy complications
  • emotional and mental health problems
  • drug and alcohol use.

Their children are also at higher risk of physical, cognitive and emotional problems. It is these issues, and not simply the mother's age, that lead to more involvement with the child protection system. 

It is about the age of 27 when the mother's age is no longer a key risk factor. 

Teenage parents

Teenage parents (where one parent is 15 to 19 years old) and their children are a high-risk vulnerable group.

This is because of more:

  • emotional problems, and
  • drug and alcohol use.

They are also more likely to experience poor education and employment outcomes further escalating risk.

(Source: NSW Family and Community Services report: Impact of maternal age on children coming into contact with the child protection system - April 2021 - Evidence to Action Note)

Youth support services

The most regular issues for which young people in NSW seek assistance from youth support services are:

  • 55% Mental health
  • 45% Education
  • 43% Family relationships

65% of youth services support a young person in crisis once a day to once a week.

In the 10 years to 2020, youth homelessness remains the top unmet need.

(Source: Youth Action’s Snapshot 2020: NSW Youth Sector)

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