New Census data set to guide nationwide RSL services and support

RSL Australia has welcomed new insights into the nation’s veteran population, with 2021 Census data released today revealing the regions with the highest populations of current and former serving Australian Defence Force personnel.

The data showed that around 30 per cent of ADF personnel lived in New South Wales and 28 per cent lived in Queensland in 2021. In New South Wales in 2021, veteran communities are concentrated in the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie (11,157), Hunter Valley (10,604) and Capital Region (10,148) regions, while Townsville (15,408), Gold Coast (14,608) and Ipswich (14,326) identified as home to the largest veteran communities in Queensland.

For the first time in recent Census history, the Australian Bureau of Statistics recorded data on Australian Defence Force service. The highly sought-after insights provide a clearer picture of how many veterans there are in Australia and where key communities are located, which will help enable and shape effective delivery of support services.

RSL Australia President Greg Melick said the ABS Census data was particularly pertinent in the context of the ongoing Royal Commission.

“These insights about the Defence and veteran population and their needs will enable the RSL to provide targeted support resources across the country. The RSL’s 150,000 members and its more than 1,150 sub-branches stand ready to offer whatever support and advice is required.

“With this data and RSL’s network, experience, and expertise, we can better help to improve the lives of Australia’s Defence members, veterans and their families,” Mr Melick said.

Historically, up to 2016, data on veterans’ demographics was only recorded at a national level if ADF personnel registered a claim with the Department of Veteran Affairs. Veterans were then required to update their address if they relocated, which made it challenging for ex-service organisations to maintain up-to-date records.

RSL NSW President Ray James said while the new data aligned with the organisation’s expectations and experience, the insights it revealed were crucial for guiding the delivery of services.

“The new insights will help us continually refine our service delivery to better meet veterans’ needs. It will also enable us to deploy adequate resources to assist our 340 RSL sub-Branches in local areas.”

For over a hundred years, RSL Australia has provided a support network, services and an organisation of camaraderie and recognition for current and ex-serving members.


  • More than half a million Australians (581,139) have served, or are currently serving, in the ADF.
  • Veterans 65-74 years of age account for the more than a quarter (26.1 per cent) of former serving members
  • One in twenty (5.3 per cent) Australian households report at least one person who have served or are serving in the ADF
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