Population Density: The number of people living in a given area, usually per km2.

Population Distribution: This is how a population is spread out around a country or an area. If a country’s population is distributed in a regular pattern then we say it has an even population distribution. However, if there are areas with many people and then areas with few people, then we would say that it has an uneven population distribution.

Densely Populated: An area with a high population density.

Sparsely Populated: An area with a low population density.

Case Study: Central Australia. A sparsely populated region.

Why are there so few people living in the Australian Outback

1) Australia Fact File

  1. Complete the fact file document using data from the CIA Factbook.
Australia is sparsely populated, on average there are 3people/km2 (source). Click on the map for more information
Map 1: Australia’s population density.

2) Factors affecting Population Density and Distribution in Australia

Causes of sparse population
Mountainous area e.g. Himalayas that are hard to build houses and transports links on.
Very hot or very cold area e.g. Sahara desert or Antarctica
A heavily forested area e.g. the Amazon Rainforest
Areas that flood a lot e.g. Mekong river delta
No jobs
Poor supply of electricity, gas and water
Poor communications (Roads, Railways, Airports, Internet connection etc)
Shortage of natural resources
No schools or hospitals
Areas that regularly suffer from natural disasters e.g. volcanoes or droughts
Which of these can explain why so few people live in central Australia?
Map 3: Australia’s climate


  1. Use the maps and other resources on this page to complete the “Why is central Australia so sparsely populated?” worksheet.
  1. Name a region of Australia with a very low population density. (1 mark)
  1. Describe the pattern of population of density of Australia using map 1 at the top of the page. (3 marks)
  1. Using named examples, explain the pattern of population density shown in the map. (5 marks)
  1. For a country you have studied, describe and explain how physical factors influence the population distribution and density the county. (7 marks)

Extension Task. Not all of Australia is so sparsely populated.

Why do so many people live in Sydney?

  1. Read the information about Sydney from the New South Wales government. Can you find reasons why so many people live in Sydney.