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Australians have given same-sex marriage their overwhelming approval with a near 62% 'yes' vote in a voluntary survey.
A majority 'yes' vote was recorded in 133 of the 150 federal electorates across the country, the Australian Bureau of Statistics announced in Canberra this afternoon.
Every state and territory recorded a majority 'yes' result bar NSW, which returned less than 60% approval.
Parliamentary debate to legalise same-sex marriage could begin as early as Thursday.
A cross-party group of senators - led by Liberal Dean Smith and supported by senior Labor figure Penny Wong, amongst others - will introduce a private bill to the upper house on Wednesday afternoon.
This means debate could start on Thursday morning, the Senate's usual time for considering private bills.
The majority of Australians support same-sex marriage, paving the way for legislation to make the country the 26th nation to formalise the unions by the end of the year.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics said 61.6% of voters cast their ballots in support of same-sex marriage in the controversial voluntary postal survey, with 38.4% opposing.
Almost 80% of the country's eligible voters took part - a higher voter turnout than Britain's Brexit vote and Ireland's same-sex marriage referendum.
The poll is non-binding but Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull immediately said he would fulfill a pledge to put a proposal to parliament to pass laws on marriage equality by the end of the year.
"It is unequivocal, it is overwhelming," Turnbull said of the survey result.
"They have spoken in their millions and they have voted overwhelmingly yes for marriage equality," he told reporters in Canberra. "They voted yes for fairness, yes for commitment, yes for love."
The result marks a watershed moment for gay rights in Australia, where it was illegal in some states to engage in homosexual activity until 1997.
Thousands of supporters who had gathered in a central Sydney park to mark the result broke into a loud cheer, hugged each other and cried as it was delivered live over a big screen by the country's chief statistician.
The result boosted the carnival atmosphere with some people carrying banners declaring "our love is real" and many sheltering from the hot sun under rainbow umbrellas. Among the crowd were men and women wearing wedding dresses and corsets and sequined suits.
Stay off social media - expert
Stay off social media and talk to some "real people" whatever the result of the same-sex marriage survey, one expert says.
Victoria's Gender and Sexuality Commissioner Rowena Allen said the survey had been a tough time for many Australians, and she encouraged them to look after each other.
She said passionate "yes" and "no" voters should take some time out after the result, given how damaging and divisive the debate has been.
"Turn off social media for a little while, it won't hurt you, detox, spend some time with real people," Ms Allen told 3AW in Melbourne today. "Social media is where people go to be their worst."
Ms Allen said the debate had been hurtful to a lot of people, and people on either side would be "devastated" whatever the result.
She said it made sense that some businesses and governments had organised counsellors and safe places for employees to deal with the result.
"It'll be devastating for people that have held other views," Ms Allen said.
- AAP and Reuters