Why the August count will mean more than the July count

Monday, June 27, 2016

It’s not the July count but the August one that will be most revealing for Australia. It’s the Census not the Election that will tell us most about ourselves. The election will reveal a lot about our political persuasions and policy preferences however it is the census that will offer far more clarity and detail about our nation. And in a political era where policy and budgetary settings extend beyond the election cycle, the data and forecasts delivered twice a decade in the census are becoming increasingly essential.

If the election is a national compass that will set something of the policy direction for Australia over the next 3 years, the census is a map that shows us who we are as a society in a big picture sense, as well as the contours that highlight our varied local communities and their detailed needs. The political custodians of the national compass will need a good understanding of the lay of the land, the changing terrain and the context in which national leadership operates if they are to guide us effectively.

The map this year will show a more complex Australia, more delineations than in the past culturally, economically and socially. The land of wide open spaces is becoming more urbanised, densified and diverse. The land of the middle class is showing more fractures and there are some fault lines emerging across this big land of opportunity. However, despite the differing terrains across this nation of communities, the census will show a sense of unity amongst the diversity- a contiguous landscape of varied elements.

The changes the census will show can be summed up in five words:


Not only will the numbers show that we exceed 24 million, but that we’ve more than doubled in the 50 years since the 1966 Census when we hadn’t even hit the 12 million mark. Sydney will also be shown to have just hit the 5 million milestone- the first Australian city to do so and also more than twice the population of 50 years ago of just 2.4 million.


Our population profile will no longer be a “population pyramid” as for the first time there will be more Australians aged over 55’s than under 20. The 1966 Census showed less than 1 million Australians aged 65 or over while this one will show more than 3.5 million. Those in the “aged” category of 85 plus have gone from less than 55,000 then to almost half a million now.


for the first time this Census will show one in four Australian households live in townhouses or apartments rather than detached houses- the highest figure ever, up from just one in ten in 1966. The six state capitals plus Canberra have grown from just over half the population (6.7 million people) to more than two-thirds (16 million) in half a century.


In 5 decades the proportion of Australians born overseas has increased from 17% to more than 30%. Back then, 90% of migrants were born in Europe with those born in Asia comprising less than 1% of the population while today China, India and Vietnam are all in the Top 5 countries of birth.


Australians travel more than ever and getting to work by private vehicle is still the main transport mode, used by 2 in 3 workers. More than half of all households have at least 2 cars compared to less than 1 in 10 households in 1966. Back then, 40% of households had no car compared to just 8.6% today.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics do a superb job in providing such a detailed social map, updated every 5 years, regarded internationally as world-leading and provided in full, free to all to access for their own journey. Like any good map it shows all the peaks and valleys without agenda or ideology. No gloss needed- the data provides the picture and it is up to those who access it to chart a way forward any point out the pitfalls. As we each plot our own points on August 9 we are in the process charting a national map that will provide navigation into the next decade- a decade that will likely be the most transformative in Australia’s history.

40 Years of Change: 1975 to Today

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Since 1975 Australia has seen four decades of massive change – demographically, socially, economically, politically, globally, culturally and technologically.

In such an area it is important to not just observe the changes but to understand the trends and respond, so that we can thrive in these massive times of change.

In this video below Social Researcher and Demographer Mark McCrindle outlines these changes.

Australian population bigger and older

In 1975 the Builders generation was firmly in control, the Baby Boomers were emerging and Generation X were still kids. More than half of Australia’s population wasn’t born in 1975 and since then we’ve seen massive generational change. We’ve also seen massive population change. Back then Australia’s population was 13.7 million and today it’s almost 24 million people, an increase of more than 10 million in four decades.

In the 1970s, the average age of an Australian was in the late 20’s, while today it’s in the late 30’s, such has been the ageing of our population in that time.

Our life stages have also changed in the past 40 years. People were getting married in their early twenties back in the seventies, while now the median age of marriage is approaching the thirties, indicating great social change as well.

Earning more, costing more

Australians are also earning a lot more now than we were back then; the average full time earnings in 1975 was $7,600 per year, today the annual average earnings exceed $72,000 per annum.

And while we are earning more, costs are a lot more today than they were back then. The cost of a loaf of bread today is more than 10 times the price it was in 1975, while a litre of milk today is 3 times the cost it was 4 decades ago.

Four decades ago Sydney had the highest house cost, averaging $28,000 while today it exceeds $850,000. So while earnings have gone up, by almost tenfold, house prices have gone up by more than thirtyfold in that same period of time.

The year of the Dismissal and an end to the Vietnam War

1975 was a year of massive political change as well. The year began with Gough Whitlam as Australia’s Prime Minister, but it was the year of the Dismissal and so it ended with Malcom Fraser as Prime Minister.

Gerald Ford was the president of the United States and it was the year that the Vietnam War ended, a time of massive global change.

Jaws vs The Lego Movie

From a popular culture perspective it was quite a different era. We had harsher tastes back then perhaps because Jaws was the movie of the year compared to The Lego Movie of today. ACDC had the album of the year back then compared to Taylor Swift currently.

1970: The Beatles break up.

1972: M*A*S*H Show premieres.

1972: Terrorist attack at the Olympic Games in Munich.

1973: U.S pulls out of Vietnam.

1975: Pol Pot becomes the Communist Dictator of Cambodia and the Cambodian Genocide begins.

1975: Gough Whitlam is dismissed and Malcom Fraser elected.

1975: NBC's Saturday Night (later known as Saturday Night Live) debuts.

1976: Jimmy Carter is elected President of the United States.

1979: Margaret Thatcher becomes the first woman Prime Minister of Great Britain.

1979: Mother Theresa awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

1979: The World Health Organisation certifies the eradication of smallpox.

Popular Movies:

Technological advancements that changed the world

1970: Computer Floppy Disks are introduced.

1971: VCRs introduced.

1975: Microsoft is founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, who develop a BSIC program for the Microcomputer Altair 8800, and is released the same year.

1975: The world’s first digital camera is created by Steven Sasson and Kodak Company.

1975: The laser printer is invented.

1977: The first personal computers (PC) are introduced.

1979: Sony introduces the Walkman.

1979: Cell phones are invented.

The speed and impact of these changes remind us to not just observe the changes but to understand the changes and respond so that we can thrive in these times of massive change.

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