Census data can now be downloaded from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (www.abs.gov.au) for every local area in Australia. You can look for your local information under your suburb name, your postcode, your local government area, or the Census’ own ‘census district’. Excel or a similar spreadsheet program can be used to look at the data for your area. You will find several tables there on the website:
- Basic Profile (Tables numbered B…)
- Time Change Profile (Tables numbered T…)
- Extended Profile (Tables numbered X…).
For most purposes the Basic profile is adequate, although the Time Change profile will give you some interesting changes between 2001, 2006 and 2011.
What to look for in the Census data
In thinking about the nature of ministry in a local church or the potential growth or decline of a school, some of the important factors you may want to consider are the following.
What is the age profile of your local area (Tables B04, T03)? Are there lots of young people, young families, older people? While most local areas contain a wide age range, there are predominant groups in most areas, relating to when homes were built, the occupational facilities in the area, and other factors. Are you catering for the different age groups which are well represented in your area? It is common for churches to grow among a particular group of people of similar age and some churches simply keep the people of that age group. In order to extend its ministry to other age groups, it is often necessary to begin new activities designed specifically for these other groups, such as different worship services, different social groups, and different types of educational activities.
What is the ethnic profile of your local area? Language (B13, T10) is often a better key to the ethnic heritage and culture than birthplace (B09, T08). The numbers speaking a specific language include children born in Australia who share their parents’ culture. If there are significant numbers of people who speak a specific language at home, should the local church be providing some facilities in that language? Can the church serve local people by offering them English classes?
What is the religious profile of people in your local area (B14, T12)? You will want to look at the numbers of people who identify with your own denomination, for these are the people who are identifying with your group, whether they ever come to your activities or whether they do not. The numbers you find in the Census will, in almost every case, far exceed those who attend the local church. Surveys show that, across Australia, depending on the age profile, approximately one person in 10 of those identify as Anglicans or Eastern Orthodox on the Census attend a church monthly or more. Among Catholics, it is one in three, and among Uniting one in five. For Baptists and some other Evangelical groups, it is one in two. If the proportion of people identifying in a local area is much greater than those attending, one might ask why. Is it because the local church is failing to provide what is appropriate for these people? Is the local church in some way, directly or indirectly, excluding these people? In every group of people, there are some who take faith seriously and others for whom it is not really on the agenda. Some of those for whom it is not on the agenda describe themselves as ‘no religion’, however, this group is not necessarily antagonistic to religious faith. About one-third of these people consider themselves as ‘spiritual but not religious’. Are there ways your local church can engage these people?
Change and mobility in the population. Has the number of people in your local area changed (T01)? How many people now living in your area arrived from overseas in the last 5 years (B10)? Is an increase in the local population being matched by an increase in the local church, or does the decline in the numbers of the local population explain a decline in the church? Are there increasing numbers of people renting in the area, suggesting that the area has become more mobile (T18)? Engaging mobile people is more challenging than engaging people who have settled in the area and are expecting to raise their family in the area, but it may mean different forms of ministry and different forms of advertising the church.
People with special needs. Are there people with particular needs living in your area? Some of the categories to look for in the Census are elderly people living alone (B23), one parent families (B26, T23), and immigrants with little English (B11, T11). Also look at the numbers of people in your local area who need assistance with core living activities (B18).
Schools need to look at details of age, school attendance, ethnicity, religion, educational levels and income levels as they consider how they relate to the young people in the local area.
To make sense of the numbers, turn them into percentages, and then compare them with the percentages for the people in your capital city, State, or Australia as a whole. Or you can see changes by examining the ‘Time Change’ data tables.
CRA Census Reports
Let us do the work for you: explaining the meaning of the Census numbers in plain English and providing you with relevant comparisons. We can provide local churches with a Census report on your area for $95 inc. GST. School reports are available for $195.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the local area for which you want a report and your denomination, and we will send you the report with an invoice.