Census for communicators - what you need to know

“Know your audience” is one of the golden rules of communicating well, which is why the release of a new Census is greeted with such excitement by those of us looking to connect with Australia.

And, FYI, it’s not just those of us with ‘communications’ written on our business cards that should be paying attention. In a world of fake news, fragmented digital media and collapsing trust in institutions, we all need to be cutting through the noise. You can only do that by connecting with people’s values, so you need to know what they are.

This is particularly true for the non-profit, government and community-building sector, where publicly living your values is the best way to project a great reputation. Knowing your audience makes sure you’re all in synch.

Results from the 2016 Census have been released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today. Here’s what you need to know:

The data is usable

You may recall that last year’s Census was a bit fraught, with the website going down and thus being unavailable to many on the night. The ABS ultimately apologised and access was restored, but questions around security breaches, bungles and plain old “did anyone do it?” called the veracity of the data into question.

Turns out people did do it — 95.1 per cent of Australians, in fact — putting the 2016 census on par with the 2006 and 2011 surveys as far as participation. An Independent Assurance Panel has also put their stamp of approval on the data.

There are a lot of us, and we’re in the cities (also older)

Australia’s population had grown to 244 million as of 31 December 2016 — an 8.8 per cent rise since the last Census in 2011.

A full two thirds of us are living in the capital cities, where the population is growing at a rate twice that of elsewhere. A majority of the migrants that arrive in Australia settle in either Melbourne or Sydney.

Melbourne is still smaller than Sydney, but Melbourne is growing faster — adding 1,859 people a week compared to Sydney’s 1,656 — so is expected to catch up.

The platonic idea of Australians living out in the bush is starting to sound as realistic as millennials living out the Aussie dream of home ownership.

Also, the population is aging — with one in six now over 65, and in Tasmania that’s one in five.

We’re more diverse than ever

While two thirds of the population was born In Australia, almost half of the population is now either a first or second generation Australian: either they were born overseas or one or both of their parents were.

In the five years prior to the Census, 1.3 million new migrants arrived in Australia.

Just over a quarter of the population was born overseas. While the most common place of birth other than Australia is England, Asia has now overtaken Europe as the major point of origin for Australians born overseas, with China and India the leading countries of birth.

People with Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin now account for 2.8 per cent of the population — that’s almost doubled since 1996.

More than 300 languages are spoken in Australian homes, with 21 per cent of households (more than a fifth) speaking a language other than English at home.

The most common language after English is Mandarin, followed by Arabic, Cantonese and Vietnamese.

This is all further proof that the migrant experience is mainstream in Australia.

Religion is changing

More Australians than ever before (30 per cent) reported having no religion in the 2016 census. It’s an accelerating trend — the number was half back in 2001, and “no religion” is now the most common individual response. For the religious, Christianity remains the most populous, with 52.1 per cent reporting that belief. Second is Islam at 2.6 per cent and Buddhism at 2.4 per cent. By way of comparison, 88 per cent of Australians reported as Christian in 1966. So while ‘Christian values’ was a safe default back then, it’s no longer necessarily the case.

Bonus round

Insight-hungry communicators should also look at the ABS’ 8679.0 — Film, Television and Digital Games, Australia, 2015-16 report, released earlier this month.

A chief finding of interest was that total income for subscription broadcasters and channel providers, including subscription video-on-demand, has now exceeded that of the commercial free-to-air broadcasters.



Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash

Stefan Delatovic
Head of Content and Strategy