Explore Australia’s cultural diversity with our Multicultural Map

18 August 2023

Australia’s Multicultural Map, an interactive online tool conceived and developed by Think HQ’s technology and CultureVerse teams, is now live.

Apart from being fun and easy to use (who doesn’t love data visualisation, especially when it’s colour coded?), the Multicultural Map drives home just how culturally and linguistically diverse our country really is, and why this knowledge is crucial for anyone working in the communications space today.

Here’s why we created the Map and how you can get the best use out of it.

The origin story

Our technology team has toyed with the idea of building a free and interactive tool for some time. The only question was, what purpose would the tool serve, and how could we use it to engage people?

“We wanted to create something that would help people to learn about the cultural diversity of their local area, and hopefully make it engaging,” Chief Technology Officer Olivier Laude says.

Joining forces with CultureVerse, our multicultural communications arm, our tech team began working on a data visualisation tool that would showcase the multicultural make-up of today’s Australia, based on geographic location.

How does the Map work?

Leveraging openly available Census data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the tool provides a clear view of the top languages people speak and the countries where they were born – on a state level, all the way down to specific postcodes.        

In a nutshell, the Map is a visual representation of the work that the CultureVerse team undertakes on a daily basis.

“In planning campaigns and communications for multicultural audiences, we're using data all the time to inform the decisions and advice that we give clients,” says Jess Billimoria, Head of CultureVerse. “The tool allows us to begin automating that work, while also offering a fun and interesting way for people to explore and understand the different languages and cultures in local areas.”

The nuts and bolts

So, how long does it actually take to build a tool like this?

About six weeks, according to Oli, to develop an early build. The Multicultural Map was built using MapLibre technology to receive ABS data via the latter’s API. Our tech team then embedded the map within our Drupal website.

The ABS data needed to be mined and organised, with regards to how and where it would display on the map. Enter CultureVerse, who provided guidance to our developers on how data should be broken down and where geographic boundaries should lie.

“The great thing about our tool is it’s not like anything else currently available on the internet, in terms of how it visually displays Census data,” says Jess.

With so much information to work with, performance was a key focus for our tech team. It was important that the tool could load data efficiently, so that slow load times were not a deterrent for people. Thanks to MapLibre’s ability to load high volumes of data while maintaining a seamless user experience, the tool is quick and easy to use.

Looking ahead

Working with clients to shape campaigns for multicultural audiences is our bread and butter at Think HQ and CultureVerse, and this tool helps us to kick start those conversations. But it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“The current map is a solid base, but there are plenty of optimisations we can make,” Oli says. “At some point, we’d like to be able to overlay data that indicates where First Nations countries and nations lie, with a clear caveat that some borders are not exact.”

From Jess’s perspective, the tool is a great first step for clients who are looking to better align their work with the audiences and communities they want to engage.

“If the map sparks initial ideas or thought starters for people on how to approach or adapt their work, that’s great,” says Jess. “We’re here to help further those conversations and hopefully support clients to build strategies and campaigns that are really bespoke.”

For Oli and the tech team, the experience of integrating Census data into the tool was particularly useful when considering future applications. “The learnings from this work will be really beneficial for any clients who need to utilise this type of data, for example if they’re building data stories,” Oli says.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the Multicultural Map. Drop us a note at hello@think-hq.com.au.

Beaurey Chan
Content Director