TECHNICAL difficulties aside, the census is the best way we have as a nation to track who we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going.
Not only does it show where the south-west stands compared with the rest of the nation, it can also show us the differences between those who live in Warrnambool and those residing in the surrounding regions.
We’ve dug through the past two decades of census data and turned the information into some pretty graphs for you. This is what we’ve learnt.
Warrnambool and Moyne’s steady growth is consistent with the nation’s growing population, but bucking the trend is Corangamite, where the population has been in decline since the 2006 census. The number of people in Corangamite dropped by 240 between 2006 and 2011, and a further 325 by the 2016 census.
Ian Gibb, director of sustainable development, Corangamite Shire: “We have drift to larger centres and capital cities, and traditionally there’s been some decline in rural areas due to changing agricultural practices. Our rate of decline is actually slowing and … will be stable and start to increase soon. We’re working hard on making sure our agricultural sector is strong … and (creating) opportunities around tourism.”
Rent and mortgage
The average weekly rent and monthly mortgage payments in the south-west have stayed below the state and national medians, especially in Moyne and Corangamite. But while rent has consistently risen over the past 15 years (there was no question about rent or mortgage in the 2001 census), Warrnambool has followed the national trend and seen the median monthly mortgage payment drop. Moyne’s has held steady when comparing 2011 and 2016, but Corangamite is again bucking the trend, with mortgage payment still slowly rising.
Bob McMillan, mortgage broker at Sinclair Wilson: “(The drop in the median monthly mortgage payment) is a direct result of interest rates reducing over that period of time. They’re at a historical low. It could be that Corangamite’s (rise) might be reflective of it being a farming area and maybe interest rates on farms have not been reduced – they tend to be more aligned to business loans. A lot of those are locked in (in terms of interest rates).”
The south-west has followed the national trends when it comes to tying the knot – over the past 20 years, people ticking the census box marked “married” has steadily dropped, while “never married” and “separated/divorced” have steadily increased. The number of married people is dropping fastest in Corangamite.
Country of birth
The country of birth question in the census provides a strong indication of region’s Anglo-Saxon/European connectivity. England, New Zealand and Scotland have remained in the top five in Warrnambool for 20 years. In Moyne, it’s England, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Germany. In Corangamite, it’s England, New Zealand, Scotland and Netherlands. But it also points to migration and work force trends. In the 2016 census that’s demonstrated by the increase in people born in China and Taiwan in Warrnambool, and the Philippines for Moyne and Corangamite.
Phil Hoggan, senior economic development officer, Warrnambool City Council: “We’re very pleased if the census has taken into account the hidden population of Chinese, Korean and Japanese workers. We were aware of a large number of visa holders within Warrnambool and wanted to capture them in the data. We did target them to ensure that they were aware of the census and the census materials were provided in the appropriate languages and that they had assistance to fill the census data out on the night. They are here, they are relatively long-term, so they should be counted as part of our resident population.”
The recent introduction of a “not stated” option on the census has made defining our religious affiliations a little trickier, but the trend is still very clear – the only religious “group” not in decline is that of “no religion”. The south-west remains a strong Catholic area – well above the national average – but in 2016 Catholicism was knocked from the #1 perch by No Religion in Warrnambool, Moyne and Corangamite, matching the national trend.
Father Laurie O’Toole, parish priest, Our Lady Help of Christians: “We’ve still got big numbers, but these are secular times we are now in.”
The idea of an ageing demographic couldn’t be made clearer than in the census data. We’re living longer and healthcare continues to improve, and it shows. In Warrnambool in 2001, people over the age of 55 made up 22.2 per cent of the population. In 2016, that figure is 31.5 per cent. In that same time period in Moyne, over 55s have gone from 24.5 per cent to 33.8 per cent. In Corangamite, it’s 26.2 per cent to 37.6 per cent.
Sean Rooney, chief executive, Leading Age Services Australia: “To meet demand, the Barwon South-West region will need an additional 2074 residential aged care places at an estimated cost of $519 million and an additional 2324 home care packages. We have a moral obligation to ensure our seniors, who built our nation, obtain the best possible outcome for their health, well-being and quality of life by receiving due attention from government across all portfolios.”
Similar to the country of birth data, languages other than English spoken at home and the percentage of households where only English is spoken are good signifiers of migration and work force trends, as well as our region’s growing diversity. After remaining fairly constant for three censuses, 2016 saw a big jump in the number of multi-lingual people in the three municipalities. In Warrnambool, there has been an explosion in the number of Mandarin speakers (a language that didn’t even make the top five in 2001), with big jumps in Korean and Sinhalese (largely spoken in Sri Lanka). Mandarin, Tagalog and Filipino are on the rise in Moyne and Corangamite.
Les Heard, associate pastor, Crossroads Fellowship church Warrnambool: “All of our services are translated into Mandarin. So all the Chinese and Taiwanese attendees are welcome to grab a set of headphones and there’s a little room where translators sit. It helps to keep the service flowing and everyone involved rather than just sitting on the side. We sing a bit of Mandarin in our songs, too.”
Median weekly income
Wages are steadily increasing across the region, but at a slower rate in Corangamite. Incomes across the south-west remain below the national average.
Andrew Paton, director of city growth, Warrnambool City Council: “(A factor in) wages in south-west Victoria is that a substantial proportion of it relates to agriculture. Work and incomes in this sector are notoriously variable due to their dependence on international markets and weather conditions. Another important determinant of income inequality between major cities and regional areas is the availability of work. Regional and rural areas generally have fewer job opportunities and/or a narrower band of occupations, many of which might be unskilled or semi-skilled.”