Five times census data has helped us understand the Murraylands

Thank you for filling out the census – it helps this local journalist tell local stories.

Today – Tuesday, August 10, 2021 – is census day.

I’m here to say: thank you for filling it in!

As a local journalist, it’s important that I know my community – after all, I spend my days writing about you, and your subscriptions pay my wages.

Here are five times the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ data has helped me tell a local story, and helped us all understand our own community better.

Chinese migrants are a big part of our community

The census asks us whether we or our parents were born overseas, and what language we speak at home.

While most of us use English to communicate from day to day, Mandarin is the main language spoken in hundreds of local households.

So it’s fitting that Murray Bridge North School celebrated the Lunar New Year, a major Chinese holiday, in a big way earlier this year.

Being aware of the different cultures within our community might help us become more welcoming and understanding.

MPs make a whole lot more money than most of us

The census asks us about our income.

This gives us a bit of context when questions arise about politicians and their entitlements, as in this story from last year.

The ICAC later decided not to pursue state MP Adrian Pederick over his claims to a country members’ accommodation allowance – it couldn’t find evidence of any wrongdoing.

But the numbers at the bottom of that story, comparing his salary to that of an average voter in his electorate, reminded us just how rewarding a political career can be.

In fact, many local households are scraping by on low incomes

The income question also helps us understand poverty in the Murraylands, and how big a problem it is.

Even before the pandemic, one in three local households had a total income of less than $600 per week before tax, as I noted in this story from 2017.

That makes helpful organisations such as Murray Bridge Community Centre all the more important, and deserving of funding.

Aboriginal people are over-represented at Mobilong Prison

The census asks us whether we identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

Comparing the answers Indigenous and non-Indigenous people give to census questions helps us understand how wide are the gaps we need to close.

For example, comparing census data with the population at Mobilong Prison – as in this 2020 story – shows us that Aboriginal people are way more likely to be jailed than people from other backgrounds.

That tells us we have a problem within the justice system, or problems within society, that need fixing.

Population, religions and birthplaces

It’ll take the ABS a while to publish all the info from tonight’s census.

But when it comes out, I’ll gladly jump in and try to dig out some of the interesting bits for you, as I did in this 2017 story.

Last time I found out how quickly our population was growing, how many of us struggled to afford housing, and how few identified with any religion.

What will we learn this time around?

Happy census day.

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